How Many Calories Should I Eat Per Day?

By Korin Miller |

The answer varies. Here’s how to figure out your target range.

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If you want to maintain a healthy weight, it makes sense to keep an eye on your calorie intake. But what's a good target? How many calories you should you eat each day? Here's how to determine your needs.

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According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults in their 60s and older should vary their calorie intake based on activity level.

If you’re not active: Aim for at least 1,600 calories per day. You’re “not active” if you don’t intentionally exercise or at least do some moderate to brisk walking every day.

If you’re moderately active: Strive to eat around 1,800 calories per day. Moderate activity is defined as walking between 1.5 and 3 miles per day at a pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour in addition to going about your regular life, according to the guidelines. If you take a SilverSneakers class or do a gym workout occasionally, you’re most likely in this category.

If you’re active: Eat about 2,000 calories a day. You’re active if you walk more than 3 miles a day at 3 to 4 miles an hour in addition to your regular activities, according to the guidelines. If you take a SilverSneakers class or do a gym workout three days a week or more, you’re most likely in this category.

You may notice that you were encouraged to eat a little more in your 20s, 30s, and 40s. That’s because, as people age, they tend to be less active and certain bodily processes, like your metabolism, slow down, explains Jessica Cording, R.D., a dietitian in New York.

Older adults are also more likely to have lost some muscle mass, which reduces the number of calories your body needs. Why? Muscles burn a lot of calories, says Sonya Angelone, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This is one reason why strength training is highly recommended for older adults.

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What If You’re Still Gaining or Losing Weight?

The guidelines are just that: guidelines. "They're a good place to start," says Angelone. But, she adds, there are many factors that can impact your calorie needs, including what you do during the day, your specific exercise habits, and your health.

“Even a slight miscalculation can lead to weight gain or weight loss over the years, especially if a person’s appetite is not good,” she says.

If you're following these general calorie recommendations and are still under or over your goal weight, ask your doctor or a registered dietitian for guidance. They should be able to give you advice on where you may need to tweak things, as well as make adjustments that make sense for you, your lifestyle, and your finances, Cording says.

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