How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight?

Written by Noleen Arendse

How many calories should I eat to lose weight? To lose weight, you need to eat 500 calories less than your body needs to maintain your weight. For example, if you need 2000 calories a day, a 1500 calorie diet will help you lose about 1 pound of fat in a week. 

Use our calories to lose calculator to work out how many calories you need to maintain your weight, lose weight gradually and lose weight quickly. We also have a calculator to help you work out how many calories you should eat per meal plus tips to help you feel full on fewer calories. 

How many calories should I eat a day to loose weight

Table Contents

How many calories should I eat to lose weight?

Use the calculator below to calculate how many calories you need to maintain your weight, lose weight, or lose weight fast. 

Calories to Lose Weight Calculator


Maintain weight:
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Lose weight:
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Lose weight fast:
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How many calories do you need?

In general, it’s recommended that women eat about 2000 calories and men eat about 2500 calories per day. For most people, eating 2000 – 2500 calories will help them maintain a healthy weight. 

However, this can vary depending on your age, height, weight, activity level and your individual metabolic rate. To get a better idea of your unique needs, use our calculator above to work out how many calories you need to maintain your weight. 

What's the difference between a calorie deficit and a calorie surplus?

A calorie deficit is when you burn more calories than you eat.

A calorie surplus is one you eat more calories than you burn. 

A calorie deficit occurs when you eat fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight. As a result, your body has to use stored energy (usually fat) to make up the shortfall. If you consistently maintain a calorie deficit over time, it can lead to weight loss. 

This creates an energy deficit, prompting your body to use stored energy (typically fat) to make up for the shortfall. When you consistently maintain a calorie deficit over time, it can lead to weight loss.

On the other hand, a calorie surplus, occurs when you eat more calories than your body needs for its daily energy needs.

The extra calories are stored as energy reserves, usually in the form of body fat. Consistently maintaining a calorie surplus can lead to weight gain.

Depending on your goal, both calorie deficits and surpluses can be intentional and purposeful. For example, someone who wants to lose weight may intentionally create a calorie deficit by reducing their calorie intake or increasing their physical activity level.

Whereas someone who wants to gain weight, such as athletes or individuals trying to build muscle, may intentionally create a calorie surplus by eating more calories than they burn.

Women need about 2000 calories and men need about 2500 calories a day. A calorie deficit happens when you burn more calories than you eat. A calorie surplus happens when you eat more calories than you burn.

How many calories a day to lose weight?

If you aim to eat 500 calories less every day, you’ll lose approximately 1 pound of fat in a week. The calories in a pound of fat are about 3500. This is the recommended calories deficit that will allow you lose weight gradually and steadily without feeling too hungry.

For example, if you need 2000 calories to maintain your weight — eating 1500 calories will help you lose weight. 

Although tempting, rapid weight loss is not a good idea. In most cases, when someone loses weight rapidly due to drastically cutting calories, as soon as they start eating again, they’ll put the weight back on plus a bit extra. For example, if you’ve been sick and you’ve lost weight, as soon as you start to eat normally, you’ll gain the weight back fairly quickly. For more on this have a look at: Do you burn more calories when sick?

The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to change your lifestyle into one that’s healthy and active. Eat healthy whole foods, avoid foods that have excess fat or trim the fat off, and opt for loads of vegetables and less starchy foods. For more on fat, read How much fat per day to lose weight

If counting calories is not your thing, then signing up to a weight loss running app like Joggo will help. Joggo creates a customized meal plan and exercise program to help you lose weight and develop an active healthy lifestyle. 

Eating 500 calories less a day will help you lose weight gradually without feeling too hungry

How many calories should I eat per meal?

Divide your total number of calories a day to lose weight into: breakfast 15 – 20%; lunch 30 –  40%; dinner 30 – 40%; and snacks 10 – 15%. 

How many calories should I eat to lose weight per meal

Enter the number of calories you should eat to lose weight into this calculator below to work out how many calories you should eat per meal. 

Calories Per Meal Calculator


Breakfast:
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Lunch:
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Dinner:
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Snack:
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How many calories should you eat for breakfast?

Aim to eat 15 – 20% of your total calories to lose weight for breakfast. 

