How to Count Calories to Lose Weight

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Learning how to count calories is the key to successful weight loss. Calorie counting is easy and effective. If you want to lose weight and keep the pounds off for good, it’s important to take some time and learn this critical skill.

The first step to counting calories is to understand what a calorie is and how it applies to your weight. Your body uses caloric energy to perform everything from basic biological functions to typing on your keyboard or jogging around the block. A calorie is a unit of energy.

We all have a certain caloric requirement needed to maintain our current weight. If you eat fewer calories than you need (or burn excess calories) you will create a caloric deficit and lose weight.  

Find Out How Many Calories You Need

There are several ways to determine the number of calories you require each day in order to maintain your weight.

One method is called the Harris-Benedict formula. It is a mathematical formula that determines your caloric needs based on your sex, weight, and activity level. The result of the formula is known as your basal metabolic rate. You can also use calculators provided by the USDA’s SuperTracker program to determine your daily calorie needs.

Once you know the number of calories you need in order to maintain your weight, you can create your own caloric goals for losing weight. It’s up to you how many calories you cut from your daily diet.

Experts estimate that it takes a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories for you to lose a pound. So you may find it helpful to cut 500 calories per day to lose one pound per week. Or if you want to lose weight faster, you can combine exercise and diet to reach a 1000 calorie per week deficit to lose two pounds per week. 

Track Your Calorie Intake

The next step in your weight loss process is to track your daily calorie intake. To do so, you’ll find that it’s helpful to learn how to read a food label.  Food labels help you to identify the caloric content of the foods and drinks that you consume. 

When you scan the Nutrition Facts label, you’ll see that the calorie count is listed just below the thick black line at the top. It is important that you also note the serving size listing on the label. If you eat more than one serving you need to multiply the calorie count by the number of servings consumed to get an accurate number.  

You can also use online tools to find nutrition and calorie information. They allow you to search for nutrition information for many different types of foods, including restaurant foods.

Control Your Portion Sizes

Portion control will make calorie counting and weight loss much easier. If you eat smaller portions of high-calorie foods and you eat correct portions at meal time, you’ll slim down faster.

The simplest way to control portions is to use a simple measuring cup. Many foods such as cereal and pasta are measured by the 1/2 cup or cup. Fluid ounces, such as a beverages, can also be measured with a measuring cup. Some foods such as peanut butter, pancake syrup, or jam are measured by the tablespoon. A few foods, such as stick margarine, can be difficult to measure with a spoon; a serving of margarine, for example, can be measured by using the “ruler” provided on the product’s packaging.

There are other ways to measure portion sizes if you don’t have a measuring cup handy. Some people use their hand to measure the right amount of food and others use an inexpensive digital kitchen scale. 

Many foods are available in “single serving” size packages. This means that you can eat all of the food in the package for the listed number of calories. It’s important that you don’t assume a package is a single serving. Look on the nutrition label and find the “servings per package” or “servings per container” section. If it says “1” then you do not need to measure or count the food to know your caloric intake.

Use Tools and Apps to Count Calories

You’ll want to track your daily and weekly calorie numbers by using an online app or website. For example, if you own a Fitbit, the app and online dashboard help you to manage your calorie information for faster weight loss. But you can also use free services like MyFitnessPal to lose weight. 

If you prefer not to use a high-tech method, you can use the simple paper and pen method. Starting a food diary is easy and inexpensive. And you can use your weight loss journal to explore problem areas or emotional eating issues.

Review your daily diet as often as possible to identify ways to cut calories. For example, if you are consistently going over your calorie goal by 100 calories, cutting out just one can of soda will eliminate that overage.

It’s important that you identify foods to eliminate or reduce with to make your diet healthier. A diet that includes lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and some fat will provide you with the proper nutrients to keep your body strong and healthy.

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