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What is a Healthy Daily Caloric Intake?

By Kris Roudebush
Updated Feb 01, 2024
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A healthy daily caloric intake seems to vary no matter who you talk to. There's a reason for that. Determining a healthy daily caloric intake depends on body type and lifestyle factors. Lifestyle factors include activity levels and exercise. It is generally accepted, that a healthy daily caloric intake is 1,800 calories for women and 2,200 calories for men. Depending on your age and height that number might be altered further, especially if, for example, you lead a relatively inactive lifestyle.

Finding a healthy daily caloric intake personalized for you is easier than you think. There are several sites that will do the math for you, including one managed by the US government. Other sites offer libraries of foods and their associated nutrition facts, as well as diaries that help you track your daily intake and activity levels. Online discussion forums are also abundant.

If you do decide to start cutting calories, you probably shouldn't cut more than 500 each day. It's also not usually a good idea to take in fewer than 1,200 calories a day. Your body needs those calories just for daily organ and muscle functions. You'll lose muscle and over time risk injuring vital organs when you eat less than your daily healthy caloric intake. It's not maintainable without your body going into starvation mode which could hinder weight loss.

There's a delicate balance that effects everyone, too many calories and you gain weight, too few and your body starts to horde the energy as it goes into starvation mode. Ideally, you should not be hungry but you should also not be stuffed. When you sit down to eat a meal you should eat slowly so that when you get to the point that you're satisfied you can stop. In the end, though, it's a basic balance of input (eating) versus output (activity).

Lifestyle changes are difficult, but not impossible. Take each day or even each meal as a chance to make changes and make the best choices you can. Steady and consistent changes win the race. Making a meal plan that meets your healthy daily caloric intake is another way to keep track of your calories when getting started so that you have a good idea of what you should be eating. Stick to your plan as close as possible and be sure to include daily exercise.

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Discussion Comments
By BrickBack — On May 10, 2011

@SurfNTurf - I agree that when I exercise I eat less, but I usually feel hungrier the next day. I guess my calorie needs jump and I usually have to have more calories set aside for it. I always thought that the actual day of my heavy exercise would make me hungry but my appetite does not kick in until the next day.

By surfNturf — On May 07, 2011

@Sunshine31 - I will have to try that. I also want to say that if you get used to doing some exercise right around the time that you start to feel like you need a snack it will take your hunger away and allow you to need less calories.

When I do this I am usually so thirsty that the last thing that I want to do is eat something. They say that when you do eventually eat something your digestion is actually better.

This tactic helps me stick with my recommended daily caloric intake without going over. I like to continue healthy dieting and not consume too little or too much so I could lose weight at a steady pace.

By sunshine31 — On May 05, 2011

@Subway11- Oh, I do that too and I am never hungry. I usually like to mix a bag of broccoli slaw with some rice wine vinegar and I leave it the refrigerator for about two hours, and then I have a low calorie Asian slaw that is delicious.

Eating bulky and dense food takes longer and it also keeps you fuller for an extended amount of time. I also love fish and eat grilled tilapia. I just buy the packages in the frozen food container and it is delicious on a bed of spinach.

It is also considered part of a heart healthy diet because the fish contains Omega 3 fatty acids which is great for your heart.

I find that when I eat foods that are healthy like this, I don't have to be tracking my calorie needs in order to lose weight because these foods keep me full and are low in calories.

By subway11 — On May 03, 2011

I have to agree with you. I am currently trying to lose weight and when I don’t write down what I eat, I end up eating a lot more than I think I ate and then wonder why I didn’t lose weight.

I could be taking a bite of something or finishing my children’s plate. I try not to do that anymore and try to focus on my healthy meal plan and weight loss chart.

So far I have lost six pounds, but I have way more still to go. I keep a weight loss chart to track my progress and keep me motivated. I think that what keeps me fuller longer is that fact that I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and drink a lot of water.

By catapult43 — On Aug 27, 2008

When I want to loose weight I usually stick to a 1500 calorie diet. It is important to me to write down everything I eat, otherwise I end up eating more then 1500 calories.

What is also important is not to get too hungry, so I eat every few hours. Of course moving around helps too, not just for losing weight, but for general health.

A very active woman needs about 17 calories per pound, while a very active men needs about 20 calories per pound.

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