I was recently asked this very interesting question from a friend of mine and i decided that this will make an excellent blog post. he asked me how many calories should each meal have? Meaning would a 600 calorie meal be considered too much or is it OK?
Well i thought about his question for awhile and then i told him, well that truly depends on a lot of things and its hard for me to just say if that is too much or not.
Firstly, it would depend on what your goals are. If you are looking to gain weight, then your calorie per meal would be different than that of someone who is trying to lose weight. Secondly, it would depend on how much activity are doing for that day. If all you are doing is sitting at home and watching the CSI marathon, then you are not going to need much. Thirdly, it would depend on what you are going to be doing for the next 3 - 4 hours after your meal. if you are just going to watch TV, then you won't need as much as someone who is heading to the gym or going for a jog. It would also matter how many meals per day you are eating.
With a puzzled look, he asked me. OK, lets just say i am an average Joe who just wants to lose weight and eats about 3 meals a day. Then how many calories should i be looking at for each meal. He says he always goes to a restaurant and is not too sure how much to eat because he just doesn't know how many calories he should be eating for each meal.
Well again it would really depend on how many calories you need to eat in a day (based on your body and activity level) and you need to eat less than that to see weight loss. So for example, if your Daily Calorie Requirement is 1,500kCals a day and you eat 3 meals a day, then roughly, each meal should be around 500kCals. To find out how many calories you need in a day, you can check out one of my previous posts by clicking here. Now to lose weight, you want to eat less than 1,500kCals a day. So in this case, lets say you want to reduce it to 1,200kCals per day... this would mean that each meal should be roughly around 400kCals.
So i told him though it is OK, to follow this rough calculation of just dividing, its still better to eat as per your activity level. So i offered him some tips as below which help to make his calorie decision for weight loss more effective:-
1) Eat lower calorie meals when you know you are going to be inactive after the meal. Like dinner. You don't need to as much calories for dinner as you would for other meals.
2) Eat higher calorie meals before or after a workout or when you are going to do intense activity. So if you are going to laze around, eat less calories. If you are going to spend those calories soon, you can eat more
3) If one meal is higher than what you should be eating, make sure you adjust it for the next meal. Let's say you are aiming for an average of 400 calories per meal and end up eating a 600 calorie meal. Then be sure to subtract 200 calories from another meal to ensure you don't go above your target.
4) If your target us weight loss, then its always better to eat less than more. Meaning if you are deciding between foods and trying to justify that the higher calorie food is still OK, but you are not too sure, then go for the choice which has less calories.
5) It is also important to consider what i like to call the fill up factor of the food. A bag of Twisties has about 500 calories but does little to fill you up. A Fillet-O-Fish in McDs will be about 450 calories. Eating 5 apples will be around 250 calories. Which one is more satisfying to your hunger?So how many calories should each meal have? Well firstly you need to calculate how many calories you need in a day and then start doing the math. Its OK to just divide evenly and have each meal have the same number of calories but its far more effective to eat according to the tips i presented. If your goal is weight loss, then following the tips above will make a huge difference in the results you. From there you will be able to make a better decision on how much each of your meals should be. Try it out and see. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.