Is Counting Calories Right for You?

Is Counting Calories Right for You?

Author Emily Duerr, RDN, LD

There are so many different strategies to living a healthy lifestyle, and figuring out what’s right for you can be overwhelming. One common method is counting calories or macronutrients. Here’s what the experts have to say about these health strategies.

Calorie counting involves tracking the calories you eat and drink throughout the day, either electronically or on paper. Macronutrient counting focuses on the percentage of carbohydrates, fat and protein you eat in a day. There are many different apps that can help you keep track of your daily intake. You can also find this information on nutrition labels of packaged foods. But before you jump into tracking your daily intake, there’s a little more you should consider.

There can be some benefit to paying attention to what you eat throughout the day, including:

  • Learning more about the nutrient content of foods. The process of tracking calories and macronutrients involves looking at nutrition labels or the nutrition content of different foods online. This can be a great way to learn about what nutrients are in the foods that you eat and can even inspire you to try new foods.
  • Understanding what your body needs. It can be difficult to gauge how much food your body truly needs. If you tend to mindlessly eat, you may be eating too much. Or, if you have a busy schedule and skip meals, you may be eating too little. Tracking your intake can help you develop an idea of how much food it takes to fuel your body.
  • Keeping you accountable. It can be very easy to grab a quick snack as you walk past the kitchen, or to have a few bites of a family member’s meal, even if you aren’t truly hungry. Having to write down what you eat throughout the day may cause you to think twice. This gives you an opportunity to assess your hunger levels.

What are your long-term health goals?

Before you begin tracking, take time to ask yourself about your long-term health goals. Consider that you likely don’t want to track your intake for the rest of your life. Tracking calories and macronutrients can be a great short-term strategy to give you a better understanding of the nutrient content of foods. However, it’s likely not a long-term health strategy most people will follow.

Does tracking your intake create stress and guilt?

Sometimes counting calories or macronutrients can lead to feelings of stress or guilt when you go over or don’t meet your estimated daily requirements. This can create a negative relationship with food and is a sign that tracking won’t be a healthy strategy for you.

Keep in mind that each person’s nutrient needs are unique, based on your health goals, medical conditions and your height, weight and age. Using different apps or online calculators may not give an accurate estimation of your needs. To better understand your individual needs, we recommend meeting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to help you understand the options that are best for you and your health goals.

Explore more healthy living advice from our team of experts.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.