How Many Calories Should I Eat at Lunch?

Eating a balanced diet including evenly distributed calories at each meal promotes a healthy lifestyle and can assist in weight loss.
Image Credit: wmaster890/iStock/GettyImages

Whether you're looking to lose pounds or simply manage your weight, a calorie calculator is helpful in determining a good amount of calories for lunch. Average lunch calories are dependent on both your diet and level of activity.


Video of the Day


Eating a balanced diet including evenly distributed calories at each meal promotes a healthy lifestyle and can assist in weight loss.

Determine Average Lunch Calories

To discover how many calories adults need, there are multiple factors such as age, gender, height, weight and level of activity, explains the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In general, the calorie needs for women range from 1,600 to 2,400 per day while for men, the daily range is 2,000 to 3,000 calories. Sedentary (little to no activity) adults should aim for the low end and those who are more than moderately active should opt for the high end.


These calories are distributed throughout daily meals during the course of the day. Try an online tool such as the National Institutes of Health Body Weight Planner to calculate caloric needs based on your current weight and activity level. This calculator also allows for an estimate based on your goal weight and activity level.


Read more: How Many Calories Should I Consume per Meal?

Good Amount of Lunch Calories

Another way to calculate how many calories you should take in at each meal, including lunch, is to consider the total number of daily calories consumed and then divide into the number of meals you typically eat. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 explain that a typical adult woman needs 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day, whereas a typical man needs 2,000 to 3,000 calories.


For women that eat three meals a day, this translates roughly to 533 to 800 calories per meal. For men that consume three daily meals, this means 667 to 1,000 calories per meal. You may vary the caloric value of each meal, depending on your schedule. For example, some people may prefer to eat a bigger breakfast while others may opt for meal prepping an array of healthy lunch ideas to pack for lunch while on-the-go or at work.

Read more: Recommended Calorie Intake for One Meal

Calorie-Saving Swaps to Make

The Mayo Clinic recommends making changes that are relatively simple in order to cut calories. These include skipping high-calorie, low-nutrition items, swapping high-calorie foods for lower calorie options and/or reducing portion sizes. Eliminating just one or two high-calorie items is a good start, such as skipping an early-morning latte or lunchtime soda in favor of black coffee, herbal tea or water.

Swapping high-calorie foods for lower calorie substitutions makes a big difference. For example, snack on air-popped popcorn instead of potato chips or trade a second pizza slice for fresh fruit or veggies. Reducing your portion sizes is another good way to control calories.

Other recommendations include taking less than what you think you'll eat at the beginning of a meal, eating from real plates rather than packages and using smaller serving dishes to actually see the food you're eating as well as checking the actual serving size listed on the nutrition label to have a better sense of how much you are consuming.