Medically reviewed and approved by Nataniel Josue M.D.

You are worried about gaining a few extra pounds, and you want to set out to lose them. However, you don’t know how much you should eat. How much should each person eat to lose weight? Given my experience, I can explain to you how to do it:

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should eat fewer calories than you burn to lose weight, estimated at an average of 1500 to 2000 calories per day. Each person has a different metabolism, and for that reason, the number of calories you need must be adjusted according to your physical activity. 

In this article, I will give you all the information, and I will show you the right amount of calories to lose, how much you should eat in a day and which are the best foods and what is the best time to consume them to lose weight.

What is the correct amount of calories to lose weight?

At a simple level, if you want to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you use up, as long as the food you consume is healthy and nutritious. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), the amount of calories needed daily is on average between 1500 to 2500 per person. So, to know your energy needs, consider the following: the basal metabolism and your physical activity.

Basal Metabolism

Basal Metabolism refers to the number of calories you spend when you are at rest: when you sleep, breathe, eat, as well as the actions of your internal organs. The formula to calculate the Basal Metabolic Rate, best known as the Harris-Benedict equation, can be calculated manually with the following formula:

Men: 

BMR=66+( 6.2 x weight in Lb.) + (12.7× height in IN) – (6.76 × age in years)

Women: 

BMR=655+(4.35 x weight in Lb.) + ( 4.7 × height in IN) – ( 4.7 × age in years)

The basal metabolic rate varies according to age, height, and weight; we use different formulas to calculate for men and women. After calculating the BMR, you can now calculate how many calories to eat per day to lose weight.

How to calculate calories to lose weight

The daily caloric needs are different for each person since everyone has their own Basal Metabolic Rate. How do you calculate calories for weight loss? To make this calculation of calories needed at rest, you need to multiply your BMR by a number based on your activity level, such as:

  • BMR x 1.27 = sedentary, little or no exercise.
  • BMR x 1.375= if you are a little active, exercise 1 or 3 days a week.
  • BMR x 1.55= if you are moderately active, you exercise 3 to 5 days a week.
  • BMR x 1.725 100= if you are very active, you exercise 6 or 7 times a week.

These are the daily calories your body must maintain to continue at your current weight. How many calories should you eat a day to lose weight? If you want to lose weight, you will of course have to consume fewer calories per day.

If you need to lose 2 pounds per week, you should stop consuming about 7000 calories (1000 per day, although this is too few calories to be advisable). The recommended way to lose weight healthily is to lose about 1 Lb. per week, that is, to reduce 3500 calories per week. That translates into eating about 1500 calories a day.

If you get fat, it is likely because you are consuming more calories than you expend. If you keep a stable weight, you eat calories equal to your daily expense, but if you lose weight, it is because you are burning more calories than you are consuming.

Therefore, the total calorie expenditure throughout the day is the BMR’s sum, plus the caloric spending produced by daily routines.

It doesn’t matter if the activity is small or big; you will always burn calories, such as: when you sleep, you spend about 10 to 15 kcal per minute. If you spend 1-hour playing, you spend about 100 kcal; when you shower, you spend 30 to 40 kcal per hour.

Anyway, to make it easier for you, here is a calorie calculator where you will see exactly how many you need to ingest daily.

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The number of meals a day to lose weight.

A familiar doubt of many people when wanting to lose weight is how many meals a day they should eat. Even though three meals a day are traditional, some nutrition studies have shown that it is much more useful to have five meals a day to lose weight.

When we increase the frequency of daily meals, it is possible to accelerate our metabolism. However, these meals should follow a balanced diet model and a routine of physical exercise, healthy habits, and rest.

The mistake we make is almost always thinking that if you eat fewer times a day or make yourself hungry, then you will lose weight. On the contrary, this causes anorexia and alters the nervous system; you will get a mismatch in the metabolism and gain more weight.

Therefore, consuming five meals a day optimizes your body, and the digestive system will work better when the different nutrients are assimilated. It is also essential to eat healthy food.

How to eat 5 meals a day to lose weight? 

Five meals a day to lose weight:

Breakfast:

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and you can eat some carbohydrates to conserve energy throughout the day. Breakfast should contain whole grains, vegetable or animal proteins such as eggs, fish, cheeses, and a drink such as an infusion.

Mid-morning: 

When eating the second meal of the day it is preferred to eat healthy food to avoid snacking and consuming processed products. This snack can be prepared with a slice of wholemeal bread and low-fat ham, goat yogurt, or a piece of fruit.

Lunch:

You have already consumed 2 of your daily meals by this time, so choose foods that provide you with energy, and are low in sugar and medium fat. To introduce the necessary proteins to cover the daily demand, consume fish, chicken, turkey: accompanied by salads and vegetable creams.

Snack:

This meal is key to your diet because it allows you to skip dinner and it depends on the amount of physical activity you do. This snack is fundamental to arrive with less appetite for your last meal. A person who does physical exercise will need more energy than one who is going to rest.

Dinner:

Dinner is the lightest meal of the day. Therefore, avoid binges because, at night, you need to rest and allow the body to relax. Avoid carbohydrates and eat light foods to not go to bed with a stomach that is too full.

How can I cut 500 calories a day?

If you need to lose weight, it doesn’t matter what kind of diet you are on; the important thing is that you burn more calories than you consume daily. If you can eat 500 fewer calories a day, you should lose about one pound a week (450g).

Eliminate a high-calorie craving

Try not to consume high-calorie food products during the day, such as a donut, a brownie, a bag of chips, an after-dinner chocolate cake.

If you do this, you will save 250 calories or more and if you want to burn another 150 calories, take walks at a good pace for 40 minutes after lunch or dinner.

Change your snacks

You should eat one or two snacks between meals. Make sure you choose snacks that are low in calories, ideally keeping healthy snacks on hand when you get hungry.

