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Weight-Loss Software > How to Count Calories

How to Count Calories

By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*

Knowing how to count calories is the ultimate key to weight loss, because the number of calories you eat bears a direct relationship to the amount of fat your body stores. The math is simple: If you eat 3500 calories more than your body needs, you'll gain a pound. If you eat 3500 less than it needs, you'll lose a pound.

Here's How to Count Calories!
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You can count calories by jotting down the numbers on food labels, of course, or by looking them up in one of those printed manuals sold in supermarkets and bookstores. It's a lot easier to use your computer, however. We'll tell you more about that in a minute. But first:

How to Count Calories: the First Step

Before starting your diet, you need to know how many calories you should eat in order to reach your goal weight on your target date. To find out, use DietPower's calorie budget calculator.

How to Count Calories with Your Computer

Basically, there are two ways to do this:

  1. Use a website. Many websites will count your calories as you log your foods. Some of these online calorie counters are free. The only drawbacks are a) their performance may be sluggish, b) they'll show you lots of ads, and c) they may rent your email address (usually required) to companies that bombard you with marketing messages.

  2. Use software. Instead of counting calories on the Web, you can download a program from the Web that counts calories on your PC. Software generally works a lot faster than a website. It also keeps your records safely on your hard drive, inaccessible to prying eyes. The only drawback is that it may cost $20 to $50 (unless it's DietPower®, which is absolutely free)..

How to Count Calories Fast

Most of the time you spend counting calories on your computer goes into looking up and logging what you eat—typically 20 to 35 foods per day. Hence, it's important to look for a calorie counter that has a speedy search function.

Don't bother with calorie counters that ask you to guess which Food Group an item belongs to before you can even start the search. Choose a program that looks up foods by name—and that understands misspellings and synonyms.

Your calorie counter should also remember your favorite dishes and post them at the top of your Found lists. In addition, it should let you add foods to the database by copying nutrition facts from labels. You should also be able to create recipes.

How to Count Calories and More

If you're going to be logging all your foods anyway, choose a calorie counter that simultaneously tracks other nutrients. The most important nutrients to watch are sodium, fat, trans fat, saturated fat, calcium, vitamin C, folic acid, cholesterol, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, water, alcohol, and selenium.

A good program will also count calories burned in exercise and add them to your budget so you can eat more and still meet your goal.

A few programs understand not only how to count calories, but also to recommend foods that are best for your personal nutrition. One is DietPowerŽ, which favors foods you like, alerts you when your water intake falls behind your calorie intake, analyzes and "doctors" your recipes, and can automatically adjust your daily calorie budget to ensure reaching your goal on deadline.

How to Count Calories without Risking Your Cash

Choose a calorie counter that's free or at least can be test-driven for a week or two before purchase. Also, shun any calorie counter that doesn't offer a money-back guarantee after purchase. The best calorie counters do, because their makers know that most buyers are going to remain happy with the product's performance.


*Terry Dunkle is a 30-year veteran medical journalist and consumer advocate who serves as CEO and chief editor at DietPower, Inc., a leading maker of nutrition and weight-loss software.

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Last modified August 12, 2010

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