How Many Calories Do Women Need a Day?

Updated February 21, 2017

Whether you want to lose or maintain weight, or make sure you're eating enough to support a baby, it's important to know how many calories women should eat in a day. This varies based on a number of factors, including weight, activity level and whether you're pregnant. Whatever your calorie range, you should aim to eat primarily healthy foods---fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. The following are just guidelines; if you notice an unwanted weight gain or weight loss, you should adjust the number of calories you are taking in.

Average Women

If you're happy with your current weight and just want to know how many calories to eat to maintain your weight, you should aim to eat the same number of calories that you burn in a day. If you are moderately active, you should eat around 1800-2000 calories per day. However, if you engage in vigorous exercise---you exercise more than one hour per day---you should increase that caloric intake by about 400 calories.

Dieting Women

If you want to lose weight, you need to decrease the number of calories you eat each day. A healthy weight loss occurs when you have a 500-to-1000-calorie deficit between how much you eat and how much you burn. Achieve this by decreasing the calories you eat and increasing your exercise. Dieters should aim to eat between 1200 and 1800 calories. You should never eat less than 1200 calories because your body will think it is starving and your metabolism will slow down. If you find that you are not losing weight or that you reach a plateau, try slightly increasing your calories. Sometimes active women are not eating enough and this prevents them from losing weight.

Pregnant Women

Pregnant women require more calories than those who are not pregnant---but that doesn't mean you are literally eating for two. A healthy weight gain during pregnancy is between 11.3 and 15.9 Kilogram for a woman who starts off at a healthy weight. An overweight woman may not need to gain quite so much, and an underweight woman may need to gain more. During the first trimester, women should eat normally. There's no need for extra food. During the second and third trimesters, the recommended calories for pregnant women increases by about 400 calories.

Breastfeeding Women

Your body requires a lot of extra energy to produce the milk that your baby needs---500 calories extra. Now is not the time to restrict your calories for dieting. This can interfere with your milk supply. The average calories for breastfeeding woman should be between 2200 and 2600 calories per day. You should also be careful to eat additional calories if you are exercising.

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About the Author

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.