Dining out 101- How many Calories should we aim for?

As my first tip for dining out healthily I think it’s important to first look at calories.  Whether you subscribe to the calories in- calories out theory 100 % or not, there is definitely some merit that if you eat more than you burn you will gain weight.  Yes there are many other factors involved in weight including genetics, metabolism, hormone, food choices etc.

In order to choose a meal while dining out that sticks within our calorie recommendations, we first need to get an idea of how many calories we need.

My favourite way to figure this out is to track your food and calories on a daily basis, while also tracking your weight.  This really only works if you do a long term study though because your weight is on a naturally fluctuation scale on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.  For example, if you record your calories steadily for 3 months and notice that your body weight stay’s the same, then you can conclude you are eating as much as you are burning.  If you want to lose weight start to eat 100-200 calories less per day!

This is obviously a very lengthy time consuming process, and most people are just going to want a simple answer to how many calories they should eat a day.  To keep it simple lets look at this chart from the Canada’s Food Guide:

Sedentary Low Activity Active
Male (30-50) 2350 2600 2900
Female (30-50) 1800 2000 2250
Break down 50-60 % Carbs 20-30 % Protein 10-20 % Fat

Sedentary: Your typical daily routine requires little physical movement (e.g., sitting for long periods, using a computer, relying primarily on motorized transportation) and you accumulate little physical activity in your leisure time.

Low Active: Your typical daily routine involves some physical activity (e.g., walking to bus, mowing the lawn, shovelling snow) and you accumulate some additional physical activity in your leisure time.

Active: Your typical daily tasks involve some physical activity and you accumulate at least 2 ½ hours of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. Moderate- to vigorous- physical activity will make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster.

If you are a female between the ages of 30 and 50 you can look under the column for activity level to find your calorie requirements.  The top row is for males, bottom row for females.  If you are slightly younger than 30-50 add a few hundred calories, and slightly order people should subtract a few hundred calories.

Remember– this is 100 % a guideline, and will not work for everyone.  You need to consult a nutritionist or someone trained in nutrition to develop a more detailed calorie intake requirements.  And remember, that calorie counting is only one very small piece of the very large puzzle!

Now that you know how many calories you need on average in a day you can browse the restaurant’s menu online to find a choice that will fit into your daily total!  On further blog posts I will talk about some of my favourite tips and tricks for altering your meals to keep them within your calorie total.  Oh- and don’t save all your calories for dinner at a restaurant, it never turns out in your favour (more on that later…).

Remember- going overboard in calories once in awhile is ok!  Your body will recover and not gain weight if once a month you decide to order a rack of ribs for dinner instead of a salad!  You don’t need to idolize these calorie numbers, instead use them as a rough guideline to stick to 80 % of the time and you will have no problem maintaining a lifelong healthy sustainable weight.

Do you have any questions so far about choosing a meal at a restaurant that fits in your calorie level?

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