How Much to Eat When You Are Walking to Lose Weight

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You can use walking as part of a weight loss plan, but you will need to balance exercise and how much you eat. The calories in a candy bar equal those you would burn by walking 3 to 5 miles. A Big Mac will take at least two hours to burn off. If you have fallen into eating habits where you are taking in more calories per day than you use, you will not lose weight despite exercising for the recommended 30 to 60 minutes per day.

To lose weight steadily, you need to eat fewer calories per day than you burn off. You will need a calorie deficit of about 500 calories per day in order to see a weight loss of one pound per week. Exercise can be part of that, but you will still need to mind what you eat. The calorie goal for weight loss varies from person to person, depending on height, age, and activity level.

How Much Are You Really Eating?

Most people are not aware of how much they really eat per day. For one week, log everything you eat and drink in food diary either on paper or by using an app such as MyFitnessPal or the Fitbit's food tracker. You will become more conscious of how the calories add up for the day. You may not realize you're drinking calories in your latte or how many miles it will take to burn off a bag of corn chips.

Balance your food and drink calories that against the calories you burn both in exercise and as part of your basal metabolic rate. If you wear a fitness tracker, your daily calorie burn can be easily compared with your calories eaten. You will see how much you may need to change the way you eat.

Make Changes in What and How Much You Eat

Small day-to-day changes can help you control your calorie intake. Try these tips:

  • Eat the foods you enjoy but in smaller portions.
  • Replace processed snack foods with vegetables and fruit.
  • Eat five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Restaurant portions are two to four times the amount you should eat at one meal. Eat out less often, and take home half of the food on the plate when you do.
  • Make changes you can live with the rest of your life.
  • Try new foods and new recipes.
  • Analyze your recipes to see whether they are providing the nutrients you need without excess empty calories.

Choosing a Healthy Diet

Beyond weight loss, you also need to fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods. If you are eating fewer calories, you want them to be from foods that will provide the essentials for good health and functioning. You may want more structure for your diet than those recommendations.

These are the suggested food group amounts for different calorie levels of diet to ensure you are getting the variety of nutrients your body needs, including protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Divide these total allowances for each food group between meals and snacks throughout the day. The portions listed are per day.

Daily 1200 Calorie Diet

  • 3 ounces of lean meat/protein
  • 4 ounces of grains with half of them whole grains
  • 1 cup of fruit (especially whole fruits)
  • 1 1/2 cups of vegetables (or double that amount of leafy greens)
  • 2 1/2 cups of dairy (low fat preferred)

Daily 1400 Calorie Diet

  • 4 ounces of lean meat/protein
  • 5 ounces of grains with half of them whole grains
  • 1 1/2 cups of fruit (especially whole fruit)
  • 1 1/2 cups of vegetables (or double that amount of leafy greens)
  • 2 1/2 cups of dairy

Daily 1600 Calorie Diet

  • 5 ounces of lean meat/protein
  • 5 ounces of grains, with half of them whole grains
  • 1 1/2 cups of fruit (especially whole fruit)
  • 2 cups of vegetables (or double that amount of leafy greens)
  • 3 cups of dairy (low fat preferred)

Servings and Equivalents of Each Food Group

In some cases, ounces and cups don't easily translate to how much to eat. Here are some equivalents to guide you:

  • Protein: The ounce measurement works for lean meat, poultry, and seafood. The vegetarian equivalents of 1 ounce are one egg, 1 tablespoon nut butter, 1/4 cup of cooked beans or other legumes, or 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds.
  • Grains: 1 ounce works for ready-to-eat cereal but equals one slice of bread or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal.
  • Fruit: The cup measurement works for raw or cooked fruit and 100 percent fruit juice. But for dried fruit, the equivalent is 1/2 cup.
  • Vegetables: The cup measurement works for raw or cooked vegetables and 100 percent vegetable juice. But you get a bonus for leafy salad greens as you can have 2 cups of those for every 1 cup of other vegetables.
  • Dairy: The cup measurement works for milk, soy milk, and yogurt. The equivalent for cheese is 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese.

When to Eat

Each person is likely to have an eating pattern that works best for them. But if you are reducing the number of calories you are eating you may want to adopt a different pattern to help prevent hunger pangs, especially during the first week or two. Many people find that eating three small meals and two small snacks works best. However, there are those who like to go for a long period between meals and have a larger amount of the daily allotment of calories at once.

It is wise to have a small snack before exercise so you have enough fuel on board to put in a good effort. It is also good to time one of your meals to eat soon after a long exercise session to replenish your muscles so they can repair and grow.

If you have diabetes, be sure to discuss meal timing, exercise, and diet composition with your doctor or dietitian.

A Word From Verywell

Eating for weight loss can be a big change. If you can make changes that boost your nutrition at a lower number of calories you will be doing your body good in more ways than just losing weight. Exercise is valuable to keep your body healthy and functioning as well as to reduce your health risks while you are losing weight. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking each week.

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