Know your calories

Northern Ireland specific
How many calories you need a day and where to look for the calorie content of your food.
Last updated

Knowing how many calories you need in a day is important. As a guide, men need around 2,500kcal and women around 2,000kcal a day.

Eating and drinking more calories than we need over time leads to weight gain and ultimately obesity. Obesity can increase the risk of some types of cancer, such as bowel cancer and breast cancer, as well as increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Knowing the calorie content of food and drink can help make sure you're not consuming more than you need. The calorie content of many shop-bought food is on the front of the packaging as part of the nutrition label. You can also look out for calories on menus when eating out.

Looking out for calorie information can help you make better food choices.

Nutrition labels on the front of packaging

All the big supermarkets and many food manufacturers display nutritional information on the front of pre-packed food. This is very useful when you want to compare different food products at a glance.

Front of pack labels usually give a quick guide to:

  • energy (kilojoules (kj)/ calories (kcal))
  • fat
  • saturates
  • sugar
  • salt

These labels provide information on the number of kilojoules and calories and the number of grams of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt in a serving or portion of the food.

Calories on menus

Some restaurants are putting calorie information on their menus, so you can also check the calorie content of foods when eating out. Calories should be given per portion or meal. They should also be displayed somewhere on the menu which is easy for you to find so you can use the information before you make your food choice.

Choosing a healthy diet

If you want to choose a healthy diet, you should:

  • base your meals on starchy foods such as wholegrain bread, pasta and rice
  • eat lots of fruit and vegetables, at least five portions of various fruit and vegetables every day
  • have some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, pulses, milk and dairy foods
  • keep foods and drinks high in fat, especially saturated fat, sugars or salt to a minimum
  • get active and be a healthy weight
  • not get thirsty or skip breakfast

Find out more about healthy eating on the NI Direct website.