Although your total calorie intake is the key to maintaining a healthy body weight, you should worry about fat calories as well. High-fat diets—especially those rich in saturated fat—can increase your calorie intake and your heart disease risk. Eating the right balance of carbs, protein and fat will help you control your calories and achieve, or maintain, your goal weight.
Total Calorie Needs
Women ages 19 to 50 usually need about 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day for healthy weight maintenance, depending on their activity level, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Women athletes may need additional calories. When trying to lose weight, 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day will usually do the trick, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; but active overweight women and those who weigh more than 164 pounds may need up to 1,600 calories per day to lose weight without feeling hungry.
Total Fat Recommendations
Fat should make up 20 to 35 percent of your energy intake--or about one-third of your total calories, according to the Institute of Medicine. Fat provides 9 calories in each gram. If you eat 1,800 calories per day, aim for about 60 grams of fat; and if you eat a 2,400-calorie diet, shoot for about 80 grams of fat each day. If you’re following a 1,200-calorie weight loss diet, reduce your fat intake to about 40 grams per day. Examples of healthy fats include purified fish oil, vegetable oils, avocados, soybean oil, flaxseed oil, hummus, peanut butter, nuts and seeds.
Saturated Fat Recommendations
Since too much saturated fat can increase your blood cholesterol and heart disease risk, limit it as much as possible. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 encourage all adults to eat less than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat, which is less than 23 grams per day when eating a 2,000-calorie diet. Saturated fat is abundant in high-fat, animal-based foods--such as whole milk, cream, butter, lard, ice cream, cheese and high-fat meats.
Protein and Carbs
Although carbs are your body’s main fuel source, protein can actually help you feel full more satisfied after a meal than carbohydrates or fats, according to a review published in a 2008 edition of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” Eating plenty of protein may help you control your calories for healthy weight maintenance. Protein and carbs each provide 4 calories per gram. A good rule of thumb is to consume 15 to 20 percent of your diet as protein, or about 75 to 100 grams per day for a 2,000-calorie diet. The Institute of Medicine encourages you to get 45 to 65 percent of your total calories from carbs, or 225 to 325 grams per day for a 2,000-calorie diet. Healthy protein foods include lean meats, egg whites, poultry, seafood, low-fat dairy foods, soy products, legumes, nuts and seeds. Examples of nutritious, high-carb foods are whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk and yogurt, nuts and seeds.
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.