Calorie Counting Diet

A calorie counting diet requires you to eat the number of calories that are right for you in a day. Calories are the measurement of how much energy you get from the food you eat. Eating the right amount of calories is important for staying at a healthy weight. If you eat too many calories, your body will store them as fat and you may gain weight. If you eat too few calories, you may lose weight. Counting the number of calories you eat during a day will help you know if you are eating the right amount. A Registered Dietitian can determine how many calories you need in a day. The amount of calories needed varies from person to person.

If your goal is to lose weight, you will need to eat fewer calories. Losing weight can benefit you if you are overweight or have health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. If your goal is to gain weight, you will need to eat more calories. Gaining weight may be necessary if you have a certain health problem that causes your body to need more energy.


Whether you are increasing or decreasing the number of calories you eat during a day, it may be hard to get used to changes in what you eat and drink. The following are tips to help you keep track of the number of calories you eat.

  • Measure foods at home with measuring cups. This helps you know the amount of food and number of calories you are eating.

  • Restaurants often serve food in amounts that are larger than 1 serving. While eating out, estimate how many servings of a food you are given. For example, a serving of cooked rice is ½ cup or about the size of half of a fist. Knowing serving sizes will help you be aware of how much food you are eating at restaurants.

  • Ask for smaller portion sizes or child-size portions at restaurants.

  • Plan to eat half of a meal at a restaurant. Take the rest home or share the other half with a friend.

  • Read the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels for calorie content and serving size. You can find out how many servings are in a package, the size of a serving, and the number of calories each serving has.

  • For example, a package might contain 3 cookies. The Nutrition Facts panel on that package says that 1 serving is 1 cookie. Below that, it will say there are 3 servings in the container. The calories section of the Nutrition Facts label says there are 90 calories. This means there are 90 calories in 1 cookie (1 serving). If you eat 1 cookie you have eaten 90 calories. If you eat all 3 cookies, you have eaten 270 calories (3 servings x 90 calories = 270 calories).

The list below tells you how big or small some common portion sizes are.

  • 1 oz.........4 stacked dice.

  • 3 oz.........Deck of cards.

  • 1 tsp........Tip of little finger.

  • 1 tbs........Thumb.

  • 2 tbs........Golf ball.

  • ½ cup.......Half of a fist.

  • 1 cup........A fist.


Write down every food item you eat, the amount you eat, and the number of calories in each food you eat during the day. At the end of the day, you can add up the total number of calories you have eaten. It may help to keep a list like the one below. Find out the calorie information by reading the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels.


  • Bran cereal (1 cup, 110 calories).

  • Fat-free milk (½ cup, 45 calories).


  • Apple (1 medium, 80 calories).


  • Spinach (1 cup, 20 calories).

  • Tomato (½ medium, 20 calories).

  • Chicken breast strips (3 oz, 165 calories).

  • Shredded cheddar cheese (¼ cup, 110 calories).

  • Light Italian dressing (2 tbs, 60 calories).

  • Whole-wheat bread (1 slice, 80 calories).

  • Tub margarine (1 tsp, 35 calories).

  • Vegetable soup (1 cup, 160 calories).


  • Pork chop (3 oz, 190 calories).

  • Brown rice (1 cup, 215 calories).

  • Steamed broccoli (½ cup, 20 calories).

  • Strawberries (1 ¼ cup, 65 calories).

  • Whipped cream (1 tbs, 50 calories).

Daily Calorie Total: 1425