Calorie-Counting Diet

What Is a Calorie-Counting Diet?

The premise of the calorie-counting, or calorie-controlled, diet is to stay within a target number of calories each day. Although this diet works well for some, most registered dietitians recommend a more individualized eating plan.

Why Should I Follow a Calorie-Counting Diet?

Following a calorie-counting diet can help you manage your weight and blood sugar levels. If you are overweight, reducing the number of calories you consume will help you lose weight, thereby also lowering your risk of several health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure . If you are underweight, increasing your calorie intake will help you gain weight.

Calorie-Counting Diet Guide

The calorie-counting diet breaks food into different food groups and allots a certain number of daily servings from each group. This method helps ensure a balanced diet and also makes it easier to keep track of calories.

A balanced diet includes a variety of foods from each of the main food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and beans, and oils. Based on your calorie needs, a dietitian can help you determine how many servings you can have from each of the groups. Depending on your situation and calorie requirement, you may also be allotted some discretionary calories that you can use for foods not in these main groups (eg, sweets, desserts, and certain beverages). Alcohol, if permitted by your doctor, should be limited to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

The below chart shows the main food groups and the calories per serving for foods in these groups. You should work with a dietitian to calculate how many servings of each group you can have per day.

Grains (includes starchy vegetables)

  • One serving = approximately 80 calories

Type

One Serving

Bagel (varies), 4 ounces

¼ of a bagel (1 ounce)

Bread (white, pumpernickel, whole wheat, rye)

1 slice

Bread, reduced calorie or “lite”

2 slices

Broth-based soup

1 cup

Cooked beans, peas, or corn

½ cup

Cooked cereal

½ cup

Crackers

4-6

English muffin, hot dog bun, or hamburger bun

½

Muffin, 5 ounces

1/5 (1 ounce)

Pasta, rice

1/3 cup

Popcorn, air popped, no fat added

3 cups

Potato

1 small (3 ounces)

Pretzels

¾ ounce

Sweet potato or yam

½ cup

Tortilla

1 small

Unsweetened, dry cereal

¾ cup

Vegetables

  • One serving = approximately 25 calories

Type

One Serving

Cooked vegetables

½ cup

Raw vegetables

1 cup

Tomato or vegetable juice

½ cup

Fruits

  • One serving = approximately 60 calories

Type

One Serving

Canned fruit

½ cup

Dried fruit

¼ cup

Fresh fruit

1 small or 1 cup (eg, cut up or berries)

Fruit juice

½ cup

Milk

  • Calories in one serving varies as listed below

Type

One Serving

90 calories per serving

Nonfat or low-fat milk

1 cup

Plain, nonfat yogurt

¾ cup

Nonfat or low-fat soy milk

1 cup

120 calories per serving

2% milk

1 cup

Soy milk

1 cup

Yogurt, plain, low-fat

¾ cup

150 calories per serving

Whole milk

1 cup

Yogurt, plain (made from whole milk)

¾ cup

Meat and Beans

  • Calories vary as follows:
    • One very lean serving = approximately 35 calories
    • One lean serving = approximately 55 calories
    • One medium-fat serving = approximately 75 calories
    • One high-fat serving = approximately 100 calories

Type

One Serving

Very lean

Egg substitutes, plain

¼ cup

Egg whites

2

Fish: fresh or frozen cod, flounder, haddock, halibut, trout, tuna

1 ounce

Nonfat or low-fat cottage cheese

¼ cup

Poultry: chicken or turkey, white meat, no skin

1 ounce

Shellfish

1 ounce

Lean

Beef: round, sirloin, flank, tenderloin, roast, steak, ground round (trimmed of fat)

1 ounce

Fish: herring, salmon, catfish, tuna (canned in oil, drained)

1 ounce

Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons

Pork: lean pork, such as fresh ham, Canadian bacon, tenderloin, center loin chop

1 ounce

Poultry: chicken or turkey (dark meat, no skin); chicken (white meat with skin)

1 ounce

Tofu, light

½ cup or 4 ounces

Veal: lean chop, roast

1 ounce

Medium-fat

Beef: most beef products (ground beef, meatloaf, corned beef, short ribs, prime rib)

1 ounce

Cheese with five grams or less of fat per ounce: feta, mozzarella

1 ounce, (Ricotta 2 ounces)

Egg

1

Lamb: rib roast, ground

1 ounce

Pork: top loin, chop, cutlet

1 ounce

Poultry: chicken (dark meat with skin), ground turkey or ground chicken, fried chicken (with skin)

