When it comes to losing weight, a general rule of thumb is to consume 500 fewer calories than needed to maintain your present weight. Doing this every day can help you lose about 1 pound per week.
However, the amount of calories you should be eating a day for weight loss depends on factors such as your current weight, age, height, level of activity, and metabolic health.
What are average calorie ranges for women?
- Moderately active: To maintain weight, a moderately active woman between ages 26-50 needs roughly 2,000 calories per day. To shed 1 pound a week, she needs to reduce her calorie intake to 1,500 calories per day.
- Active: Women who are physically active and walk more than 3 miles daily need to consume at least 2,200 calories per day to maintain weight and at least 1,700 calories to shed 1 pound a week.
- Early 20s: Women in their early 20s require more calories. To maintain weight, they need roughly 2,200 calories each day.
- Over 50: Women over 50 require fewer calories. A moderately active woman over 50 years needs 1,800 calories per day to maintain weight and 1,600 calories per day to shed 1 pound a week.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding have higher calorie requirements, so these ranges do not apply to them.
What are average calorie ranges for men?
- Moderately active: To maintain weight, a moderately active man between ages 46-45 years needs roughly 2,600 calories per day. To shed 1 pound a week, he needs to reduce his calorie intake to 2,100 calories per day.
- Active: Men who are physically active and walk more than 3 miles daily need 2,800-3,000 calories per day to maintain weight and 2,300-2,500 calories per day to shed 1 pound a week.
- Ages 19-25: Young men between ages 19-25 require more calories. To maintain weight, they need an average of 2,800 calories per day and up to 3,000 if they are active. Moderately active young men should consume 2,300-2,500 calories per day to lose 1 pound every week.
- Ages 46-65: As men get older, their energy requirements decrease. Moderately active men between ages 46-65 require an average of 2,400 calories per day. After age 66, their calorie needs may be reduced to about 2,200 calories per day.
How to lose weight safely
While many people want to lose weight quickly, following an overly strict diet plan and exercise routine may not be sustainable. Setting realistic goals to achieve safe and healthy weight loss is critical. That means losing weight gradually and steadily (about 1-2 pounds per week).
Healthy weight loss is more than just a temporary program. Long-term changes in daily eating and activity habits are required for weight loss benefits to last.
Before starting a new diet plan, talk to a licensed nutritionist to make sure it’s safe for you, especially if you have underlying medical conditions.
18 ways to reduce calorie intake
- Start the day by drinking water. Your body is typically dehydrated upon waking up, and it can misinterpret thirst for hunger. Drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning, as well as before meals, can prevent you from eating too much.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and calories consumed during breakfast get burned easily compared to other meals.
- Eat more fiber. A high-fiber diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables promotes digestion and helps you feel fuller for longer.
- Eat whole grains. Whole grains are more nutritious than their processed or refined grains and also help you feel full for longer.
- Eat more protein and fewer carbs. Protein helps boost metabolism more than carbs or fat and can lead to more calorie burn.
- Add good fats to your diet. Healthy fats get burned and do not get stored in the body. Good fats include salmon, avocados, and coconut oil.
- Take a power nap. Taking a short 15-minute nap can help you feel energized and reduce hunger pangs.
- Choose healthy snacks. Snacking throughout the day can help you avoid overeating during meals. Go for nutritious snacks that are low in calories, such as nuts or veggies and hummus.
- Reduce salt intake. Eating too much salt can cause water retention, resulting in bloating and weight gain.
- Reduce sugar intake. Avoid sodas and commercial fruit juices that contain more sugar than fruit. Added sugar can lead to weight gain and other health issues.
- Replace sugar with honey. Honey can be used as a natural sweetener in juices, teas, and desserts and is less fattening than white sugar.
- Cook at home. Preparing meals at home and reducing eating out can help you consume smaller portions and make sure you’re using healthy ingredients.
- Steam or grill instead of frying. Use healthy oils for cooking, and try steaming or grilling instead of deep frying, as this can help you avoid eating too much oil.
- Drink coffee. Studies have shown that caffeine can decrease appetite as well as boost energy and overall mood. Avoid adding more calories to your coffee with high-fat milk or sugar.
- Add lemon to your water. This may help reduce fat absorption and cholesterol and improve digestion.
- Use apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is believed to reduce fat and boost metabolism.
- Drink herbal teas. Drinking green tea helps boost metabolism and aids in digestion.
- Reduce alcohol intake. This reduces calorie intake and fluid retention in the body.
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Harvard Health Publishing. Diet & Weight Loss. https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/diet-and-weight-loss
National Institute of Health. Guide to Behavior Change. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/behavior.htm
U.S. Department of Agriculture. MyPlate. https://www.choosemyplate.gov
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