Whenever you eat, your body converts the protein, carbohydrates and fat from food into energy, which is measured in calories. Each woman needs a certain number of calories per day to maintain her current weight, but the average caloric intake is not necessarily the ideal number for everyone. Young, active women need to take in more calories each day than women who are older and less active. The types of foods you eat can also make your diet healthy or harmful, so the quality of your calories also matters.
The average woman aged 20 or older takes in 1,778 calories a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey." Women in their 20s have the highest average caloric intake, at 1,949 calories per day. In their 30s, women eat a little less, taking in about 1,831 calories a day, and their daily caloric intake continues to drop as they age. Whether or not the average intake is the right amount for you depends on your age and activity level. If your intake is higher or lower, it could still be optimal for your lifestyle.
Calories From Fat
The Institute of Medicine recommends that you get 20 to 35 percent of your caloric intake from fat. Fat helps you absorb vitamin A from the foods you eat and it also gives you energy. Although the IOM recommends avoiding saturated fat, which can raise your cholesterol, other types of fat -- like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated -- are good for you. The average woman takes in 66 grams of fat per day, of which 22 grams are saturated fat. This is nearly 600 calories from fat. On an 1,800-calorie daily diet, then, fat would account for about 34 percent of your calories, putting you at the high end of the recommended range.
Calories from Carbs and Protein
Carbohydrates and protein help fill you up, feed your brain and muscles and keep you moving. The average American woman takes in 68 grams of protein and 224 grams of carbohydrate each day. A gram of either has 4 calories, so they comprise 15 and 50 percent of her total caloric intake. The IOM recommends that 10 to 35 percent of your calories come from protein and 45 to 65 percent from carbohydrates. However, not all carbohydrates are equal, and women take in too many refined carbs, such as foods with white flour or sugar. On average, women in their 20s and 30s only get about 13.6 and 16.6 grams of fiber per day, respectively, far below the 25 grams the IOM recommends.
Be Better Than Average
Even if you take in the average number of calories each day, the types of food you eat will determine how healthy your diet is. Eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole-grain products and protein sources, to make the most of the calories you take in. If you get all the vitamins and minerals you need, your body is better able to digest and metabolize the food you eat, using calories more efficiently.
Maia Appleby is a NASM-certified personal trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry. Her articles have been published in a wide variety of print magazines and online publications, including the Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, New Moon Network and Bodybuilding.com.