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How to count calories in food

Today, I’m going to share with you how to count calories in food, homemade food or recipes.

Have you ever wondered how to count calories in food you cook at home or how many calories are in a typical home cooked meal?

Sometimes it seems like we are only talking about how to read a food label, however, if you’re already on a weight loss journey, you have probably already limited your intake of packaged foods.

Your present concern is how do you count the number of calories in your homemade food.

Worry no more, I’ve got you covered in today’s blog post.


First of all,

How do you know the number of calories you should eat in a day?

I talked about this at length in this video on how to count calories and 3 tips to help you lose weight fast on myfitnesspal but allow me to show you another very quick method.

In this method, we will simply be using an online calculator. Most of these calculators are based on the Mifflin St. Jeors equation, so they are somewhat reliable.

Watch the step by step guide in this video

Step 1

Go to this online calorie calculator.

You will find something like this when you get there.

how to count calories in food

Step 2

Type in your age, height, weight, and level of activities.

If you’re not comfortable with these units, feel free to change the unit in the “other unit” section.

For example, I will type in the statistics for Dami, a 35 years old female, who weighs 85kg, has a height of 165cm with a sedentary lifestyle ie little or no exercise.

how to count calories in food

For Dami to maintain her weight according to this calculator, She has to eat about 1,848 calories a day.

To achieve a mild weight loss of 0.25kg/week, Dami needs to eat about 1,598 Calories/day

If Dami wants to lose weight moderately ie lose 0.5kg/week, she needs to eat 1,348 calories a day.

And for extreme weight loss of 1kg/week, Dami needs to eat 848 calories per day. Most noteworthy, for Dami to eat 848 calories per day, she needs to consult with her doctor because the minimum recommendation is 1,200 calories a day.

Your body needs calories for its daily activities even if you decide to remain in bed all day.

Eat according to your goals.

The interesting thing is that Dami can decide that she doesn’t want extreme weight loss. She can say that she’s comfortable following a one year plan to achieve her weight loss goal.

Particularly because last year, she lost 25kg within 3 months. She did a very low-calorie diet for 3 months, she achieved her goal weight of 60kg but she has gained all the weight back.

Currently, she has made up her mind to take it slow and steady so that she can eat foods she enjoys while losing weight. She’s currently on the moderate weight loss plan on a moderate weight loss plan to lose 0.5/kg per week.

Eating 1,200 Calories is not for everybody. Eat according to your goals.Click To Tweet

Step 3

Enter your own statistics into the calculator and calculate the number of calories you should be eating. When it comes to the activity level, however, please be honest with yourself. If you know deep down in your heart that you’re not active or that your exercise is play-play exercise, just pick sedentary so you don’t end up eating too much.

To lose weight, you need to be in calorie deficit ie eating less calorie than you burn and that is what this calculator will do for you.

Now that you know the number of calories you should eat in a day, let’s go into how to count calories in your food.

There are 3 ways of going about this

  • Analyze the food component in the lab
  • Use the database of already analyzed foods
  • Read food labels

Since we are looking at how to count calories in food or how to count calories in food cooked at home, we will be using the database of already analyzed foods.

United States Department of Agriculture(USDA) is the number 1 database for already analyzed foods.

While we were busy dealing with infectious diseases such as Malaria, Measles, Yellow fever and malnutrition, they were already dealing with Obesity and its effect on health.

Similarly, we are going to do this step by step.

How to count calories in homemade food

How to count calories in food

Step 1

Write down all the ingredients in your meal.

For example, let’s say you want to cook beans and plantain porridge.

Major ingredients will include:

  • 1 Cup of raw beans
  • 1 Cup of diced ripe plantain
  • 2 tablespoons of palm oil

Additional ingredients can be

  • Chili pepper or freshly ground pepper
  • Chunks of fish/meat
  • Crayfish
  • Onions
  • Pinch of salt
  • Any other thing you enjoy adding into your beans.

But let’s focus on the major ingredients.

Your ingredients need to be clearly stated in measurements to get the approximate nutritional information from USDA as I did above.

To get the approximate measurement, you need a digital scale or analog scale but for convenience, you can get a set of measuring cups.

You can get your digital scale here.

If you prefer an analog scale, please go here.

And for measuring cups, please go here.

Step 2

Go to USDA

Look up the calorie content of each of the ingredients in your homemade dish according to USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

calories in beans


1 Cup/202g of raw mature white beans contains:

  • 673 Calories
  • 121.75g Carbohydrate
  • 30.7g Fiber
  • 47.19g Protein
  • 1.72g Fat

calorie in plantain

1 Cup/148g of diced ripe plantain contains:

  • 181 Calories
  • 47.20g Carbohydrate
  • 2.5g Fiber
  • 1.92g Protein
  • 0.52g Fat

calories in palm oil

2 tablespoons of palm oil contain:

  • 233 Calories
  • 27g fat

Step 3

Add all the calories of all the ingredients together to know the total amount of calories in the food.

1 Cup of raw beans = 673

1 Cup of diced ripe plantain = 181

2 tablespoons of palm oil = 233

Total Calories=1087

*NB: You have to add the calories of the minor ingredients too. Those little things add up. 

Step 4

Divide the total calories of your homemade dish by its number of servings.

To determine the number of calories per serving, you have to divide the total amount of calories by the number of serving.

This totally depends on the type of diet you’re following. Some diets like Intermittent fasting(IF), One meal a day(OMAD), If it fits your macros(IIFYM) etc allows you to eat more calories per meal.

But my expert opinion is to keep a serving of your homemade meals between 400-600 calories.

Still using our example, we can just divide 1087 by 2 and that will give us approximately 544 Calories.

Meanwhile, if you will adding a lot of extra ingredients that ends up making the total calories exceed 1,200 Calories, then just divide by 3 to get the number of calories per serving.

How to count calories in food

There you go! That’s how to count calories in homemade food.

Above all, it is important to note that the quality of your calories matter. Hence, you cannot be eating processed foods or heavily salted foods simply because it fits into your daily caloric intake because this will ultimately result in chronic inflammation and increase your risk of developing chronic diseases such as Diabetes and Hypertension.

Weight loss is all about the quality and quantity of your caloric intakeClick To Tweet

Type your favorite food in the comment section below. I might just use it as an example in my future post.



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