When you're trying to eat better or lose weight, sometimes you just want someone to tell you what to eat. Following a meal plan that's designed by a registered dietitian is a great place to start, but first you need to calculate your daily calorie goal.
Most people will lose weight following a 1,500 calorie diet. If you want to be even more precise about how many calories you should eat each day to lose weight, this simple calculation will give you a daily calorie goal that can help you lose a healthy 1 to 2 pounds per week.
To estimate how many calories you need each day to stay at the weight you are right now, multiply your current weight by 12.
To lose 1 pound/week: Cut 500 calories/day
To lose 2 pounds/week: Cut 1,000 calories/day
If your current weight is 160 pounds and your goal is to lose 1 pound per week:
160 [lb.] x 12 = 1,920 [calories]
1,920 [calories] – 500 [calories] = 1,420 calories
This formula is used in many clinical weight-loss trials and assumes the person using the equation is sedentary. If you're an active person, you may find you need more calories than what you calculated to feel satisfied during the day. The best gauge for whether you're at the right level is how satisfied you feel (you shouldn't be hungry all day!) and whether you're losing weight. If you're losing weight on 1,800 calories a day and you feel great, stick with that. The calculation is just a suggested starting point. As you lose weight, you may want to run the calorie-target calculation again, since your calorie needs will have changed.
For healthy weight loss, we don't advise losing more than 2 pounds per week. If you calculate a daily calorie goal that's less than 1,200, set your calorie goal at 1,200 calories. Below that, it's hard to meet your nutrient needs—or to feel satisfied enough to stick with a plan.
If you're not sure, start with a 1,500-calorie meal plan (a calorie level that most people will lose weight on). Here we show what a day's worth of food looks like on a 1,500-calorie diet. And when you're ready for more, try our 7-Day Diet Meal Plan to Lose Weight at 1,500 Calories.
Some original reporting by Nicci Micco, M.S.
For breakfast, choose something between 300 and 350 calories.
Avocado & Arugula Omelet (344 calories)
1 cup green tea (2 calories)
TOTAL: 346 calories
Aim to keep snacks around 100 calories. Try these easy 100-calorie snacks here.
1 medium apple, sliced and sprinkled with cinnamon (95 calories)
TOTAL: 95 calories
Aim to make lunch 350 to 400 calories. Try some of these great lunch ideas for work.
Roasted Veggie Mason Jar Salad (400 calories)
TOTAL: 400 calories
Use your afternoon snack to fill out the rest of the day's calories.
1 cup cucumber slices (16 calories)
1 medium carrot, cut into sticks (25 calories)
1/4 cup hummus (104 calories)
TOTAL: 145 calories
Aim for dinner to be between 425 and 525 calories. Browse these healthy 500-calorie dinners for a 1,500-calorie diet.
Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto & Shrimp (447 calories)
2 cups mixed greens (18 calories)
Dressing: 1 tsp. olive oil + 1 tsp. Dijon mustard + 2 tsp. red-wine vinegar + a pinch each of salt and pepper (49 calories)
TOTAL: 514 calories
5-Day 1,500 Calorie Diet Meal Plan
7-Day Diet Meal Plan to Lose Weight: 1,500 Calories
14-Day Clean-Eating Meal Plan: 1,500 Calories
7-Day Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan: 1,500 Calories
See all of our healthy weight-loss meal plans here!