Making smart food choices is the key to maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. It can also be extremely helpful when you're trying to lose weight.
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While most people know how to count calories, that doesn't always tell you the whole story. Calculating the percentage of calories you've eaten from fat, carbs and protein helps you stay healthy and keeps your diet well rounded.
Tracking Your Intake
Before you worry about the percentages, the first step in monitoring your food intake is to track how many calories you have consumed. The easiest and quickest way to determine your daily caloric intake is by using a calorie percentage tracker or online nutrition tracker, such as LIVESTRONG.COM's MyPlate app. This resource also helps you track your carb, protein and fat consumption throughout the day.
Although it's more time-consuming, you can also tabulate your total calories and track your carb, protein and fat intake in a food journal using food labels and online nutrition databases — such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Composition Databases.
Calculating Calories Per Gram
Any food type that is required for normal growth and development, such as carbs, fats and proteins, is called a macronutrient. These foods contain specific amounts of calories in each gram of the substance.
For example, there are 9 calories per gram of fat and 4 calories per gram of protein and carbohydrate. To tabulate the total calories of each macronutrient you have consumed, multiply the grams of the macronutrient in the food by its calories per gram.
For example, if you ate a 3-ounce chicken breast with 27 grams of protein, you would multiply 27 grams by 4 calories per gram to determine that your chicken contained 108 calories from protein.
Percentage of Calories
Once you have calculated the total numbers of calories that you've consumed from fat, protein and carbohydrates, you can figure out the percentage of your total calories that have come from each macronutrient. To do this, divide the number of calories from each nutrient by the total number of calories you've eaten that day and then multiply this number by 100.
To build on the previous example, if you ate 108 calories from protein during a 2,000-calorie day, you would divide the first number by the second which comes to 0.054. If you take this number and multiply it by 100, you get 5.4 percent which is the percentage of your day's calories that came from protein. Exactly the same calculation is used to determine the percentages for fat and carbs.
Read more: Macro Nutrient Diet
Recommended Percentages of Each Macronutrient
According to an article published in March 2015 by U.S. News & World Report, the American Heart Association recommends that no more than 30 percent of your daily calories come from fat. Of these calories, only 10 percent should be saturated fat, which is found in foods like milk, cheese and processed meats.
Complex carbohydrates, which are found in starchy vegetables, legumes and whole-grain bread, should make up 40 to 60 percent of your total calories. The remaining 20 to 30 percent of your calories in a day should come from lean proteins like chicken or fish.
Following these simple ratios can help you maintain a healthy weight while still allowing you to enjoy a wide variety of foods. Be sure to speak to your doctor or nutritionist if you have any questions or concerns about monitoring your macronutrient intake.
The free LIVESTRONG MyPlate calorie tracker app for iPhone and Android has helped millions of people lose weight the healthy way — by getting support from an active community as they track their eating and exercise. Consistently a top-rated app, MyPlate offers the latest technology in an easy-to-use tool that includes millions of foods and recipes, five-minute in-app workouts and a robust support community.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Food Composition Databases
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: How Many Calories Are in One Gram of Fat, Carbohydrate, or Protein?
- American Heart Association: Carbohydrates
- U.S. News & World Report: How Much Do Macronutrients Really Matter?
- MyFoodData: Nutrition Facts for Lean Chicken Breast (Cooked)