While calorie counting is not the be-all and end-all of a healthy lifestyle, if you do want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, you do need to keep an eye on calories because it’s incredibly easy to eat more than you really need.
On average, adults in England eat 200-300 calories more than they need each day, according to Public Health England. That’s about the amount of calories in Mars bar (230 calories), so just a small snack can push you over the line. It may not seem much, but a daily Mars would see you eating 84,000 unnecessary calories over the course of a year.
Trying to count every single calorie you eat is not simple. In fact, the process is so exacting it takes an iron will to continue doing it for more than a few days, even with healthy eating apps like MyFitnessPal that can scan barcodes and count the calories for you.
To make things easier for those trying to stay within the recommended calorie intakes (which are 2,500 a day for men and 2,000 for women), Public Health England suggests you use the 400-600-600 rule for your meals. That’s 400 calories at breakfast, 600 at lunch and another 600 at dinner, which leaves room for snacks and drinks – never forget how calorific drinks can be.
Naturally you don’t have to hit those numbers on the nose, but trying to stay around the 400-600-600 marks will help ensure you don’t go over your daily total and, just as importantly, help give an idea of what 600 calories looks like on a plate.
One of the fastest ways to blow your daily calorie count is by eating out, so Public Health England has enlisted many popular food chains to highlight the meals that fit with the 400-600-600 rule to make it simpler for people to follow. These include Greggs, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Subway, which should mean you can easily grab a quick meal on the go without exceeding the targets.
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There isn’t one handy rule to follow that solves all of your dietary concerns but considering that all successful diets basically work by creating a calorie deficit, following the 400-600-600 plan for your meals – and not gorging on huge snacks and whipped-cream caffè lattes in between – is a great place to start if you’re worried about your weight.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.