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How Many Calories Should Be Consumed at Dinner?

author image Amy Long Carrera
Amy Long Carrera is a registered dietitian in Los Angeles who has been writing since 2007 for such publications as The Insider, On the Other Side and Arthritis Today. She is a certified nutrition support clinician and her writing employs current research to provide evidence-based nutrition information. Carrera holds a master of science degree in nutrition from California State University, Northridge.
How Many Calories Should Be Consumed at Dinner?
When you divvy up your total calorie intake, be sure to save room for dinner. Photo Credit: Jacek Chabraszewski/iStock/Getty Images

The number of calories you should eat at dinner depends on your total daily calorie needs, as well as how much you eat at other meals. Estimated calorie needs range from 1,800 to 3,000 per day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If you need 2,200 calories per day and you eat two snacks, subtract 100 calories for each, and that leaves you with 2,000 calories. One way to plan your calorie intake at breakfast, lunch and dinner is to divide this number evenly into three meals, giving you 650 calories to spend on dinner. Depending on your preference, you may decide to split up the rest of your calories into a small breakfast and large lunch, or vice versa.

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Designing Your Dinner

Make half your plate non-starchy veggies, such as spinach, green beans or tomatoes. Two cups of raw spinach contributes 50 calories to your meal. Top it with a tablespoon of salad dressing and 4 walnut halves and you’ve added 90 calories of heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat. A quarter of your plate should come from whole grains, such as beans, brown rice or whole wheat pasta. A 2/3-cup serving of brown rice has 160 calories. Make another quarter of your plate the protein section. A 4-ounce portion of chicken, fish or lean beef has 100 calories. Prepare it with 2 teaspoons of canola oil for an additional 90 calories of healthy fat. Round out your dinner meal with a serving of fruit, such as 17 small grapes, for another 60 calories. A cup of fat-free milk brings your dinner total to 650 calories.

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