CALORIE counting might seem like a chore but it can be helpful if you're trying to lose weight.
How many calories you eat in a day comes down to a myriad of things, and how many you burn doesn't always come down to exercise.
Calories help to measure the amount of energy food and drink gives you.
Usually if you're on a diet then if you cut down on how many calories you have and exercise more, you will be able to lose weight.
But this isn't always the case for everyone and some people suffer from medical conditions that make it harder for them to lose weight.
Calorie counting doesn't always work for everyone, but if you think it would help you on your weight loss journey, here's everything you need to know.
How many calories should I have?
The NHS says that women should have 2,000 calories a day and that men should have 2,500 calories a day.
Your age can play a huge roll in this and children and growing teenagers will need more calories than a middle aged man or woman.
How active you are will also impact this, as will your height and weight – which both impact how fast you use up energy.
Medications, hormones and being unwell can also have an impact on how quickly you burn energy.
In order to maintain a healthy weight, the NHS says you need to balance the amount of calories you consume through food and drink with the amount of calories you burn through exercise.
But if you want to lose weight you need to use more energy than you consume – that's when it can help to reduce your calorie intake.
If you need to gain weight, then you need to eat more calories than your body uses.
The NHS 12-step plan to help you lose weight
FROM faddy diets to dodgy detoxes – most of us have heard it all before when it comes to weight loss.
But burning fat can be easy and mostly free.
In fact, the NHS has a whole load of medically-approved tips for weight loss and shedding body fat once and for all…
- Don't skip breakfast
Skipping breakfast will not help you lose weight. You could miss out on essential nutrients and you may end up snacking more throughout the day because you feel hungry.
- Eat regular meals
Eating at regular times during the day helps burn calories at a faster rate. It also reduces the temptation to snack on foods high in fat and sugar.
- Eat plenty of fruit and veg
Fruit and veg are low in calories and fat, and high in fibre – 3 essential ingredients for successful weight loss. They also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals.
- Get more active
Being active is key to losing weight and keeping it off. As well as providing lots of health benefits, exercise can help burn off the excess calories you cannot lose through diet alone.
- Drink lots of water
People sometimes confuse thirst with hunger. You can end up consuming extra calories when a glass of water is really what you need.
- Eat high fibre foods
Foods containing lots of fibre can help keep you feeling full, which is perfect for losing weight. Fibre is only found in food from plants, such as fruit and veg, oats, wholegrain bread, brown rice and pasta, and beans, peas and lentils.
- Read food labels
Knowing how to read food labels can help you choose healthier options. Use the calorie information to work out how a particular food fits into your daily calorie allowance on the weight loss plan.
- Use a smaller plate
Using smaller plates can help you eat smaller portions. By using smaller plates and bowls, you may be able to gradually get used to eating smaller portions without going hungry. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it's full, so eat slowly and stop eating before you feel full.
- Don't ban foods
Do not ban any foods from your weight loss plan, especially the ones you like. Banning foods will only make you crave them more. There's no reason you cannot enjoy the occasional treat as long as you stay within your daily calorie allowance.
- Don't stock junk food
To avoid temptation, do not stock junk food – such as chocolate, biscuits, crisps and sweet fizzy drinks – at home. Instead, opt for healthy snacks, such as fruit, unsalted rice cakes, oat cakes, unsalted or unsweetened popcorn, and fruit juice.
- Cut down on alcohol
A standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate. Over time, drinking too much can easily contribute to weight gain.
- Plan your meals
Try to plan your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week, making sure you stick to your calorie allowance. You may find it helpful to make a weekly shopping list.
How to track calories
First, the NHS recommends using a BMI calculator to work out whether or not you are a healthy weight.
The BMI scale has previously been criticised and experts have urged it to be scrapped as some claim it is a "dangerous measure".
But for now, it's the measure the NHS uses and you can click here to find out your calorie count.
First you will need to enter your height, weight and age. You will also be asked how active you are and your ethnicity.
For example, a 30-year-old white woman who weighs 12.7lbs and is 5ft 6inches, and moderately active – would be classed as overweight.
The recommendation is that this person should lose 9lbs – again, this does not take into account what medications she would be on or if she has any underlying health conditions.
The NHS app states that for someone with these measurements, you should eat 1545 – 1986 calories a day.
The government has partnered with different weight loss platforms such as Noom and Weight Watchers to helping people lose weight as part of their Better Health campaign.
Apps like Noom can help you discover the best foods to use to lose weight and encourages you to input the food you eat each day – like a food diary.
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