Don’t serve yourself a second portion.

Unwanted calories accumulate when you eat a second serving. Don’t fill your plate with food. If you are still hungry, choose to serve yourself more vegetables, fruits, or salads.

Don’t drink caloric beverages.

For example, try not to drink a 16-ounce latte as it may contain 250 calories. A can of soda typically contains 150 calories.

Please don’t consume fruit smoothies because they have a surprising amount of calories, perhaps up to 400 in a 16-ounce portion. These sugary drinks can quickly accumulate 500 calories or more per day.

Instead, choose to drink water, coffee, black tea, or mineral water. Using this method, you will save calories to eat foods that make you feel satisfied.

Substitute very caloric ingredients 

You need to substitute your high-caloric favorite foods for those that are lower in calories. For example, if you want to add a thick cream to a preparation, replace it with natural low-fat yogurt.

Don’t eat fried foods.

Fried foods add a lot of calories and saturated fat to any meal. Instead, choose to prepare them cooked, roasted, or steamed.

Use a dish to eat

Often food is eaten directly from a bag or box. Try to avoid this habit, instead place a portion on your plate and save the rest of the food for later.

Avoid alcohol

Alcohol has no nutritional value, and when you drink it, you are consuming empty calories. Some mixed alcoholic beverages are prepared from fruit juice, ice cream, heavy cream, or syrups that can have more than 500 calories.

How do you measure portion sizes to lose weight?

How to calculate food portions in a diet? Here, I’m going to tell you how to measure your portion sizes. Although you may think that measuring every amount of food you eat can be difficult, it is not; there are some simple ways to make sure you are eating the right portion sizes.

A recommended serving size is the amount of food you should eat during a meal or snack. However, if you eat more than the recommended amount, you will get more nutrients than you need, but if the size is less than the recommended amount, you will be providing very few nutrients to the body.

To measure foods such as cereals or pasta, use a measuring cup so that the portion is accurate. You can also use a scale, your hands, and everyday objects you use in your home to measure portion sizes.

If you want to measure a piece of beef or poultry, use the palm of your hand; for a 3-ounce serving of fish, measure it with the size of a checkbook, 1/2 cup of ice cream measure it with the size of a tennis ball, for 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta, you can also use a tennis ball as a guide.

For fruits and vegetables cut in squares, you can measure the correct size with the fist of your hand. You can measure an apple or orange by comparing the size to a tennis ball; if it’s lettuce, use only four leaves.

Tips for controlling portion sizes

  • Never eat directly from the bag or box. Pour the portion into a container and save the rest.
  • Divide your plate into three parts. Half of your plate should have green vegetables. We should divide the remaining half with whole grains and lean protein.
  • Use small plates. Serve food on smaller plates and put food out of reach to avoid being tempted to eat more.
  • Don’t get distracted when eating. Don’t eat without thinking about what you’re doing. When you’re distracted by watching TV or doing other activities, it will make you eat more. Therefore, eat at the table, focusing your attention on what you are eating.
  • Include low-fat foods. You need to substitute fat-rich foods for others that are lower in fat, using half of what you usually use.
  • Eat satisfying foods. Between meals, if you are hungry, eat a healthy, high-fiber snack. This snack will help you avoid overeating food at the next meal. The most satiating snacks are those that are composed of protein and carbohydrates, along with fiber.

The portion you should eat of each food.

Cereals and derivatives 2.5oz:

Cereals provide energy in complex carbohydrates such as wheat in flour, quinoa, rice, and potatoes. You should eat one portion at each meal. The portion size should be 2.5oz.

If you weigh raw cereals, such as rice and pasta, the portion is equivalent to the amount you pick up in your clenched fist.

If you cook them, the ideal amount fits in your hollowed hand. You should eat a big potato or two small ones.

Vegetables between 5oz and 7oz:

They should be of varied colors. Vegetables provide many benefits to the body. You should eat at least two portions a day, preferably fresh and raw.

The size of a mixed salad of cooked vegetables is between 7oz and 12.5oz. if you prepare them in soups or creams, the quantity increases by 8.5fl oz, the equivalent of a small bowl.

Fruit between 5oz and 7oz:

Although fruit has a very variable sugar content, they are not too unhealthy because they are rich in fiber.

Consume three or more pieces a day, preferably whole, since the fiber is lost when liquefying them. Eat seven small ones like strawberry, grape, cherry, use the measure of a cup, and if the fruits are big such as watermelon, pineapple, or melon, eat two slices.

Fish 5oz:

Fish has a high content of Omega 3 fatty acids, especially blue fish such as tuna, anchovies, mackerel or salmon. Consume 3 or 4 portions during the week, combining white fish with bluefish. A fish portion should be a 5oz fillet, equivalent to your palm’s size and thickness.

White meat 4.5oz:

You should remove the skin and fat in white meats. Consume these meats between 3 and 4 times a week. The portion size should be the size of the palm, and when eating chicken, eat about one-quarter of it.

Eggs:

Consume between 3 and 4 portions per week. The ideal amount is one medium or two small eggs.

Legumes between2oz and 3oz:

Consume 2 to 4 portions per week. If they are raw eat between 2oz and 3oz, the same as a closed fist, and if cooked, whatever fits inside a hollowed-out hand.

Oil:

The recommended oil to use is extra virgin olive oil. Although it provides a tremendous amount of energy, it does not produce fat. Oil can make you bulky when you use other, less healthy fats to replace it. We recommend 3 to 6 daily portions, which are equivalent to a tablespoon.

You may be interested in “Learn how to start getting rid of hunger to lose weight.”

Conclusion

To eliminate excess weight from your body, you must combine three essential factors: an adequate diet, changes in your lifestyle, and regular physical exercise.