Expert Q&A

Calories: What's an ideal daily intake?

How many calories should my meals/snacks have? Is there a general range for men versus women?

For general healthy eating, many registered dietitians recommend eating three meals and two to three snacks daily. Why? Eating more frequently throughout the day keeps your metabolism elevated and your digestive fire stoked from morning until night. While this doesn’t work for everyone (due to schedules, time constraints and even habit) with this eating strategy, you are less likely to overeat because you won’t be ravenous at dinnertime (six hours without food is like an overnight fast).

Although calorie requirements aren’t "one-size-fits-all," there are some general guidelines for men and women. It’s important to remember to keep your meals balanced and about the same size—this means don’t to eat a tiny breakfast and a huge dinner. Your body functions best when you nourish it well and regularly, combining protein, whole grains and healthy carbohydrates. In general, women need fewer calories than men because they have less muscle and burn less calories throughout the day.

Women should aim for 300-500 calories per meal. Men should aim for 400-600 calories per meal. Snacks should be kept at 100-200 calories.

Michèle Turcotte, MS, RD/LDN
Contributing Expert

Have a question for our Experts? Send it in!