(As published on TheTownDish.com)

Do you have any idea how many calories you should eat per day?

Most people know that it should be somewhere in the 2,000 range give or take, right? But do you know exactly how many calories you should ingest per day in order to maintain your weight, lose weight or, in some cases, gain weight?

There really is a simple way to get to this number.

First, we need to calculate your base calories. To do this, calculate your current weight by ten. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds - 180 X 10 = 1,800.

  • Base Calories = 1,800

Next, we need to look at your activity level. If you are more active, you need to eat more calories, right? Makes sense. So, what we do now is multiply your current weight by two, three or five, depending on your activity level. If you are not active, use two. If you are moderately active, use three. If you are very active, use five. Let's say we are moderately active - 180 X 3 = 540.

  • Activity Calories = 540

Now add your activity calories to your base calories to figure out how much you should eat per day to maintain your current weight. 1,800 + 540 = 2,340.

  • Maintenance Calories = 2,340

Here is a caveat to this calculation - if you are over 50 years of age, then subtract 10% from your maintenance calories. Sorry! 2,340 - 234 = 2,106

  • If you are over 50 your Maintenance Calories = 2,106

If you want to lose weight, let's find out how many calories you need per day. Since there are 3,500 calories in one pound of body weight, you have to reduce your daily intake by 500 to lose one pound per week. Get it? It is simple mathematics.

So, if I were under 50 years old, 180 pounds and moderately active, and I wanted to lose one pound per week, I would have to stick to eating 1,840 calories per day - 2,340 - 500 = 1,840.

  • Weight Loss Calories (one pound per week) = 1,840

I must give you a warning, however, to never go below 1,200 calories per day. Your body needs a certain amount of energy per day to keep your body humming.

Now, here's your homework... count how many calories you eat per day as you eat right now. Be truthful with this - if you fib, you are only harming yourself. Also, be sure to count your liquids in this equation. Many people don't realize how many calories they drink per day. You can use some free online resources to help you track your current intake - choosemyplate.gov, calorieking.com, sparkpeople.com.

After you have an idea of how many calories you are currently eating, you can see how far you are off from your goal. From there, you can begin making decisions about the food that you eat each day to cut calories. For example, cut out that afternoon coffee drink, choose healthier snacks, drink more water instead of sugary juices and sodas and ultimately cut down your portion sizes.

When you make these changes, be careful not to do it too drastically. Slow and steady wins the race. If you cut your calories too drastically, you may end up binging because you are too hungry. Try making one or two positive changes per day.

On another note. If you feel like the number that we crunched above is too little a number for you and you just can't give those calories up, there is a way around this - exercise more!

Above we figured the numbers by saying that we were moderately active. Let's say you picked up an exercise regimen that puts you into the more active category. Here's how your numbers will play out...

  • Base Calories: 180 X 10 = 1,800
  • Activity Calories: 180 X 5 (very active) = 900
  • Maintenance Calories: 1,800 + 900 = 2,700
  • Weight Loss Calories: 2,700 - 500 = 2,200

That is a whole 360 calories that you have to play with now! As an illustration, you would have to jog at 10 minutes per mile for about 30 minutes to urn this many calories.

The best way to lose and maintain weight loss is with more activity AND fewer calories. The point here is to always keep in mind that you have to strike a balance between calories in and calories out. That means that if you eat more, be sure to exercise more.

Simply put, stay active and make smart choices when eating.

If you need some more tips on how to make these choices, consider nutrition counseling. Chester County Hospital offers a robust array of programs that can give you a new perspective on food.

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