• Calorie-Counting Diet

    (Calorie-Controlled Diet)

    What Is a Calorie-Counting Diet?

    The premise of the calorie-counting, or calorie-controlled, diet is to stay within a target number of calories each day. Although this diet works well for some, most registered dietitians recommend a more individualized eating plan.

    Why Should I Follow a Calorie-Counting Diet?

    Following a calorie-counting diet can help you manage your weight and blood sugar levels. If you are overweight, reducing the number of calories you consume will help you lose weight, thereby also lowering your risk of several health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure . If you are underweight, increasing your calorie intake will help you gain weight.

    Calorie-Counting Diet Guide

    The calorie-counting diet breaks food into different food groups and allots a certain number of daily servings from each group. This method helps ensure a balanced diet and also makes it easier to keep track of calories.
    A balanced diet includes a variety of foods from each of the main food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and beans, and oils. Based on your calorie needs, a dietitian can help you determine how many servings you can have from each of the groups. Depending on your situation and calorie requirement, you may also be allotted some discretionary calories that you can use for foods not in these main groups (eg, sweets, desserts, and certain beverages). Alcohol, if permitted by your doctor, should be limited to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
    The below chart shows the main food groups and the calories per serving for foods in these groups. You should work with a dietitian to calculate how many servings of each group you can have per day.

    Grains (includes starchy vegetables) %5F%5F%5F%5F%5F servings per day

    • One serving = approximately 80 calories
    One Serving
    Bagel (varies), 4 ounces
    ¼ of a bagel (1 ounce)
    Bread (white, pumpernickel, whole wheat, rye)
    1 slice
    Bread, reduced calorie or “lite”
    2 slices
    Broth-based soup
    1 cup
    Cooked beans, peas, or corn
    ½ cup
    Cooked cereal
    ½ cup
    English muffin, hot dog bun, or hamburger bun
    Muffin, 5 ounces
    1/5 (1 ounce)
    Pasta, rice
    1/3 cup
    Popcorn, air popped, no fat added
    3 cups
    1 small (3 ounces)
    ¾ ounce
    Sweet potato or yam
    ½ cup
    1 small
    Unsweetened, dry cereal
    ¾ cup

    Vegetables %5F%5F%5F%5F%5F servings per day

    • One serving = approximately 25 calories
    One Serving
    Cooked vegetables
    ½ cup
    Raw vegetables
    1 cup
    Tomato or vegetable juice
    ½ cup

    Fruits %5F%5F%5F%5F%5F servings per day

    • One serving = approximately 60 calories
    One Serving
    Canned fruit
    ½ cup
    Dried fruit
    ¼ cup
    Fresh fruit
    1 small or 1 cup (eg, cut up or berries)
    Fruit juice
    ½ cup

    Milk %5F%5F%5F%5F%5F servings per day

    • Calories in one serving varies as listed below
    One Serving
    90 calories per serving
    Nonfat or low-fat milk
    1 cup
    Plain, nonfat yogurt
    ¾ cup
    Nonfat or low-fat soy milk
    1 cup
    120 calories per serving
    2% milk
    1 cup
    Soy milk
    1 cup
    Yogurt, plain, low-fat
    ¾ cup
    150 calories per serving
    Whole milk
    1 cup
    Yogurt, plain (made from whole milk)
    ¾ cup

    Meat and Beans %5F%5F%5F%5F%5F servings per day

      Calories vary as follows:
      • One very lean serving = approximately 35 calories
      • One lean serving = approximately 55 calories
      • One medium-fat serving = approximately 75 calories
      • One high-fat serving = approximately 100 calories
    One Serving
    Very lean
    Egg substitutes, plain
    ¼ cup
    Egg whites
    Fish: fresh or frozen cod, flounder, haddock, halibut, trout, tuna
    1 ounce
    Nonfat or low-fat cottage cheese
    ¼ cup
    Poultry: chicken or turkey, white meat, no skin
    1 ounce
    1 ounce
    Beef: round, sirloin, flank, tenderloin, roast, steak, ground round (trimmed of fat)
    1 ounce
    Fish: herring, salmon, catfish, tuna (canned in oil, drained)
    1 ounce
    Parmesan cheese
    2 tablespoons
    Pork: lean pork, such as fresh ham, Canadian bacon, tenderloin, center loin chop
    1 ounce
    Poultry: chicken or turkey (dark meat, no skin); chicken (white meat with skin)
    1 ounce
    Tofu, light
    ½ cup or 4 ounces
    Veal: lean chop, roast
    1 ounce
    Beef: most beef products (ground beef, meatloaf, corned beef, short ribs, prime rib)
    1 ounce
    Cheese with five grams or less of fat per ounce: feta, mozzarella
    1 ounce, (Ricotta 2 ounces)
    Lamb: rib roast, ground
    1 ounce
    Pork: top loin, chop, cutlet
    1 ounce
    Poultry: chicken (dark meat with skin), ground turkey or ground chicken, fried chicken (with skin)
    1 ounce
    Sausage with 5 g or less of fat per ounce
    1 ounce
    ½ cup or 4 ounces
    Cheeses: all regular cheese (eg, American, cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss)
    1 ounce
    Hot dog (beef, pork, or combination) *count as 1 high-fat meat plus 1 fat exchange
    1 ounce
    Peanut butter
    1 tablespoon
    Pork: spareribs, ground pork, pork sausage
    1 ounce
    Processed sandwich meats: bologna, salami
    1 ounce
    Sausage (eg, Italian, bratwurst)
    1 ounce

