Counting those pesky calories

Consuming more calories than we need leads to weight gain

Many of us are eating too much, and not being active enough. Over time, consuming more calories than we need leads to weight gain, and carrying excess weight puts us at greater risk of a whole range of serious health problems.

When we eat and drink more calories than we need, our bodies store the excess as body fat. If this continues over time we become overweight, and can become obese. Being overweight or obese causes an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

The amount that you need to eat to maintain your body weight depends on a range of factors, including your size and how physically active you are.

An important part of a healthy diet is eating the right amount of calories, so that you balance the energy you put into your body with the energy you use. As a rough guide, men need around 2,500 calories a day to maintain a healthy body weight, and women need around 2,000 calories a day.

If you need to lose weight, aim to lose about 0.5-1kg (1lb-2Ib) a week until you reach a healthy weight. You should be able to lose this amount if you eat and drink fewer calories than you need in a day.


If you are very physically active because of your job, or you do a lot of exercise, you may need more calories to maintain a healthy weight. If you do very little physical activity, for example, if you are housebound ñ or if you are overweight or obese, you may need fewer calories.

It is estimated that the average person eats around 10% more calories than they need every day. This might not sound much, but over time it will cause significant weight gain.

Foods and drinks that are high in fat or sugar can contain lots of calories, and eating or drinking these often or in large amounts can make it easy to have more calories than you need.

If you are overweight or obese, you could be eating over 500kcal more than a person of a healthy weight does every day. So itís time to think about where your extra calories are coming from, and to make changes to your diet to reduce the number of calories you consume. 

You can reduce the number of calories you eat by making healthier choices when it comes to food and drinks. You should also think about reducing the size of your portions. Research suggests that we tend to eat more when we are served more, even when we donít need the extra calories.

Knowing the calorie content of different foods and drinks can also be useful when it comes to achieving or maintaining a healthy weight. It can help us to keep track of the amount of energy we put into our bodies, and ensure that we are not eating too much.

Remember, a healthy diet is not only about eating the right amount. It also means eating a wide range of foods, to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.