On a 1500 calorie diet, this would be 250 – 300 calories. If you’re on a 2000 calorie diet, aim to eat between 300 – 400 calories for breakfast. 

How many calories should I eat to lose weight - breakfast

What you eat for breakfast is key to achieving you calorie goals during the rest of your day.

During the night, your body and blood sugar level have received a reset from not eating during the night. Breakfast gives you the opportunity to start the day the way you want to continue.

If you eat a breakfast high in sugar, your blood sugar level will spike. You will feel full and fresh with energy. Yet mid-morning these sugar levels will come crashing back down. It is this spike and following crash in blood-sugar level, that makes you ravenous mid to late morning.

So what should you eat for breakfast?

Avoid that bowel of high sugar processed cereal, or fruit high in sugar i.e. Most fruit apart from berries.

Choose a combination of foods to maximise your nutrient consumption.

Aim for foods:

  • High in natural fats, such as yogurt, cheese, eggs or avocado
  • High in natural slow releasing carbohydrates like whole meal bread
  • Low in sugar like berries

Natural fats and slow-releasing carbohydrates help keep you feeling fuller for longer. For more on fats, read how much fat per day to lose weight.

How many calories should you eat for lunch?

Lunch or dinner should be between 30 – 40% of your calories per day to lose weight. 

On a 1500 calorie diet, aim to eat 450 – 600 calories. On a 2000 calorie diet, eat between 600 – 800 calories for lunch. 

How many calories should I eat to lose weight - lunch

When choosing your lunch, ensure it’s about 25% protein.

Great healthy sources of protein include:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Lentils

Go for another 25% made from complex slow energy releasing carbohydrates like:

  • Brown rice
  • Whole meal bread
  • Sweet potatoes

Finish off the rest of your lunch plate with 50% vegetables.

Avoid high calorie toppings like croutons or bacon bits or going for the foot long sandwich.

Some ideas for a tasty low calorie lunch

  • Grilled chicken salad with an oil-based dressing
  • Mexican salad bowl with beans, salsa, corn and avocado
  • Six-inch sandwich

Use this calories per gram calculator to work out the calorie breakdown of your meals. 

How many calories should you eat for dinner?

Dinner should also be between 30 – 40% of your calories per day to lose weight. 

If you’re eating 1500 calories a day, this would be 450 – 600 calories. For a 2000 calorie diet, it would be between 600 – 800 calories. 

How many calories should I eat to lose weight - dinner

With your dinner, as like your lunch, you should divide your plate:

  • 50% vegetables
  • 25% protein
  • 25% carbohydrates

When choosing your carbs, such as brown pasta, brown rice or potatoes, use this simple measure rule. A carb serving should be no larger than the size of your fist.

How many calories should I eat for snacks?

Far to often people fail to lose or maintain weight, not because of the main meals, but as a result of snacks.

Even healthy snacks can exceed your calorie allowance.

Some ideal examples of snacks:

  • Small handful of nuts or seeds
  • Finger of cheese
  • Piece of fruit

You snacks should account for 10% to 15% of your daily calorie intake.

Remember to include teas or coffees in your snack allowance if taken with milk, as a few of these can easily consume your allowance.

Break down your daily calorie intake across meals like this: breakfast 15% – 20%; lunch 30% – 40%; dinner 30% – 40% and snacks 10% – 15%.

How many calories per day to lose weight? Other calculators

You can also use other calorie calculators with this one if you’re already tracking your calories burned through activities like:

Simply choose the weekly activity level of Desk job with no exercise then add the two calorie values together.

For example if you’re a 160lb, 40 year old woman of 5′ 10″, who runs 3 miles each day in 27 minutes.

The calories burned running calculator shows you burn 360 calories running.

The calories to eat per day calculator shows you need:

  • 1751 calories to maintain weight
  • 1375 calories to lose weight
  • 1000 calories to lose weight rapidly

So you can add these two together, giving you the following:

  • Maintain weight: 1751 + 360 = 2111 calories per day
  • Weight loss: 1375 + 360 = 1735 calories per day
  • Rapid weight loss: 1000 + 360 = 1360 calories per day

How to average out your calorie intake over the week

Averaging out your calories over a week is more sustainable for most people. It helps you to have treats or celebrate special occasions without disrupting your weight loss journey. Simply speaking, if you eat more on one day, then eat less on another day. 

