Calorie Confused?
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How many calories do I need per day?

calorie confused - how many do I need per day

One of the most common questions that we get asked in our counselling practice is how many calories to eat per day. If you have read a diet magazine that suggests an adult needs only 1200 calories per day this is likely far too low to be sustainable, enjoyable and helpful to manage a healthy metabolism (after all a 2 year old needs 1000 calories a day and they are much smaller than an adult!).

Consuming too few calories compared to what your body requires is a form of stress for the body and will inevitably not help you manage a healthy weight and enjoy flexible eating habits over time. Your metabolism is like a furnace, if food is in short supply it slows the furnace or metabolism down. On the other hand eating too many calories for what your body requires is one of the leading causes of obesity in North America. I often find many of our clients struggling to lose excess weight underestimate how much they are eating and overestimate how many calories are burned during physical activity. If you are trying to lose weight, hitting the gym and burning off 300 calories during your workout would not warrant an extra large supper and justify two helpings of dessert.

The total amount of calories you require per day will vary based on gender, age, activity level and genetics. The chart below gives you an estimate of how many calories you likely need per day. For people that are extremely active they will even require even more than what is listed on the chart below.

Activity levels on the chart below can be defined by the following:

  • LOW = less than 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity in addition to daily activities.
  • MOD. ACTIVE = 30-60 minutes a day of moderate physical activity in addition to daily activities.
  • ACTIVE = 60 or more minutes a day of moderate physical activity in addition to daily activities.


Activity level *Low *Mod. active *Active Activity level *Low *Mod. active *Active
Age       Age      
2 1000 1000 1000 2 1000 1000 1000
3 1000 1400 1400 3 1000 1200 1400
4 1200 1400 1600 4 1200 1400 1400
5 1200 1400 1600 5 1200 1400 1600
6 1400 1600 1800 6 1200 1400 1600
7 1400 1600 1800 7 1200 1600 1800
8 1400 1600 2000 8 1400 1600 1800
9 1600 1800 2000 9 1400 1600 1800
10 1600 1800 2200 10 1400 1800 2000
11 1800 2000 2200 11 1600 1800 2000
12 1800 2200 2400 12 1600 2000 2200
13 2000 2200 2600 13 1600 2000 2200
14 2000 2400 2800 14 1800 2000 2400
15 2200 2600 3000 15 1800 2000 2400
16 2400 2800 3200 16 1800 2000 2400
17 2400 2800 3200 17 1800 2000 2400
18 2400 2800 3200 18 1800 2000 2400
19-20 2600 2800 3000 19-20 2000 2200 2400
21-25 2400 2800 3000 21-25 2000 2200 2400
26-30 2400 2600 3000 26-30 1800 2000 2400
31-35 2400 2600 3000 31-35 1800 2000 2200
36-40 2400 2600 2800 36-40 1800 2000 2200
41-45 2200 2600 2800 41-45 1800 2000 2200
46-50 2200 2400 2800 46-50 1800 2000 2200
51-55 2200 2400 2800 51-55 1600 1800 2200
56-60 2200 2400 2600 56-60 1600 1800 2200
61-65 2000 2400 2600 61-65 1600 1800 2000
66-70 2000 2200 2600 66-70 1600 1800 2000
71-75 2000 2200 2600 71-75 1600 1800 2000
76 + 2000 2000 2400 76 + 1600 1800 2000

*Calorie levels are based on the Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) and activity levels from the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes Macro nutrients Report, 2002.

Choose not to starve or stuff yourself – getting a healthy amount of calories per day will help you have the healthful and soulful eating habits you deserve and help you manage a healthy body weight.

Thanks for reading!

Andrea Holwegner

“The Chocoholic Dietitian”

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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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