How Many Calories Do You Need on a Diabetic-Friendly Diet?

By Alan L. Rubin, Cait James

Before planning a nutritional program, you need to know how much you need to eat on a daily basis to maintain your current weight. Then you can figure how rapidly a deficit of calories will get you to your goal.

Finding your ideal weight range

The ideal weight for your height is a range and not a single weight at each height. Because people have different amounts of muscle and different size frames, you’re considered normal if your weight is plus or minus 10 percent of this number.

For example, a person who is calculated to have an ideal weight of 150 pounds is considered normal at a weight of 135 (150 minus 10 percent) to 165 (150 plus 10 percent) pounds.

Because no two people, even twins, are totally alike in all aspects of their lives, you can only approximate your ideal weight and the number of calories you need to maintain that weight. You’ll test the correctness of the approximation by adding or subtracting calories. If your daily caloric needs are 2,000 kilocalories, and you find yourself putting on weight, try reducing your intake by 100 kilocalories and see whether you maintain your weight on fewer kilocalories.

If you’re a male, your approximate ideal weight is 106 pounds for 5 feet of height plus 6 pounds for each inch over 5 feet. If you’re a female, your ideal weight is 100 pounds for 5 feet plus 5 pounds for each inch over 5 feet tall.

For example, a 5-foot-4-inch male should weigh 130 pounds while the same height female should weigh 120 pounds. Your ideal weight range is then plus or minus 10 percent. The male could weigh 117 to 143 pounds and the female 108 to 132 pounds.

Now you know your ideal weight for your height. What a surprise!

Determining your caloric needs

After you know about how much you should weigh, figure out how many calories you need to maintain your ideal weight. Start by multiplying your ideal weight by ten. For example, if you’re a male, 5 feet, 6 inches tall, your ideal weight is 142 pounds. Your daily kilocalorie allowance is about 1,400.

But this number is ideal only if you don’t take a breath or have a heartbeat. It is considered your basal caloric need. You must increase your calorie intake depending upon the amount of physical activity you do each day.

Kilocalories Needed Based on Activity Level
Level of Activity Kilocalories Added 5’6″ Male
Sedentary 10% more than basal 1,540 kilocalories
Moderate 20% more than basal 1,680 kilocalories
Very active 40%+ more than basal 1,960+ kilocalories

The “Very active” line displays a plus sign because some people doing hard manual labor need so many extra calories that they should not be held to only 40 percent more than their basal calorie intake. This requirement becomes clear as the person gains or loses weight on his or her food plan.

You gain weight when your daily intake of kilocalories exceeds your daily needs. Each pound of fat has 3,500 kilocalories, so when the excess has reached that number of calories, you are a pound heavier. On the other hand, you lose weight when your daily expenditure of calories exceeds your daily intake.

You lose a pound of fat each time you burn up 3,500 kilocalories more than you take in, whether you do it by burning an extra 100 kilocalories per day for 35 days or an extra 500 kilocalories per day for 7 days.

Now you can create a nutritional program and fill in the blanks with carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and real foods.