How Many Calories Should Each Meal Be


How many calories should each meal be?: Finding the right number of calories to eat per meal can be difficult. If you’re trying to lose fat and build muscle, you’ll need a few more calories than someone trying to maintain their weight or even gain muscle mass. Calories are an important figure when tracking your weight. It can also help with determining if you want to gain or lose weight. So how many calories should each meal be?

There is no perfect number of calories per meal. Nutritionists have come up with a few standard guidelines to help people find the right numbers for themselves, because everyone’s body is different.

Healthy Meal - Salad Next to a Ceramic Vase

How Many Calories Should Each Meal Be

It’s crucial to monitor your calorie consumption if you want to stay healthy. If you’re wondering “how many calories should I eat per meal to lose weight,” we did the research and have the answer.

You should consume between 200 and 400 calories for breakfast, 500–700 calories for lunch, and 500–700 calories for dinner each day if you want to lose weight. Including a morning and an evening snack for a total of 400–500 more calories. Hence, you should consume between 1500 and 2000 calories daily to reduce weight. According to research, cutting your caloric intake by roughly 500 per day will result in a weight loss of about one pound.

Your age and amount of activity, for example, as well as a variety of other variables, affect how many calories you should consume. Young and active people can afford to consume more calories. Make sure to stay active as you age; if not, you will need to eat fewer calories.

Recommended Calorie Intake for One Meal

Woman in jeans at bed, holding vegan salad bowl

A healthy lunch should include a balanced diet.

You’ve certainly heard the phrase “calories in, calories out” while considering a diet change or weight loss. While counting calories at each meal is crucial, your weight loss aim should be a balanced diet that makes you feel satisfied throughout the day.


Switching away high-calorie items with little nutritional value will help you reduce your calorie intake. These items include ice cream, sugar-sweetened lattes, and sugar-sweetened sodas.

Calories Per Meal

Consider the total number of calories you consume each day and divide it by the number of meals you eat to determine how many calories you should consume at each meal. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 state that an average adult woman needs 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day. A average male requires between 2,000 and 3,000 calories.

If you consume three meals a day, this translates to 533 to 800 calories per meal for women. This translates to 667 to 1,000 calories each meal for a man. Even though you might feel like eating more at lunch or supper, the American Diabetes Association advises eating meals at regular intervals if you have diabetes or are trying to control your blood sugar level.

The recommendations state that depending on your height, weight, degree of activity, and metabolism, your individual needs can vary greatly. But according to this Harvard Health calorie calculator, a decent general rule of thumb to determine the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight is to multiply your weight by 15.

For instance, if you’re a 155-pound woman who is 5 feet, 4 inches tall, you’ll need to consume 2,325 calories per day to maintain your weight. If you divide that by three, each meal will require 775 calories. When figuring out how many calories you need if you eat smaller, more frequent meals, take into account what you eat at those meals.

Setting a Calorie Goal

You might be considering a variety of calorie-cutting tactics. Is eating a large breakfast going to help me lose weight? It depends, is the answer. Yes, you probably will lose weight if you have a larger breakfast and discover that you can reduce the number of calories you consume at later meals.

According to Harvard Health, reducing 500–1,000 calories a day would allow you to lose 1–2 pounds a week, which is a safe weight reduction rate for many people. As a result, if your daily calorie intake is 2,325 calories, you should reduce it to 1,325 to 1,825 calories. If you eat three meals a day and aim to lose one pound per week, that works out to just over 600 calories per meal. It takes roughly 333 calories per meal to shed 2 pounds per week.

Using physical activity as part of your weight loss strategy is another option.

Harvard Health recommends 500 less calories, or roughly 167 fewer calories per meal if you consume three meals a day, and 30 minutes of physical activity each day.

But Harvard Health advises against doing so unless you’re doing it under the guidance of a medical practitioner. If you’re a woman, don’t think about going below 1,200 calories per day, and if you’re a guy, don’t think about going below 1,500 calories per day. If your calorie intake decreases too much, you run the risk of not getting adequate nutrients.

