The number of calories a woman should eat each day generally depends on her age and activity level. Younger women need more calories than older women, and more active women can eat more than those who are sedentary. However, other factors such as pregnancy, breast-feeding and whether a woman needs to gain, lose or maintain weight also play a role.
The National Institutes of Heath offer a chart for women and men, childhood through adulthood, to help determine appropriate caloric intake. For women, those aged 19 to 25 are allowed the most calories on this chart, ranging from 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day depending on activity level. Sedentary women ages 51 and older should consume the least amount, at 1,600 a day. A sedentary lifestyle is one with less than 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity. Moderately active is getting 30 to 60 minutes a day, and active is 60 minutes or more.
According to Medline Plus, a service of the National Institutes of Health, a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet should include 2 cups of fruit, 2 1/2 cups of vegetables, 3 ounces or more of whole-grain items and 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products per day. Total fat should be no more than 20 to 35 percent of calories, and the fat should be "good" fats from fish, nuts and oils containing polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Lean, low-fat or fat-free meat, poultry, beans and milk also are good choices.
Trans fat, found in fried food, commercial baked goods and margarine, is unhealthy fat that you should avoid. In addition, take in less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day and reduce your intake of added sugars. Women should consume fewer than 2,300 milligrams of sodium and limit alcohol consumption to one or fewer alcoholic beverages per day. Reading nutrition labels on food is vital to understanding what is in the products you buy.
To track daily calorie consumption, a food and drink diary is one of the best tools, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Writing down what you eat and drink increases your awareness of what you consume. It's also a good idea to jot down your physical activity and its duration. Each person's body is different, but food and activity journals can help you achieve the energy balance needed to maintain a healthy weight.
The minimum a woman should consume daily is 1,200 calories, according to Medline Plus. One pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories. To lose one pound a week, a woman should reduce her calories or increase her physical activity by 500 calories a day. To lose two pounds a week, a deficit of 1,000 calories is needed. Some recommendations include avoiding foods high in fat and sugar and performing aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.