In order to lose weight, you’ll need your average daily calorie intake to be inline with the values suggested in the calculator.

Many people find success by being strict with themselves during the week and then allowing a few more treats at the weekend.

Let’s say for example you’ve got a daily target of 1800 calories. Then at the weekend you eat and drink more and end up consuming 2300 on both Saturday and Sunday. You can reduce your daily limit for the following Monday to Friday down to 1600.

For example

Daily target = 1800 calories

  • Saturday ate 2300 = over target by 500
  • Sunday ate 2300 = over target by 500

Weekend = over target by 1000 calories

1000 calories divided by five days = reduce target by 200 calories Monday to Friday

New target for Monday to Friday = 1800 – 200 = 1600 calories

Daily calorie intake averaged over the week = 1800

Why does the calculator not show less than 1000 daily calories?

The calories per day calculator will not recommend less than 1000 calories.

While it can be safe to eat less than 1000 calories per day, this should only under qualified supervision.

Use the BMI calculator to understand your BMI, if this is less than 19, you are underweight.

Under eating is as dangerous as overeating. While rapid weight loss can be very motivating, it can also become addictive.

If you do not eat enough, over a prolonged length of time you will become very ill. In extreme cases this can lead to muscle reduction, including around the heart, which can be fatal.

Very Low Calorie Diets

A very low calorie diet (VLCD) is where you eat less than 800 calories per day. You should only use a very low calorie diet under medical supervision.

The diet will usually replace food with foods with minimal calorie content. Examples include foods like:

  • Soups

  • Shakes

  • Bars

  • Porridge

Usually very low calorie diets are only considered for people with a BMI over 30. Once again, this should only be under medical supervision – for more read How much weight will I lose if I eat 500 calories a day.

The longest time anyone should be on a very low calorie diet is 12 weeks. They are sometimes intermingled with a normal low calorie diet, e.g. VLCD two to four days a week.

Very low calorie diets are hard to follow. As well as feeling hungry all the time and having no energy, other side effects can include:

  • Dry mouth

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Cramps

  • Hair thinning

People do lose weight in the short term with VLCDs, but most people put it back on again after stopping the diet. That’s why doctors only prescribe them as part of a wider weight management plan.

The best path to long term weight loss is through consistent changes in what you eat and how much you exercise.

You can use other calculators to get a better idea of how many calories you need to eat a day to lose weight. Averaging out your calories over a week is great way to have treats but still stay on track with your weight loss goals. Eating less than 1000 calories is not recommended unless it's under medical supervision.

How much weight can I expect to lose if I eat 500 calories less per day?

If you eat 500 calories less per day than your body needs on a consistent basis, you can expect to lose about 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) of weight per week. This is an estimation and it can vary between individuals. However, over a week, a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day works out to be about 3500 calories a week which is the same as a pound of fat. 

Keep in mind that some weeks you might lose weight rapidly and, for others, you might hit a plateau. During weight loss plateaus, stick to your diet and exercise more during the week to burn more calories. This should help get you through the plateau and once more start losing weight. 

If you consistently eat 500 calories less per day, you can expect to lose about 1 pound of fat per week.

Easy ways to track your calories

Tracking your calories makes you more aware of your eating habits. If you’re wanting to lose weight, tracking what you eat before you start is a good idea. It will help you work out where you can cut calories without having to change too much at once. 

For example, if you usually have a glass of orange juice in the morning, that’s about 118 calories. Swapping it for water and choosing to get your vitamins from vegetables or even an orange, can shave off calories easily. 

Here are a few tips to track your calories.

Pay attention to food labels

Look for the “Nutrition Facts” panel, which provides information about serving sizes and calorie content per serving. By being more aware of the calorie content of the foods you purchase, you can make more informed choices.

Download a calorie counting app

Some phones might come with built-in calorie counters. If yours doesn’t have one, download a calorie-counting app like MyFitness Pal or My Fat Secret to keep track of your calories. Some apps come with a barcode scanner which makes it very easy to add your calories. Keep in mind, for most meals, you’ll need to weigh your food to get a more accurate calorie count. 