1 ounce

Sausage with 5 g or less of fat per ounce

1 ounce

Tofu

½ cup or 4 ounces

High-fat

Cheeses: all regular cheese (eg, American, cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss)

1 ounce

Hot dog (beef, pork, or combination) *count as 1 high-fat meat plus 1 fat exchange

1 ounce

Peanut butter

1 tablespoon

Pork: spareribs, ground pork, pork sausage

1 ounce

Processed sandwich meats: bologna, salami

1 ounce

Sausage (eg, Italian, bratwurst)

1 ounce

Fats

  • One fat serving = approximately 45 calories

Type

One Serving

Monounsaturated

Avocado

2 tablespoons (1 ounce)

Oil (canola, olive, peanut)

1 teaspoon

Olives

9-10 large

Peanut butter

2 teaspoons

Tahini paste

2 teaspoons

Polyunsaturated

Margarine

1 teaspoon

Mayonnaise, regular

1 teaspoon

Mayonnaise, low-fat

1 tablespoon

Salad dressing, regular

1 tablespoon

Saturated

Bacon, cooked

1 slice

Butter, stick

1 teaspoon

Coconut, sweetened, shredded

2 tablespoons

Cream cheese, reduced fat

1½ tablespoons

Cream cheese, regular

1 tablespoon

Cream, half and half

2 tablespoons

Shortening or lard

1 teaspoon

Sour cream, reduced fat

3 tablespoons

Sour cream, regular

2 tablespoons

Sweets and Desserts

  • These foods tend to be high in sugar and/or fat, while providing little nutritional value. They may or may not be included in your diet plan.

Type

Serving Size

Angel food cake, unfrosted

1/12 cake (2 ounces)

Brownie, small, unfrosted

2 inch square (about 1 ounce)

Cake, frosted

2 inch square (about 2 ounces)

Doughnut, plain

1 medium (1½ ounce)

Gingersnaps

3

Honey

1 tablespoon

Ice cream

½ cup

Ice cream, low-fat

½ cup

Milk, chocolate, whole

1 cup

Pudding, sugar-free (made with low-fat milk)

½ cup

Sports drink

8 ounces

Sugar

1 tablespoon

Syrup, regular

1 tablespoon

Yogurt, frozen, low-fat

1/3 cup

Free Foods

  • These foods contain less than 20 calories per serving.
  • Eat as desired, unless a serving size is given, then limit to three servings per day.

Type

One Serving

Bouillon, broth or consommé

Candy, hard, sugar free

1 candy

Carbonated or mineral water

Coffee

Cream cheese, fat-free

1 tablespoon

Creamers, nondairy

1 tablespoon

Diet soft drinks, sugar-free

Drink mixes, sugar-free

Garlic

Gelatin dessert, sugar-free

Herbs, fresh or dried

Horseradish

Jam or jelly, light

2 teaspoons

Ketchup

1 tablespoon

Lemon or lime juice

Margarine spread, fat-free

4 tablespoons

Mayonnaise, fat-free

1 tablespoon

Mustard

Nonstick cooking spray

Pickles, dill

1½ large

Salad dressing, fat-free or low-fat

1 tablespoon

Salsa

¼ cup

Soy sauce

Spices

Tabasco or hot pepper sauce

Tea

Vinegar

Whipped topping, light or fat-free

2 tablespoons

Wine, used in cooking

Worcestershire sauce

Tips and Suggestions

If your goal is to lose weight, researchers have found that reducing your caloric intake is the key to success, not reducing a particular nutrient (like carbs).

To become more aware of how many calories you are consuming, follow these tips:

  • Read food labels for calorie information per serving.
  • Focus on the serving sizes you are eating. They directly impact calorie intake.
  • Spread out your calorie intake throughout the day. Find what works for you, whether it is consuming your calories in three standard meals a day or spread out into six mini-meals.
  • Work with a dietitian to create a calorie-counting plan that takes into account your lifestyle and preferences.
  • Eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups. This will ensure that you get all the nutrients you need and will also leave you more satisfied.

  • American Diabetes Association

    http://www.diabetes.org/

  • American Dietetic Association

    http://www.eatright.org/

  • Canada’s Food Guide

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

  • Dietitians of Canada

    http://www.dietitians.ca/

  • American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/ . Accessed December 29, 2009.

  • Powers M. American Dietetic Association Guide to Eating Right When You Have Diabetes . Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc; 2003.

  • 4/14/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, et al. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:859-873.

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