Calorie Cutting Strategies

The Mayo Clinic suggests this approach to cutting the number of calories you eat at each meal:

  • Skipping high-calorie, low-nutrition items
  • Swapping high-calorie foods for lower calorie options
  • Reducing portion sizes

For instance, the Mayo Clinic advises having a 16-ounce black coffee, which has 4 calories, as opposed to a flavored latte, which has 250 calories. Replace 1 1/2 cups of strawberries (69 calories) with 1 cup of chocolate chip ice cream (285 calories). substitute sparkling water for soda.

Reducing portion sizes will enable you to consume less calories at each meal. The Mayo Clinic advises putting your food on a plate since eating from a package makes it difficult to gauge how much you’re consuming.

How Many Calories For Breakfast?

Breakfast should contain at least 200 calories and no more than 400 calories at most. The proverbial “most important meal of the day” is breakfast. A full stomach can improve your attitude and give you the strength to face the challenges of the day.

Perhaps you have also heard how important it is to have a “balanced breakfast.” This is how all the well-known cereals, oats, yogurts, and other goods love to promote their goods.

My go-to breakfast is oatmeal and eggs, but you can have any nourishing meal you prefer.

Avoid sugary cereals because even if you may obtain the calories you need, you’ll ingest a significant portion of your daily sugar intake.

One of the simplest meals to skip is breakfast. Actually, the majority of my pals forgo breakfast. It’s simple to go through your morning routine without even thinking about eating if you wake up too late before school or work. To maintain your energy levels throughout the day, though, you need some calories!

Sample Breakfast Calorie Counts

To get an idea of how you can divide your calories to accommodate your lifestyle and schedule, here are some typical scenarios.

In this first example, a woman who consumes 1200 calories each day needs a few more calories in the morning because she does an early workout. She might divide her calories like this:

  • Pre-workout snack: 100 calories
  • Post workout breakfast: 400 calories
  • Lunch: 300 calories
  • Dinner 300 calories
  • Snack: 100 calories

A short energy boost from the early food gets her through her workout. The calories from her post-workout breakfast then assist in refueling her body. She should drink more calories at breakfast as this is the meal when she is most active.

She might want to eat less calories in the morning if a large family meal is a daily practice. She will have more room to eat a larger dinner and still achieve a negative energy balance for weight loss if she eats a healthy, light breakfast. To achieve a 1200 calorie goal, she might divide her calories as follows:

  • Breakfast: 200
  • Snack: 100
  • Lunch: 300
  • Snack: 100
  • Dinner: 500

Do Breakfast Calories Count More?

Because it enables some people to maintain more moderate eating patterns throughout the day, breakfast is a crucial meal. But not everyone experiences this. Calories from breakfast count equally as much as calories from lunch, supper, and the recommended number of snacks. No matter when you consume too many, you won’t be able to reduce weight.

How Many Calories For Lunch?

Consume 500–700 calories for lunch each day. You may check out a variety of delicious dishes in the article linked above.

There are many options available to you for lunch. Salads are a fantastic choice if you include some protein, such chicken or steak, but use less dressing. Sandwiches are a fantastic lunch option as well, and quantity control for children is simple.

Avoid eating fast food at lunch. Despite the fact that both a cheeseburger and a chicken salad with vinaigrette dressing have 500 calories, the salad is much healthier.

It has a lot less fat than other foods, which can help you feel fuller for longer, accelerating weight reduction.

How Many Calories Should You Eat For Dinner?

Being aware of your calorie intake may help you achieve your goals, whether you’re attempting to lose weight or just live a healthy lifestyle. Yet even while you presumably already know that a large amount of your calories should come from dinner, you might be unsure of how much to eat before bed. Regrettably, there isn’t a solution that works for everyone.

According to Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices, “the number of calories to eat for dinner can vary greatly from person to person and their individual nutrition goals and body composition.” She added that someone who is petite will have very different calorie needs than a bodybuilder. Burgess noted that a decent beginning point might be between 500 and 700 calories.