Invest in a kitchen scale

Invest in a food scale to accurately weigh your food. This will give you a better understanding of the number of calories you’re consuming. 

When you start weighing your food, it will also help you develop a better idea of portion size as well. You’ll be amazed at how often you’ve eaten too much because you’ve guessed that the portion is “about right.”

Use an online calorie database

If you eat out a lot or perhaps have a favourite fast-food restaurant for treat days, use an online calorie database to track your meals. 

Keep a food diary

Keep a food journal or use a smartphone app to jot down everything you eat and drink throughout the day. Be sure to include portion sizes and any condiments or toppings. This method allows you to have a visual record of your daily calorie intake and helps you stay accountable.

A motivational weight loss journal also has space to record your exercise, measurements and more. 

Consult a professional

If you have a medical condition or need specific dietary advice, we suggest consulting a registered dietician. Not only will they give you a well-balanced weight loss plan that’s tailored to you but they will also help you stay motivated and accountable. 

There are a number of ways to keep track of your calories whether it's using an app or old school pen and paper. Investing in a kitchen scale is key if you want to have an accurate record of your calories.

Healthy ways to reduce your calorie intake

Reducing your calories is easier once you know how many calories you eat per day in general. Recording what and how much you eat, will help you work out easy and healthy ways to reduce your calorie intake. 

Clean out the cupboards and fridge/freezer

If it’s not in the house, you can’t eat it! Before starting on your weight loss journey, remove all junk food and processed goods from your cupboards and freezer.

Start your weight loss journey on a positive note by donating the food you’re going to avoid to your local food bank or a homeless person.

Losing weight can be challenging at times so if you don’t have unhealthy food in the house, you won’t be tempted to eat it when the going gets tough. 

 

How many calories a day - donate food

Don't drink your calories

One of the easiest ways to reduce calories is to avoid drinking your calories.

For example, if you love having a can of cooldrink everyday, replace it with sugar-free options instead. Ideally, you’d want to wean yourself off sugar-free altogether as they are not good for your health but, if it helps you to stick to your diet in the long-term, then the odd diet soda is okay. 

Reducing or limiting your alcohol intake will also help cut calories. Opt for alcohol-free versions or cut it out completely for best results.

Remember, if you have a special occasion, you can always eat less during the following week to counteract the overeating. 

Weigh your food and make healthy swaps

Weighing your food is one way to make sure you’re not overeating. It can be easy to overestimate and overeat if you don’t weight your food. Making simple swaps for less calorie-dense versions goes a long way to reducing your calories. For example, instead of eating rice, swap for cauliflower rice. 

Reduce refined carbohydrates

Another effective tip is to cut back on refined carbohydrates. Ditch the white bread, sugary cereals, and processed snacks that leave you feeling unsatisfied. Choose whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat bread instead. These options are rich in fiber, which helps keep you full and reduces cravings.

Eliminate processed foods

Processed foods are convenient, but they are laden with added sugars, extra unhealthy fats, salt, and preservatives. Swap them out for fresh, whole foods like lean meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables. Not only will you benefit from the extra nutrients, but you’ll also be able to control your calories more effectively.

Reduce condiments

Condiments are hidden sources of excess calories, so it’s a good idea to limit your use of them. Instead of drowning your food in ketchup or mayo, try healthier alternatives like mustard, hot sauce, spices or vinegar to add flavor without the guilt.

Cook at home

While it’s easier to grab a takeaway or to eat out, aim to only do this occasionally — not every weekend. 

Cooking your own meals at home is a game-changer for reducing calorie intake and weight loss. By preparing your own dishes, you have complete control over the ingredients and portion sizes.

It’s also a great opportunity to get creative in the kitchen and discover new flavors. So, get ready to dust off those pots and pans, put on a healthy cooking channel, and whip up delicious and healthy meals.

Eat more protein

When it comes to weight loss, protein is your ally. It keeps you feeling satisfied, helps with cravings, boosts your metabolism, and helps preserve muscle mass. 

