How Do I Figure out a Healthy Calorie Deficit for Weight Loss?

Medically Reviewed on 6/6/2022

How to determine the amount of calories you need to reduce

Healthy weight loss is a product of lifestyle. If you want to lose a pound or two in a week, you should eat 500 to 1000 calories less than your regular intake.
Healthy weight loss is a product of lifestyle. If you want to lose a pound or two in a week, you should eat 500 to 1000 calories less than your regular intake.

When trying to lose weight, most people want to lose it quickly. However, research shows that people who lose weight gradually are more likely to keep it off successfully. 

Healthy weight loss is a product of lifestyle. You have to make long-term changes to your diet and activity levels. You should use more calories than you eat in order to lose weight. 

Healthy weight loss means losing 1 to 2 pounds per week. Since 3,500 calories make up 1 pound, you must lower your daily calorie intake by 500 to 1000 calories for healthy weight loss

After following healthy dietary habits and engaging in regular exercise, you will be more likely to keep the weight off your body for the long term. 

As mentioned above, if you want to lose a pound or two in a week, you should eat 500 to 1000 calories less than your regular intake. You can also use a calorie calculator, such as the one from the American Cancer Society. 

This calculator is ideal for healthy adults. You will have to enter your gender, age, weight, and height. Plus, you need to measure your abdominal region in inches. The tool also requires you to select your activity level, self-identifying as sedentary, lightly active, moderately active, or very active. 

The tool then calculates the amount of calories you need to maintain your current weight. Subtract 500 to 1000 calories from this figure, and you will have a caloric deficit you need to follow. 

How to cut calories

Calories refer to the energy you get from food. Your body needs constant energy to keep functioning. Nutrients, such as fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, contain this energy in the form of calories. 

Your body either uses the calories it intakes or stores them as fat. The healthy way to lose weight is to ensure your body uses more calories than you're taking in. 

You can do this in two ways. First, you can lower your caloric intake so that your body has to use its reserves. Second, you can increase your physical activity so that the body has to use the reserve calories to provide fuel for additional functioning. 

There are three ways to cut calories: 

  • Remove high-calorie items from your diet
  • Replace high-calorie items with lower-calorie options. 
  • Reduce your portion sizes. 

Skip high-calorie foods 

When you start your weight loss journey, you do not necessarily have to cut major meals from your diet. Instead, start by skipping one high-calorie item from your diet. For example, if you drink soda with lunch, you can skip that. If you eat ice cream while watching the news at night, skip the ice cream bowl. 

List the items you eat and drink in a day. Then, figure out which of these things are rich in calories. Determine one or two items you can skip. 

For instance, a flavored latte in the morning has around 134 calories. Meanwhile, the same amount of black coffee has zero calories. A glass of water also has no calories. 

Swap high-calorie foods 

If you cannot identify any items in your diet that can be skipped, find foods you can replace with low-calorie substitutes. For example, a serving of whole milk has 60 more calories than fat-free milk. 

Likewise, you could swap the second or third slice of pizza with a bowl of strawberries. 

An 80-gram bag of ranch-flavored tortilla chips has 400 calories. Three cups or 24 grams of air-popped popcorn, though, has 92 calories.

Opt for lower-calorie options in your diet to reduce your overall calorie intake for the day. 

A preferred diet for healthy weight loss includes high intake of vegetables, fish, nuts, and fruits. Your diet should be low in refined carbohydrates, high-fat and high-sodium foods, and processed meats. Additionally, you should intake eggs, milk, red meat, and poultry in moderation. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) set guidelines on what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you're trying to reduce your calorie intake. For example, if you eat half a cup of diced raw pineapple instead of a bag of potato chips with your lunch sandwich, you can remove 118 calories from your meal. 

Similarly, don't pour the dressing on your salad. Instead, dip your fork into the dressing of your choice. If you use half a tablespoon of ranch salad dressing rather than 2 tablespoons, you can reduce your caloric intake by 109 calories. 

Reduce portion size 

Portion size also determines the number of calories you eat. If you eat a larger portion size, you will intake more calories. For example, two cups of whole-grain cooked pasta has 414 calories. If you reduce the portion size to half a cup, you'll be down to 103 calories. 

Tips to lose weight through calorie deficit

It can be hard to get in the habit of a calorie deficit. Thus, you should start small rather than making drastic changes at once. For example, when you're eating a meal, serve yourself slightly less than what you normally do. 

If you're still hungry after eating, eat a fruit or a vegetable. Also, don't eat directly from a package, since that does not give you a sense of the amount of food you're eating. 

Instead, take the food out of the package and put it on a plate. Use a smaller bowl or plate that you normally do. 

When you buy food, read the nutrition facts section to check the number of calories in each serving. You can keep track of the calories you consume by using an app or an online resource. 

For example, if you currently eat 2000 calories a day and you want to reduce your caloric intake to 1500, you can set a limit on your app. Track everything you eat in a day.  

Most importantly, don't starve yourself or deny yourself the joy of eating your favorite foods. However, eat in moderation. Instead of eating two slices of your favorite pizza, eat one and replace the second slice with a bowl of fruit.


Weight loss occurs in the belly before anywhere else. See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 6/6/2022

American Cancer Society: "Calorie Counter."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Cutting Calories.", "Losing Weight."

Mayo Clinic: "Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics."

Mayo Clinic Health System: "2 simple ways to lose weight."