Calories count! Staying at a healthy weight is about finding the right balance. It's important to balance the number of calories you eat and drink with the number of calories your body uses or "burns off" during physical activity.

  • A calorie is a unit of energy that comes from food. A calorie is a calorie no matter what type of food it comes from.
  • Caloric balance is like a scale. Calories from food and drink should be balanced by calories used through normal daily activities and physical activity.

Calories in and out

Most adults only need 2,000 calories each day to maintain a healthy weight. But everyone is different. The number of calories you need depends on your:

  1. Age
  2. Gender
  3. Level of physical activity

The table below tells how many calories you need based on your age and gender.

Calorie Guidelines for Moderately Active Levels of Physical Activity
Age 2-3Age 4-8Age 9-13Age 14-18Age 19-50Age 51+
Girls 1000-14001400-16001600-20002000Women 2000-22001800
Boys 1000-14001400-16001800-22002400-2800Men 2400-28002200-2400

The calorie ranges are based on an active lifestyle of 30-60 minutes of physical activity each day.

The more active you are, the more calories you burn. And the more calories you burn, the more calories you can take in without gaining weight.

The less active you are, the less calories you burn. And the less calories you burn, the less calories you can take in without gaining weight.

It's easy to check the Nutrition Facts Labels in store-bought items to see how many calories are in a serving or the whole container. When you're out to eat, it can be harder to know how many calories are in the foods you eat. Check out our Mass in Motion tip sheets to help you make healthier choices when you eat away from home.

This information is provided by the Department of Public Health.