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How to Calculate Discretionary Calories

Written by Sky Taylor, Diet Bites

Discretionary Calories Explained

These are set caloric values which can be used at the individual's discretion. Often they are used for foods which don't fit into any particular Food Group - such as a cookie.

Sure, there are grain values within most cookie recipes, and often there might be a few oats and dried fruits - but it doesn't fit smoothly into any of the five basic food groups.

We might add a cup of coffee or tea which contains special creamers inside to our cookie treat.

In any event, these calories should be added to the daily totals and not be considered as 'free' calories in the daily diet.

Amount of Discretionary Calories Allowed Based on Current Calorie Needs

Simply put, the more calories that are required to support our current weight, the more discretionary calories allowed in the daily diet.

Calories in Current Daily Diet

Recommended Discretionary Calories Per Day

Calories in Current Daily Diet

Recommended Discretionary Calories Per Day





















For the person who only requires 1400 daily calories in order to support their current ideal body weight, they are only allowed about 200 discretionary calories.

Many small, petite older women like myself can't eat more than this amount without experiencing weight gain. And in this situation the individual must be very alert when planning the foods and beverages in their eating plan so that they are able to fit all of the important Food Groups into their day.

In Summary

1. While discretionary calories are great in allowing us to insert limited amounts of the foods that we enjoy into our daily diet, they should be wisely spent.

2. Discretionary calories must be added to our total energy values for the day, else weight gain is at high resulting risk.

3. Using discretionary calories for Food Groups which are lacking in our meal plan is a very wise move. For example, if Betty is short a serving from the Grain Group, if she chooses a grain based food as part of her discretionary calorie allotment, she's making a very healthy and wise choice for her body.

What About Calories?

What is the definition of a calorie? And how do they determine weight?

All foods have calories - with some foods having more calories than other foods. A bite of some cheesecakes may contain more calories than a entire bag of carrots.

Calories represent energy to the body. When we consume too many calories, they are stored in the fat cells even if those calories are in the form of carrots, cucumbers, celery or cabbage.

It takes 3,500 calories to equal one pound. If you are tying to lose weight, for every pound that you need to lose, it will take a calorie deficit of 3,500 in order to accomplish a one-pound loss in weight.

Everyone requires a specific amount of calories per day just to live - for breathing, for heart pumping, for sleeping, sitting and so forth. Activity boosts calorie needs.  

A very active person requires more calories than an inactive person.  An older person generally requires less calories than a young person.  Women generally require less calories than men due to the makeup of the body, muscle mass in particular as well as typically larger body frame sizes.

Everyone's calorie needs are different.  

A good rule of thumb is that the body requires about 100 calories for every ten pounds of weight. Example: Jane weighs 150 pounds so she requires a minimum of 1,500 calories per day just to function. In addition to those 1,500 calories, Jane needs additional calories in order to perform the activities that she does throughout her day.

To find out how many calories your body requires, meet with your doctor or nutritionist.  If you are thinking about going on a weight loss plan, they can also provide insight, suggestions and support to make your weight loss a success.

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