The amount of food you eat is one of the most important parts of building a healthy eating style. Children and adults have different calorie and nutrition needs. How much you eat and drink can affect your weight and risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Calories are a measurement tool, like inches or cups. Calories measure the energy a food or beverage provides from the carbohydrate, fat, protein, and alcohol* it contains. Calories give you the fuel or energy you need to work and play – even to rest and sleep! When choosing what to eat and drink, it's important to get the right mix – enough nutrients without too many calories.
Paying attention to calories is an important part of managing your weight. The amounts of calories you need are different if you want to gain, lose, or maintain your weight. Tracking what and how much you eat and drink can help you better understand your calorie intake over time. Use the MyPlate Tools to help you track what you eat and drink.
You can also use the Nutrition Facts label or nutrition information on menus to better understand how many calories are in a food or beverage. These labels include calories and other useful information to help choose the right amount of calories for you.
*Note: It is not recommended that individuals begin drinking alcohol or drink more for any reason. The amount of alcohol and calories in beverages varies and should be accounted for within the limits of healthy eating patterns. Alcohol should be consumed only by adults of legal drinking age. There are many circumstances in which individuals should not drink, such as during pregnancy.
Choosing smaller portions can help you stay within your calories needs. Be aware of the amount of what you eat and drink during meals and snacks. Some commonly eaten foods can provide more calories than we realize. You can cut down on calories by choosing a smaller portion. For example, a large order of fries can contain over 500 calories, but a small order only half of that amount.
The amount people eat has increased over time. Many of us eat more than we realize. See examples here.