Top Chef Meals: The Truth About Calories
The Truth About Calories and how they impact us

The Truth About Calories

Being healthy & maintaining a healthy body requires BALANCE – and let's be honest, balance can sometimes be a hard thing to find in this world. So, we're going to have a chat to learn the basics about calories and how many of them you (approximately) need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, because calories really are kind of the building blocks of nutrition. This primer will enable you to come up with a basic, baseline “healthy self” plan and from there you can branch out into further research. Let's go!

Whether you need to lose weight, maintain your ideal weight, or gain weight, the main idea is – calories count! Weight management is all about balancing the number of calories you take in with the number your body uses. A quick refresher on calorie basics:

  • calories = energy!
  • your body NEEDS calories.
  • calories not used end up stored as fat.
  • caloric balance is like a scale. Maintaining weight means eating the same number of calories your body is burning. Losing weight means eating less than your body is burning. Gaining weight means eating more than your body is burning.

Another calorie basic to remember? A calorie is not a calorie is not a calorie. Huh, what? What we mean is that calories from fats vs. carbs vs. proteins are all stored and used in different ways. Fats provide ~9 calories per gram and are used to slow digestion, get your body the fat-soluble vitamins it needs, and as a source of energy. Proteins, however, while also slowing digestion are used mostly to maintain and build new cells. And despite providing only ~4 calories per gram, proteins tend to keep us feeling fuller for longer than fats do. Then there's everybody's favorite – carbs! - which also provide ~4 calories per gram and provide us with immediate & quick energy.

It's also important to remember that each of the above groups (fats, proteins & carbs) can be broken down into further distinction by “good vs. bad”. Omega-3s are better fats for you than trans fats. Higher quality proteins such as fish and eggs give you a better nutritional “bang for your buck” than lower quality proteins like hamburger meat. And carbs are a whole other matter! Carbs give us fiber, glucose and fructose with which to contend. You want to aim for foods high in fiber because they make you feel fuller longer – high quality carbs are high in fiber and minimally processed. Then there are calories from glucose vs. fructose (or calories from starchy foods). Glucose is a simple sugar burned by the body for energy while fructose is the sweetest of the sugars and is broken down in the liver. The big difference between the two? While too many calories from glucose can lead to weight gain, too many calories from fructose can overwhelm the liver contributing to fatty liver disease, insulin resistance and more. HUGE difference between those types of calories, huh? Essentially, you should try to get most of your calories from whole, unprocessed foods when possible.

Great, now that we've brushed up on those facts, how many calories will we need to maintain a healthy body? That will vary based on a few factors such as age, sex, height, weight, and level of physical activity, but there ARE some basic guidelines.

For sedentary males, we've got:
1. 21-40 yrs – 2400 cal;
2. 41-60 yrs – 2200 cal;
3. 61+ yrs – 2000 cal

For moderately active males, we've got:
4. 21- 25 yrs – 2800 cal;
5. 26-45 yrs – 2600 cal;
6. 46-65 yrs – 2400 cal;
7. 66+ yrs – 2200 cal

For active males, we've got:
8. 21- 35 yrs – 3000 cal;
9. 36-55 yrs – 2800 cal;
10. 56-75 yrs – 2600 cal;
11. 75+ yrs – 2400 cal

And then for females, the guidelines are as follows:

For sedentary females:
12. 21-25 yrs – 2000 cal;
13. 26-50 yrs – 1800 cal;
14. 51+ yrs – 1600 cal

For moderately active females:

15. 21- 25 yrs – 2200 cal;
16. 26-50 yrs – 2000 cal;
17. 51+ yrs – 1800 cal

Finally, for active females:

18. 21- 30 yrs – 2400 cal;
19. 31-60 yrs – 2200 cal;
20. 61+ yrs – 2000 cal

*all numbers from's 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines

Keeping track of calories is easy – just keep a log of your caloric intake for an entire week as this will enable you to see how much you're eating and what foods the calories are coming from. Then depending on whether you're balancing, losing, or gaining you can find places to make healthy swaps, cut certain foods, or add more! Our meals are a great way to eat healthy, pre-portioned, low-calorie meals to help maintain or lose weight. Your health is important and we're here to help! Visit our menu to browse our vast selection of delicious, healthy, “all-the-work's-been-done” food today!