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Counting Calories? Here’s What You Need to Know

Are you a calorie counter? Learn why 2,000 isn’t always the magic number

You may have first heard about calorie counting back in high school health class. Since those simple days, a lot has changed. We’ve got all kinds of gadgets, websites and technology to help us count those calories. But do you know how many calories you should be consuming a day? Should you even be counting? We talked with OhioHealth’s Emily Monfiletto RD, LD, to see what the health community is recommending these days.

First off, who does that 2,000-calorie diet apply to?

According to Monfiletto, it is generally the average of what a typical American needs in order to maintain weight. “This does not mean that everyone should be consuming 2,000 calories daily though. This would be recommended for women who are quite active or are still growing. For men, this number would more likely apply across the board as an average,” Monfiletto explains.

How important is it to count calories in a healthy diet?

“We are actually trying to get away from counting calories for a healthy diet,” Monfiletto says. “What we generally find is that the average person does not eat calories per se, we eat food. It is a lot easier for everyone to understand recommendations based upon certain foods and food groups, rather than breaking down calories into protein, carbs and fat.”

For people who are counting calories, what foods should they look to for a healthy diet?

“The biggest difference here would be calorically dense foods vs. nutrient-dense foods. Calorically dense foods provide a significant amount of calories, but not much nutrition,” Monfiletto explains. “On the other hand, nutrient-dense foods still provide calories, but you are getting more nutrition per calorie that is consumed. So I would recommend higher consumption of nutrient-dense foods vs. calorically dense — good examples being fruits, vegetables, lean meats, etc.”

Are there any misconceptions or myths people need to know about calorie counting?

According to Monfiletto, “a calorie is a calorie” thinking is a common misconception. “Although total calories are very important, the quality of food may be more important for health and weight loss. Rather than only looking at calories when choosing foods, think about the nutrient density again: choosing high-quality foods rather than low-quality foods. This may provide more satisfaction with meals, as well as many other health benefits besides weight loss.”

Should you decide calorie counting is for you or if you’d like a great resource for tracking foods, Monfiletto recommends checking out supertracker.usda.gov. There, you can enter information to help determine your specific calorie needs.

You can eat healthier, and we’re here to help. Check out these healthy substitutions and use them to make your meals more nutritious!