The Nuts and Bolts of Healthy Eating for Weight Loss

In order to lose weight, you need to manage the balance of calories in versus calories out.  If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight.  Conversely, if you eat less calories than you burn, you lose weight.  However, you can’t just starve or deprive yourself beyond what is healthy and expect to lose weight.  We all need a set number of calories/day to meet our basic needs.  It’s a delicate balance.

MyGoal #003 illustration - Healthy Eating Blog PostDo you know how many calories you eat during the course of a day?  A three day food log can help you get a handle on what you’re putting into your mouth.  See if you can commit to tracking what you eat for three days without adjusting anything, so you can get an honest look at your starting point.  Write down what you eat, what time you eat, and any other notes such as how you are feeling, so you can get a sense of your own personal food patterns.  This is simply an act of observance.  You don’t need to judge yourself for where you are.


You can estimate your caloric needs using the USDA’s online Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator.  This will help you determine the minimum number of calories your body needs to maintain its current weight.  From there, you can work with creating the proper energy deficit to lose weight.

One pound equals 3,500 calories.  Therefore, to lose 1 pound/week, you need a deficit of 500 calories/day.  You can achieve this through diet alone or a combination of diet and exercise.  For example, you could choose an exercise activity that allows you to burn 250 calories/day, and also cut 250 calories/day from your current nutrition.  If you did this for seven days, you would technically lose 1 pound.  To lose 2 pounds/week, you would need to create a deficit of 1000 calories/day.

The current healthy recommendation for weight loss is 1-2 pounds/week.

Now that you know how many calories your body needs to maintain its weight or lose weight, what types of food are best to eat?

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, a healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars

If you’re not sure how to put this all together, click the link above.  It includes online tools to help you learn about the weight loss and maintenance process including your calorie intake.  You can even learn how to create your own nutrition and physical activity plan.

These are the nuts and bolts of eating for healthy weight loss.  Successful weight loss requires additional factors, but hopefully this sets the stage for a solid nutritional foundation.

Have you tracked your food intake before?  If so, what did you learn?  Please share below!