Choose fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, lean meats, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Calorie needs are highly individualized -- and vary based on age, gender and activity level. Men generally require more calories than women, older adults need fewer calories than younger adults and active individuals require more calories than people who are sedentary. You can estimate your calorie needs using general recommendations set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 - or using just your body weight.
Adult women generally require 1,600 to 2,400 calories daily to maintain healthy body weights, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Therefore, the average U.S. woman needs about 2,000 calories daily, which is the amount of calories needed by many moderately active women ages 19 to 50. Moderately active adults engage in physical activity equivalent to walking at a brisk pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour for 1.5 to 3 miles daily. Percent daily values on nutrition facts labels are based on 2,000-calorie diets.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggest U.S. men need 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day to maintain healthy body weights. Therefore, the average man requires about 2,500 calories a day. This calorie allotment is often appropriate for sedentary men ages 19 to 30, moderately active men ages 31 to 50 and active men over age 50, report the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nutrition facts labels on foods list the amount of fat, protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, cholesterol, sodium and potassium you should consume when eating 2,000 and 2,500 calories daily.
Calories per Pound
The average U.S. adult should consume 18 calories per pound of her body weight if she leads an active lifestyle, 16 calories per pound if she is moderately active and 13 calories per pound of body weight if she is sedentary, Harvard Medical School reports. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, you'd need about 2,340 calories daily if you're active, 2,080 calories a day if you're moderately active and 1,690 calories each day if you're sedentary.
Calorie reduction is often required for effective weight loss. On average, the amount of calories needed for weight loss is 1,000 to 1,600 daily for women and 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day for most men, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Weight-control Information Network report. The average calorie requirement for weight loss based on desirable body weight is 10 calories per pound, according to the University of Washington -- which is 1,250 calories daily for women with goal weights of 125 pounds.