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by Scheinberg D

Calorie-Counting Diet

(Calorie-Controlled Diet)

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
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
English muffin, hot dog bun, or hamburger bun
Muffin, 5 ounces
1/5 (1 ounce)
Pasta, rice
1/3 cup
Popcorn, air popped, no fat added
3 cups
1 small (3 ounces)
¾ ounce
Sweet potato or yam
½ cup
1 small
Unsweetened, dry cereal
¾ cup


  • One serving = about 25 calories
One Serving
Cooked veggies
½ cup
Raw veggies
1 cup
Tomato or veggie juice
½ cup


  • One serving = about 60 calories
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


  • Calories in one serving varies as listed below
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
One Serving
Very lean
Egg substitutes, plain
¼ cup
Egg whites
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
1 ounce
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
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)
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
½ cup or 4 ounces
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


  • One fat serving = about45 calories
One Serving
2 tablespoons (1 ounce)
Oil (canola, olive, peanut)
1 teaspoon
9-10 large
Peanut butter
2 teaspoons
Tahini paste
2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon
Mayo, regular
1 teaspoon
Mayo, low-fat
1 tablespoon
Salad dressing, regular
1 tablespoon
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.
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)
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
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.
One Serving
Bouillon, broth or consommé
Candy, hard, sugar free
1 candy
Carbonated or mineral water
Cream cheese, fat-free
1 tablespoon
Creamers, nondairy
1 tablespoon
Diet soft drinks, sugar-free
Drink mixes, sugar-free
Gelatin dessert, sugar-free
Herbs, fresh or dried
Jam or jelly, light
2 teaspoons
1 tablespoon
Lemon or lime juice
Margarine spread, fat-free
4 tablespoons
Mayo, fat-free
1 tablespoon
Nonstick cooking spray
Pickles, dill
1½ large
Salad dressing, fat-free or low-fat
1 tablespoon
¼ cup
Soy sauce
Tabasco or hot pepper sauce
Whipped topping, light or fat-free
2 tablespoons
Wine, used in cooking
Worcestershire sauce


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.


American Diabetes Association
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


Canada’s Food Guide
Dietitians of Canada


Just enough for you: about food portions. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: Updated October 1, 2018. Accessed December 2016.
4/14/2009 EBSCO DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, et al. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:859-873.

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