As a general guideline, aim for about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound). For example, if you weigh 70 kilograms (about 154 pounds), aim for around 56 grams of protein per day.

Good sources include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and tofu.

Fill up on the veggies

If you’re full of veggies, you won’t feeling like eating or snacking on unhealthy foods simply because you’re full.  Vegetables are low in calories and packed with essential nutrients.

 

Fill your plate with colorful, non-starchy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, and zucchini.

They’ll keep you full while providing a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

How many calories a day - fill up on veggies

Don't have seconds

A simple tip is to avoid having seconds, no matter how tasty the meal is. Keep leftovers for the next day or a meal later on rather than helping yourself to a second serving. 

Drink more water

Drinking water throughout the day can help curb your appetite and prevent overeating. Sometimes, our bodies mistake thirst for hunger, leading us to eat unnecessary calories.

By staying properly hydrated, you will be able to distinguish between hunger and thirst signals. Aim to drink at least 8 cups (64 ounces) of water per day, and more if you’re active or in a hot climate.

Avoid being distracted when eating

Eating while watching something or browsing through social media will make you less mindful of what you’re eating. For example, if you have a huge bowl of popcorn in front of you, before you know it, the bowl will be empty and you’ve eaten three to four times more than you’ve intended. 

Focus on your meal and be present in the moment during meal times. This will help you be more aware of what you’re eating so that you can have greater control. 

Healthy ways to reduce your calories include cleaning all junk food out the house, swapping for sugar-free versions, reducing refined carbs and processed foods, cooking at home and filling up on the good stuff like protein, healthy whole-grain carbs and loads of non-starchy vegetables.

Tips for staying full on fewer calories

Eating fewer calories does not necessarily mean you’ll be more hungry or feel empty. Follow these tips to help you stay full on fewer calories. 

Choose high-fiber foods

Fiber-rich foods like vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are filling and can help you stay full for longer periods. They add bulk to your meals without adding many calories.

Add lean protein

Include protein in every meal. Good sources include chicken breast, turkey, fish, tofu, and Greek yogurt in your meals. Protein is known to promote feelings of fullness and can help control cravings.

 

Drink more water

Water will help you stay hydrated and also helps you feel full, especially if you’ve eaten high fiber foods. Add slices of lemon, cucumber or mint into your water.

Tip: If you’re drinking water but still feeling thirsty, add a pinch of salt to your water. It could be that you need extra salt due to the extra water. 

Include healthy fats

While it might be tempting to cut fat completely, your body actually needs a certain amount of fat to maintain vital body functions. Also, healthy fats take longer to digest and will make you feel fuller for longer. 

Add spices and herbs

Spices and herbs add flavor without extra calories. They can also help you feel more full for longer. 

Stay active

Not only does exercise burn more calories but it also helps to curb appetite and boosts your metabolism. Adding regular exercise into your weight loss program goes a long way to helping you feel full on fewer calories. 

If you find you are struggling on a calorie-restricted diet, we recommend you consult a professional to help you with a meal plan that is sustainable for you and provides you with enough energy while still helping you lose weight. 

To stay full on fewer calories, opt for high-fiber foods, add leans proteins and healthy fats into your diet and use herbs and spices for flavor. Lastly, don't forget to drink more water and exercise regularly.

FAQs

The average woman needs about 2000 calories a day and the average man about 2500. This can vary depending on your age, weight and activity levels. 

The average woman should eat about 1500 calories a day to lose weight. For the average man, a diet of 2000 calories will help weight loss. Generally aiming to eat 500 calories fewer than you need will help you lose weight. 

There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat. Reducing your calories by 500 a day will help you lose a pound in a week. 

It can take about 3 months to lose 10kgs. The best way to lose weight is to reduce your calories by 500 a day and increase your exercise to burn more calories. 

No, your body is burning calories all the time, even when you are sleeping. Working out helps you to burn more calories which can help with weight loss when you have a healthy calorie restricted diet. 

Overall Summary

  • How many calories should I eat to lose weight? About 500 calories less than your daily requirement
  • You can reduce our calories by cutting out sugars and swapping for healthier versions
  • The best weight loss strategy is to follow a healthy balanced diet and exercise regularly so that it become a lifestyle 

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