How many calories you need to eat to maintain your current weight depends on factors such as your gender, age, height, weight, and activity level. Your body uses about 2/3 of the calories you consume each day just to keep its systems functioning — your heart beating, your muscles moving. The rest of your calorie intake fuels everyday activities like walking around, exercising, typing an e-mail, reading. To find out your ideal caloric intake, start by calculating what’s known as your base metabolic rate (BMR):
- Women: Multiply your weight by 10. Men: Multiply by 11. This is your BMR.
- Now add to that 20 percent of your BMR if you have a sedentary lifestyle; 30 percent if you are somewhat active; 40 percent if you are moderately active; or 50 percent if you are very active.
- The number you get is how many calories you need to maintain your weight.
For example: If you’re a somewhat active 145-pound woman, your BMR is 1,450 calories a day, and your lifestyle quotient is 30 percent of that, or an additional 435 calories. So your daily total for maintaining your current weight is 1,885 calories. If you want to lose one pound per week, you simply need to cut or burn an extra 500 calories a day. Count how many calories you actually eat and burn. You can easily cut 500 calories by making small diet and exercise changes throughout your day.
Even if you can’t or don’t want to tally the calories you eat at every single meal or snack, adopting portion control tips can help you consume fewer calories without trying too hard. Here are a few tips that can help you recognize what a healthy portion looks like, which can help you keep calories in check:
- Think of a tennis ball.It’s the equivalent of one cup of food, which is the recommended portion for such foods as pasta, cereal, and yogurt.
- Don’t eat straight out of the container. It’s a recipe for mindlessly overeating. Instead, measure a serving size of whatever you’re munching on — almonds, nuts, or other snacks — and put it on a plate or in a bowl.
- Use smaller plates. Trick your mind into thinking that you have more food by downsizing your large dinner plate for a smaller salad-sized one. A healthy portion can look teeny on a huge plate but will seem more normal when you shrink its surroundings.
- Spoil your appetite with nutritious food. Try eating celery sticks with peanut butter an hour before mealtime. You’ll eat less at the meal and feel more satisfied later.
Again, just these few small steps will make a HUGE difference in your health and your belt!