How to Count the Calories in Home-Cooked Meals

A woman preparing a meal using a food scale at home.
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Keeping track of the number of calories in a home-cooked meal can help you to meet your dietary requirements. Whether a meal consists of one or two items, or several dishes with multiple ingredients, the calories of every ingredient eaten counts toward your daily total calorie count. If the meal was prepared using prepackaged foods, you can find a report of the number of calories per serving on the food labels. Otherwise, you must know the name and amount of every ingredient used and consult a calorie table.


Step 1

Look on the back of the food packaging label for the number of calories per serving of each ingredient in a recipe or check a calorie table for the number of calories per serving in each single ingredient.

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Step 2

Measure the amount of each food ingredient in corresponding cups or ounces. Each serving size used of that ingredient will contain the specified number of calories. When a half serving size portion is used, list half of the serving size calories for that ingredient. A double serving size doubles the number of calories added to the calorie total.

Step 3

Write down the number of calories for each food item in a vertical list before or during meal preparation.

Step 4

Enter the number of calories for each item into a calculator, pressing the plus sign after each figure.

Step 5

After the final number of calories for the last ingredient is entered into the calculator, press the equals sign to get the total number of calories for the home-cooked meal.

Things You'll Need

  • Meal ingredients

  • Calorie table

  • Measuring cups

  • Food scale

  • Pen/pencil and paper (optional)

  • Calculator


For meals with three ingredients or less, it may be unnecessary to write down the number of calories and use a calculator to tally the total. You may be able to accurately calculate it in your head.

The method of cooking may create a difference in the number of food calories contained in items on a calorie chart, depending on whether and how they are cooked.

To figure out the total number of calories consumed in a day, add together the total number of calories for every meal, including snacks, beverages and anything consumed before and after meals.

Water and most spices have no calories.

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