Understanding the Energy Equation
Whether you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to understand the connection between the energy your body takes in (through the foods you eat and the beverages you drink) and the energy your body uses (through the activities you do). To lose weight, you need to use more calories than you take in. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to balance the calories you use with those you take in
Want to find out if you are at a healthy weight? Use our Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator.
Getting the Most Nutrition out of Your Calories
There is a right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends on your age, activity level, and whether you are trying to gain, maintain, or lose weight. You could use up the entire amount on a few high-calorie foods, but chances are, you won’t get the full range of vitamins and nutrients your body needs to be healthy.
Choose the most nutritionally rich foods you can from each food group each day – those packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients, but lower in calories. Pick foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products more often.
For more information about food choices and appropriate calories, visit the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 and MyPyramid.gov.
Finding Your Balance between Food and Physical Activity
Becoming a healthier you isn’t just about eating healthy – it’s also about physical activity. Regular physical activity is important for your overall health and fitness. It also helps you control body weight by balancing the calories you take in as food with the calories you expend each day.
- Be physically active, at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
- Increasing the intensity or the amount of time that you are physically active can have even greater health benefits and may be needed to control body weight. About 60 minutes a day may be needed to prevent weight gain.
- Children and teenagers should be physically active 60 minutes every day, or most every day. Whether you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to understand the connection between the energy your body takes in (through the foods you eat and the beverages you drink) and the energy your body uses (through the activities you do).
Energy Balance is like a scale. To remain in balance, the calories consumed (from foods) must be balanced by the calories used (in physical activity). To lose weight, you need to use more calories than you take in. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to balance the calories you use with those you take in. No matter which results you want, eating a healthy diet and being physically active can help you reach your goal.
Be sure to visit our Physical Activity for Everyone section for ideas.
For more information about calories expended in common physical activities see Table 4. Calories/Hour Expended in Common Physical Activities from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.
Some of this information was adapted from the following source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. 6th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January 2005. and Finding Your Way to a Healthier You: Based on Dietary Guidelines for Americans.