Balance is key when it comes to eating healthfully; calories aren’t everything. You should make sure you’re receiving a proper quantity of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, and healthy fats on your plate because supper is typically the largest meal of the day, according to Burgess. Four ounces of salmon, half a cup of brown rice, and two cups of broccoli cooked in a tablespoon of olive oil might make up this power bowl, which has about 500 calories. Visually, imagine that half of your plate should be made up of nonstarchy veggies, followed by a quarter of lean protein, a quarter of grains or starchy vegetables, and a quarter of healthy fats. This equilibrium “allows us to supply our bodies with necessary nutrients while also keeping us feeling fuller longer,” Burgess said.

How to Calculate Your Daily Calorie Goal

A 1,500 calorie diet will typically result in weight loss. This straightforward calculation will provide you with a daily calorie goal that will help you lose a healthy 1 to 2 pounds each week if you want to be even more specific about how many calories you should eat each day to lose weight.

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 equation is frequently used in clinical weight-loss trials and assumes a sedentary user. If you exercise frequently, you can discover that you need more calories each day to be full. How content you feel (you shouldn’t feel hungry all day!) and whether you’re losing weight are the best indicators of whether you’re eating at the proper amount for you. Keep eating 1,800 calories per day if you’re feeling terrific and losing weight. The calculation is merely a recommended place to start. Since your calorie requirements will have altered as you lose weight, you might want to perform the calorie-target calculation once more.

We don’t recommend dropping more than 2 pounds every week for healthy weight loss. If you arrive at a daily calorie goal that is fewer than 1,200, increase it to 1,200. Below that, it’s challenging to satisfy your nutrient demands or feel full enough to follow through with a plan.

Start with a 1,500-calorie meal plan if you’re unsure (a calorie level that most people will lose weight on). Here, we demonstrate what a day’s worth of meals on a 1,500-calorie diet looks like.

How Many Calories For Dinner?

Aim for 500–700 calories each day for dinner. The amount of calories in this meal can be increased depending on how active you are. It is the same size as lunch.

Therefore, avoid eating too close to bedtime. The American Journal of Gastroenterology discovered a correlation between shorter dinner-to-bed intervals and a greater incidence of acid reflux. To give your stomach enough time to digest, you should ideally eat dinner at least three hours before going to bed.

What Does a 1,500-Calorie Day Look Like?

Breakfast on a 1,500-Calorie Meal Plan

Avocado & Arugula Omelet

For breakfast, choose something between 300 and 350 calories.

Sample Breakfast:

  • Avocado & Arugula Omelet (344 calories)
  • 1 cup green tea (2 calories)

TOTAL: 346 calories

Other breakfast ideas for a 1,500-calorie diet:

Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa Bowl

Huevos Rancheros Tacos

Strawberry-Ricotta Waffle Sandwich

Morning Snack

Aim to keep snacks around 100 calories. Try these easy 100-calorie snacks here.

Sample Snack:

  • 1 medium apple, sliced and sprinkled with cinnamon (95 calories)

TOTAL: 95 calories

Lunch on a 1,500-Calorie Meal Plan

Roasted Veggie Mason Jar Salad

Aim to make lunch 350 to 400 calories. Try some of these great lunch ideas for work.

Sample Lunch:

  • Roasted Veggie Mason Jar Salad (400 calories)

TOTAL: 400 calories

Afternoon Snack

Use your afternoon snack to fill out the rest of the day’s calories.

Sample Snack:

  • 1 cup cucumber slices (16 calories)
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into sticks (25 calories)
  • 1/4 cup hummus (104 calories)

TOTAL: 145 calories

Dinner on a 1,500-Calorie Meal Plan

Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto Shrimp

Aim for dinner to be between 425 and 525 calories. Browse these healthy 500-calorie dinners for a 1,500-calorie diet.

Sample Dinner:

  • 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)

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