While it may appear easy to begin a calorie counting diet, it’s far from one-size fits all. If you’re counting calories to reach a healthy weight, you need to set an appropriate calorie goal based on your weight, height, gender, age, and activity level.

I am 121 pounds, 62 inches, female, 21 years old, and remain active for more than 1 hour a day. Therefore, my BMI is 22.1 and I need approximately 2,611 calories per day to maintain my current weight.

Find out your BMI and calorie target using Baylor College of Medicine’s Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator.

Although you can technically meet your calorie target by consuming fatty and processed foods, it won’t necessarily improve your health. Too much saturated and trans fat increases your risk for heart disease and high cholesterol, even if you’re dropping the weight. Not to mention, the foods and beverages that you consume impact your energy level and ability to maintain your calorie target. Foods high in sugar and fat will eat up your calorie budget and still leave you with additional cravings.

According to the American Heart Association and Live Strong, you should consume nine servings (1/2 cup = 1 serving) of fruits and vegetables daily, three ounces of whole grains daily (1 ounce = 1 slice of whole wheat bread), and limit your sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day. Additionally, you should limit beverage calories to 450 per week and processed meat to two weekly servings. Instead, eat fish twice a week and consume four servings of nuts, legumes, and seeds a week.

While this is a standard diet, it still varies depending upon your lifestyle and activity level. If you’re a marathon runner, you’re going to need a different diet than the once a week exerciser. And same goes if you’re pregnant and eating for two. Always consult your doctor before embarking on a calorie counting diet, there may be additional health concerns that you need to factor into your plan.

Have you ever embarked on a calorie counting diet? Share your experience!

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