No matter what your weight loss goals are, you’ll want to know how many calories you’re consuming each day. Even if you’ve never paid attention to calories before, the process doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these tips to make counting calories and reaching your goals easy.

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Know How Many Calories You Need

Before you start tracking your calories, it’s important to know how many you need to meet your weight-related goals. An easy way to do this is to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which considers your height, weight, and typical activity level to determine how much energy you need on an average day. Once you know your TDEE, you can reduce that number by up to 20 percent for healthy weight loss or increase it slightly to build muscle.

Use a Calorie-Counter App

If you rely on a notebook or a spreadsheet to keep track of your calorie intake and your energy burn, you’re bound to get bored, frustrated, or both, quickly. Rather than trying to track food and exercise manually, use a food calorie counter.

With this type of smartphone app, you’ll have everything you need right at your fingertips. You can input your meals and snacks, count calories, track macronutrients, monitor your workouts, and even get ideas for meals that fit into your diet plan. With a quick glance, you’ll also be able to see how balanced you are and decide if you need more food or exercise to round out the day.

Get Technical with a Food Scale

If you’re merely estimating your portion sizes, then your calorie count won’t be exact either. If you’re serious about weight loss, however, you’ll want to make sure your numbers are as accurate as possible. Fortunately, it’s easy to get technical when you have a food scale and a set of measuring cups and spoons on hand. Use the utensils as you cook, and use the food scale as you portion out your meals and snacks. You’ll know exactly how many calories you’re consuming, which makes planning workouts infinitely easier.

Pay Attention to When You Eat

Whether your days usually follow a routine or they tend to be unpredictable, you’ll have a better chance of meeting your weight loss goals if you pay attention to when you eat. In fact, eating meals at the same times each day is an effective strategy for losing and maintaining your weight. If you balance your meals throughout the day, counting calories will be easier, too.

Plan and Prepare Meals in Advance

If you don’t have time to think about calories and nutrients all day, give yourself a break by planning and preparing meals in advance. Set aside a few hours on one or two days per week, and use that time to batch cook your meals for the week. Portion out your meals and snacks into containers so you can grab meals on the go and update your calorie count quickly.

Counting calories doesn’t have to be challenging. Keep these tips in mind to work calorie tracking into your meal plan seamlessly.

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