How Many Calories Should I Eat?


I get this question a lot since it’s so ingrained in our psyche. While overall calories are important, the key item to focus on is the calorie density of the food you are eating. Stick to lower caloric density foods and eat until you are full and you will lose weight. So if you stuck below 500 cal/lb you could probably eat 4-5 pounds of food a day, depending on your activity level.

Here are the average calories per pound for various foods:

Fresh Veggies are around 100 cal/lb
Fresh Fruits around 250-300 cal/lb
Starchy Veggies/Intact Whole Grains around 450-500 cal/lb
Legumes around 550-600 cal/lb
Processed Grains (even if their Whole grain) around 1200-1500 cal/lb
Nuts/Seeds around 2800 cal/lb
Oils around 4000 cal/lb

Avoid oil no matter what but if you’re trying to lose weight, also avoid/limit nuts/seeds and processed grains at least until you reach your desired body fat level. I haven’t stuck to this 100% but I try hard to mostly eat starches, fresh veggies and fruit. So more oats, potatoes, spinach, bananas and other fruits/veggies – less on the breads, pastas, and minimize nuts/seeds and avoid oils. If you are active and/or don’t need to lose more fat than adjust as necessary with more of the higher density foods. If you’re not a long distance runner/cyclist then don’t eat like one! 🙂

Get a body fat monitor or use calipers to measure progress, not just the scale. Here’s an article on how the body uses fat.  Fat has a low oxidative value (for energy), and is easily stored. Our body will store the fat we eat over using it for energy. These are all clues that we should eat less fat so that we don’t store it.

You can calculate your rough calorie needs using an online calorie calculator. This is based on your basal metabolic rate and activity level. This site also shows you how much to adjust your calories to lose weight. Or you can enter your desired weight into the calculator and use the calories per day for that body weight. I’ve never tracked calories and don’t advise that people do it, but some insist they need to closely track it in order to be successful.

Jeff talks about caloric density here:

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