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Eating the Right Number of Calories (2015–2020 Guidelines)

Calories are a measure of the energy you get from food. If you eat more calories than you use, you will gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than you use, you will lose weight. Below are tables that give the number of calories needed each day. Look for your gender, age, and activity level. If you stick to this number, you should neither gain nor lose weight. Note that this is an estimated number of calories.* Your exact number may differ.

Women

Age in years

Low activity level (calories/day)

Moderate activity level (calories/day)

High activity level (calories/day)

19 to 30

1,800–2,000

2,000–2,200

2,400

31 to 50

1,800

2,000

2,200

51 and older

1,600

1,800

2,000–2,200

Men

Age in years

Low activity level  (calories/day)

Moderate activity level (calories/day)

High activity level (calories/day)

19 to 30

2,400–2,600

2,600–2,800

3,000

31 to 50

2,200–2,400

2,400–2,600

2,800–3,000

51 and older

2,000–2,200

2,200–2,400

2,400–2,800

These are not the same was what is in the guidelines The guidelines have many more age groups. Please expand the above to correlate with the tables found on page 78 of the guidelines.

Activity levels defined

  • Low. Only light physical activity such as that done during typical daily life.

  • Moderate. Light physical activity done during typical daily life AND physical activity equal to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles per hour.

  • High. Light physical activity done during typical daily life AND physical activity equal to walking more than 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles per hour.

*From Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015–2020, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Kenny Turley PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2017
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