Splitting the calorie pie

How many calories per meal?

It’s best to figure out how many calories you eat to starve off the cravings and the weight gain. I found the best way to do this is to distribute my calories by meals. With that as a guide, I find it easier to stay on track.

On the previous post, you identified how many calories you should eat per day. Use the total daily maintenance calories for the the high end of your ideal weight range according to this ideal weight calculator (as I’m sure you were eating more than you should…just like me). Divide that number by 5.

So, for 1,800 calories per day / 5 = 360 calories per meal. If your number has a fraction (ie: 356.8) round DOWN (356). Remember, we are trying to lose the weight.

My goal is to eat 1,400 calories per day. This is more than what Noom recommends to lose weight. However, it is lower than maintenance for my desired weight. So, 1,400 / 5 = 280 calories per meal per day.

Don’t panic. You’ll get more calories for your big meal.

Beware of valentine’s day

This is a DAILY count. You can not save calories one day for the next (something you may try because of valentine’s day).

You are trying to get your body used to a regular feeding schedule.  Consistency matters. This will minimize the cravings (more on cravings in a future post).

  • eating within twelve hours
  • eating every 3 hours
  • eating 4 meals a day

What is your eating lifestyle?

Everyone has at least one big meal a day. Some have it at breakfast. Some have it for lunch. Some have it for dinner.

  • I have a friend who is in sales. His big meal is at lunch. It’s sales calls.
  • Another friend of mine is breakfast (which is one of the healthiest ways to eat). She gets up, has a huge breakfast. Her meals throughout the day are very small in comparison.
  • For me, it’s dinner. It’s the only meal that I cook and eat with others. It’s the big meal for my husband and me.

What is your’s? Pick ONE meal.

Calories per meal guideline

If you noticed, I said to divide by 5 yet our schedule calls for only 4 meals a day. That’s because your big meal will be the average calories per meal times two.

  • For 1,800 / 5 = 360; big meal is 720.
  • For 1,400 / 5 = 280; big meal (my dinner) is 560.

That may still seem low. Remember that one of your meals is a snack. A snack could be a piece of fruit, a power bar (more on that in another post), cracker and almond butter. I found keeping the snack below 200 calories is sufficient. If you want to go slow, use 250 as a guide for now. Just not any higher. Those extra calories I add to a “spare bucket” to add anywhere I want.

  • For 1,800 / 5 = 360; 360 – 250 = 110 calories you can add to the “spare” bucket.
  • For 1,400 / 5 = 280; 280 – 200 = 80 calories for my “spare” bucket.

We still have calories we can split between breakfast and lunch. Take the number and divide it by two. Remember to round the calories with fractions DOWN.

  • For 1,800: 1,800 – (720 dinner + 225 snack + 110 spare) = 745 / 2 = 372 (372.5)
  • For 1,400: 1,400 – (560 dinner + 200 snack + 80 spare) = 560 / 2 = 280

So, here is the current guideline:

1,800 1,400
Breakfast 372 280
Lunch 372 280
Snack 250 200
Dinner 720 560
Spare 110 80


Now, you can add your spare to where you want. I split mine across breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Your Guideline

Start with daily calorie count you calculated last week.  Use the total daily calories for the high end of your ideal weight range according to this ideal weight calculator.

Calculate and write down your calorie breakdown guideline by meal. Put your largest calories budget for what you want for your biggest meal.

Don’t let these low numbers scare you. You can achieve this slowly. You will also “EARN” more calories to consume as we increase our physical activity. Walking earns a lot of calories (how are you doing with reaching 10,000 steps per day)!

My current guideline is:

Breakfast 340
Lunch 350
Snack 160
Dinner 550

Reality check

Now, look at your meal diary for last week. How many calories have you been eating per meal? Over on all? Some?

Now it’s time to concentrate on getting those calories under control.

I know that valentine’s day is coming. Try to be good for 5 out of the 7 days this week. Accept you may not lose the weight you wanted. You may even gain a little.

— OR —

Treat your heart and your love one’s heart by sticking to the plan even on valentine’s day. Have only 1 piece of chocolate (about 150 calories) instead of the whole box.

Your choice!


Let’s focus on breakfast. If breakfast is your BIG meal for the day, pick lunch.

I am a creature of habit. I have the same thing for breakfast at least  5 days a week (the work day). I then splurge on the weekend by varying what I have.

Your goal is to find a breakfast within calories. A breakfast you would not mind having at least 5 days a week for a month.

Here is my breakfast (I’ll explain why these items in another post).

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp wheatgerm
  • 1/2 tbl hemp seeds
  • 1 tsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbl pumpkin seeds
  • 1 dried date
  • 1/4 cup Ezekiel 4:9 Golden Flax Cereal
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 mug black coffee

Calorie count: 333. That gives me 7 more calories for the “spare” category.

I set up the dry ingredients in a travel bowl on Sunday night for the full week. That saves me time and also prevents me “adding a little more” if I feel hungry in the morning.

Become a creature of habit for the meal you are concentrating on for this week.

How are your daily to do’s?

Keep it up. You will start to notice a drop in weight.

My goal is to drop at least one pound a week at this stage. Two would be fabulous. But I’m planning on going slow to make sure the healthy habits are forming. Remember, this is a lifestyle change, not a crash diet. Those NEVER last.

Get Back In Shape To Do List

  1. Weigh In DAILY (recording the date/weight)
  2. Increase your steps every day by 250.
  3. Eat your meals within 12 hours.
  4. Drink 64 oz of water a day.
  5. Record what you eat.
  6. Know your meal-calorie guidelines

Motivational Reminders:

  • Healthy habits help you lose and maintain a good weight and health.
  • A scale is just the provider of information to help you make healthier choices.
  • Don’t just eat more calories; earn them!
  • Flush out the bloat.
  • Know your calorie boundaries.
  • Consistency matters.

Welcome to the journey to better health! You can do it!

About Pat Ferdinandi

Digital Visuals Strategist & Creator

Viditude! Montclair NJ 973.619.9353 Talk2Me@PatFerdinandi.com