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How Many Calories Should I Be Eating Every Day?

Stephanie Golub
Mar 30, 2020

After decades of diet culture buzzwords, the calorie can’t seem to catch a break. From mainstream media to restaurant menus, terms like calorie deficit, calorie surplus, and low-cal feel all too familiar. Because of this, some associate “calories'' with the overall nutrition of their meals. Many even believe there’s a one-size-fits-all magic number. This data is most definitely outdated and in desperate need of a rebrand.  

You might be wondering: what actually are calories? Valid question. We’ll cover the definition, the conundrum over calorie count, and how they holistically factor into our health.  

What Is a Calorie? 

Long story short, a calorie is a unit of measurement for energy. If your favorite granola bar is listed at 100 calories, that’s the amount of energy your body will gain from eating it. 

Are Calories Good for You?

Calories are one of the MVPs in your meals, mainly because your body heavily relies on them to stay in motion. We use the energy from calories to breathe, digest, circulate our blood, and even rest. It also gives our thinking caps a boost— 20% of our energy is used for brain metabolism! Ready to have your minds blown? Thinking burns an average of 320 calories a day. Wild! But going overboard on calories (and not burning them off through movement), may lead to weight gain and other medical issues like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. 

What Are Some Examples of Empty Calories? 

A friendly PSA: all foods can absolutely be enjoyed in moderation. However, it’s important to keep a close eye on the nutrition facts. Foods with empty calories contain very little nutritional value, are usually sky-high in saturated fat, loaded with added sugars, and have none of those good-for-you vitamins and minerals. Some delicious (but not-so-nutritious) examples include soda, candy, cookies, and sweetened cereals. A sweet gummy might only have 50 calories, but could be chock-full of added sugar. 

If a certain food is higher in calories, it shouldn’t automatically be shunned to the back of the shelf. The smart move is to investigate the health stats in their entirety. Avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil are all calorically dense, but are packed with healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins to power you through your day. The takeaway? Nutrients >>>> calorie count. 

How Many Calories Should You Consume Daily? 

Unfortunately, there isn't a cut and dry answer since there’s so much that goes into finding a person’s calorie sweet spot. Sex, age, height, weight, hormones, activity level, and medications all play a pretty pivotal role. Trying to shed a few pounds, maintaining your weight, or bulking up can also have an impact.

Daily Calorie Recommendation Chart:

Chart of calorie recommendations for men and women

You should always chat with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet. Working with a certified nutritionist or registered dietitian is another amazing avenue, as they can help guide you to a specific calorie goal based on your lifestyle.

There’s one thing that’s certain: life’s too short to count calories. It’s important to be mindful, but no singular meal will derail your entire health journey. Focus on creating balance in your diet on a broader spectrum. If you’re worried about not being able to figure out the nutrition facts of the food you cook at home, prepared meals are a fantastic option. They’re perfectly portioned, the labels are clear, and require wayyyy less work. 

Remember, friends, when deciding if a food is right for you, read the full nutrition stats and not just that first line! 

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How Many Calories Should I Be Eating Every Day?