What Is This Diet?

The goal of the calorie-counting diet is to stay within a target number of calories each day. It works well for some people. But most dietitians advise a more individualized eating plan.

Why Should I Follow This?

This diet can help you manage your weight and blood sugar levels. If you are overweight, lowering the number of calories you eat will help you lose weight. This will also lower your risk of health problems likediabetes and high blood pressure. If you are underweight, then raising the number of calories you eat will help you gain weight.

The Basics

Foods are broken into groups. You can have a certain number of daily servings from each group. This results in a balanced diet. It also makes it easier to keep track of calories.

A balanced diet has a range of foods from each of the main food groups: grains, fruits, veggies, milk, meat and beans, and oils. Based on your calorie needs, a dietitian can help you find out how many servings you can have from each of the groups. Depending on your situation, you may also be given some calories that you can use for foods not in these main groups, such as sweets, desserts, and certain drinks. Alcohol, if allowed by your doctor, should be limited to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

This table shows the main food groups and the calories per serving for foods in them. You should work with a dietitian to find out how many servings of each group you can have per day.

Grains (includes starchy veggies)

  • One serving = about 80 calories

Type

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

Crackers

4-6

English muffin, hot dog bun, or hamburger bun

½

Muffin, 5 ounces

1/5 (1 ounce)

Pasta, rice

1/3 cup

Popcorn, air popped, no fat added

3 cups

Potato

1 small (3 ounces)

Pretzels

¾ ounce

Sweet potato or yam

½ cup

Tortilla

1 small

Unsweetened, dry cereal

¾ cup

Veggies

  • One serving = about 25 calories

Type

One Serving

Cooked veggies

½ cup

Raw veggies

1 cup

Tomato or veggie juice

½ cup

Fruits

  • One serving = about 60 calories

Type

One Serving

Canned fruit

½ cup

Dried fruit

¼ cup

Fresh fruit

1 small or 1 cup (for example, cut up or berries)

Fruit juice

½ cup

Milk

  • Calories in one serving varies as listed below

Type

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

  • Calories vary as follows:
    • One very lean serving = about 35 calories
    • One lean serving = about 55 calories
    • One medium-fat serving = about 75 calories
    • One high-fat serving = about 100 calories

Type

One Serving

Very lean

Egg substitutes, plain

¼ cup

Egg whites

2

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

Shellfish

1 ounce

Lean

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

Medium-fat

Beef: most beef products (ground beef, meatloaf, corned beef, short ribs, prime rib)

1 ounce

Cheese with 5 grams or less of fat per ounce: feta, mozzarella

1 ounce, (Ricotta 2 ounces)

Egg

1

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

Tofu

½ cup or 4 ounces

High-fat

Cheeses: all regular cheese (for example, American, cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss)

1 ounce

Hot dog (beef, pork, or mix) *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 (for example, Italian, bratwurst)

1 ounce

Fats

  • One fat serving = about45 calories

Type

One Serving

Monounsaturated

Avocado

2 tablespoons (1 ounce)

Oil (canola, olive, peanut)

1 teaspoon

Olives

9-10 large

Peanut butter

2 teaspoons

Tahini paste

2 teaspoons

Polyunsaturated

Margarine

1 teaspoon

Mayo, regular

1 teaspoon

Mayo, low-fat

1 tablespoon

Salad dressing, regular

1 tablespoon

Saturated

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

  • These foods tend to be high in sugar and fat, while give you little nutritional value. They may or may not be in your diet plan.

Type

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)

Gingersnaps

3

Honey

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

Sugar

1 tablespoon

Syrup, regular

1 tablespoon

Yogurt, frozen, low-fat

1/3 cup

Free Foods

  • These foods have less than 20 calories per serving.
  • Eat as much as you want, unless a serving size is given, then limit to three servings per day.

Type

One Serving

Bouillon, broth or consommé

Candy, hard, sugar free

1 candy

Carbonated or mineral water

Coffee

Cream cheese, fat-free

1 tablespoon

Creamers, nondairy

1 tablespoon

Diet soft drinks, sugar-free

Drink mixes, sugar-free

Garlic

Gelatin dessert, sugar-free

Herbs, fresh or dried

Horseradish

Jam or jelly, light

2 teaspoons

Ketchup

1 tablespoon

Lemon or lime juice

Margarine spread, fat-free

4 tablespoons

Mayo, fat-free

1 tablespoon

Mustard

Nonstick cooking spray

Pickles, dill

1½ large

Salad dressing, fat-free or low-fat

1 tablespoon

Salsa

¼ cup

Soy sauce

Spices

Tabasco or hot pepper sauce

Tea

Vinegar

Whipped topping, light or fat-free

2 tablespoons

Wine, used in cooking

Worcestershire sauce

Tips

If your goal is to lose weight, then lowering your calories is the key to success, not avoiding one food.

Follow these tips:

  • Read food labels for calories per serving.
  • Focus on serving sizes. They impact your calorie intake.
  • Spread out your calories during the day. Find what works for you, whether it is eating your calories in three meals a day or spreading them out into six small meals.
  • Work with a dietitian to make a calorie-counting plan that takes into account your lifestyle and what you like to eat.
  • Eat a variety of foods from each of the groups. This will make sure that you get all the nutrients you need and will also leave you feeling full.