    Fats %5F%5F%5F%5F%5F servings per day

    • One fat serving = approximately 45 calories
    One Serving
    2 tablespoons (1 ounce)
    Oil (canola, olive, peanut)
    1 teaspoon
    9-10 large
    Peanut butter
    2 teaspoons
    Tahini paste
    2 teaspoons
    1 teaspoon
    Mayonnaise, regular
    1 teaspoon
    Mayonnaise, low-fat
    1 tablespoon
    Salad dressing, regular
    1 tablespoon
    Bacon, cooked
    1 slice
    Butter, stick
    1 teaspoon
    Coconut, sweetened, shredded
    2 tablespoons
    Cream cheese, reduced fat
    1½ tablespoons
    Cream cheese, regular
    1 tablespoon
    Cream, half and half
    2 tablespoons
    Shortening or lard
    1 teaspoon
    Sour cream, reduced fat
    3 tablespoons
    Sour cream, regular
    2 tablespoons

    Sweets and Desserts %5F%5F%5F%5F%5F servings per day/week

    • These foods tend to be high in sugar and/or fat, while providing little nutritional value. They may or may not be included in your diet plan.
    Serving Size
    Angel food cake, unfrosted
    1/12 cake (2 ounces)
    Brownie, small, unfrosted
    2 inch square (about 1 ounce)
    Cake, frosted
    2 inch square (about 2 ounces)
    Doughnut, plain
    1 medium (1½ ounce)
    1 tablespoon
    Ice cream
    ½ cup
    Ice cream, low-fat
    ½ cup
    Milk, chocolate, whole
    1 cup
    Pudding, sugar-free (made with low-fat milk)
    ½ cup
    Sports drink
    8 ounces
    1 tablespoon
    Syrup, regular
    1 tablespoon
    Yogurt, frozen, low-fat
    1/3 cup

    Free Foods

    • These foods contain less than 20 calories per serving.
    • Eat as desired, unless a serving size is given, then limit to three servings per day.
    One Serving
    Bouillon, broth or consommé
    Candy, hard, sugar free
    1 candy
    Carbonated or mineral water
    Cream cheese, fat-free
    1 tablespoon
    Creamers, nondairy
    1 tablespoon
    Diet soft drinks, sugar-free
    Drink mixes, sugar-free
    Gelatin dessert, sugar-free
    Herbs, fresh or dried
    Jam or jelly, light
    2 teaspoons
    1 tablespoon
    Lemon or lime juice
    Margarine spread, fat-free
    4 tablespoons
    Mayonnaise, fat-free
    1 tablespoon
    Nonstick cooking spray
    Pickles, dill
    1½ large
    Salad dressing, fat-free or low-fat
    1 tablespoon
    ¼ cup
    Soy sauce
    Tabasco or hot pepper sauce
    Whipped topping, light or fat-free
    2 tablespoons
    Wine, used in cooking
    Worcestershire sauce

    Tips and Suggestions

    If your goal is to lose weight, researchers have found that reducing your caloric intake is the key to success, not reducing a particular nutrient (like carbs).
    To become more aware of how many calories you are consuming, follow these tips:
    • Read food labels for calorie information per serving.
    • Focus on the serving sizes you are eating. They directly impact calorie intake.
    • Spread out your calorie intake throughout the day. Find what works for you, whether it is consuming your calories in three standard meals a day or spread out into six mini-meals.
    • Work with a dietitian to create a calorie-counting plan that takes into account your lifestyle and preferences.
    • Eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups. This will ensure that you get all the nutrients you need and will also leave you more satisfied.


    American Diabetes Association http://www.diabetes.org/

    American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org/


    Canada’s Food Guide http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

    Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca/


    American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/ . Accessed December 29, 2009.

    Powers M. American Dietetic Association Guide to Eating Right When You Have Diabetes . Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc; 2003.

    4/14/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, et al. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:859-873.

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