calories, calorie counting, middle age and diet, diet, exercise, heart health

Exactly how many calories should you be eating every day? Tragically, the right answer isn’t, “As many as you want!”

But figuring out your ideal calorie count can be almost as hard as turning down a (500-calorie) slice of chocolate cake.

There are many factors that go into determining your calorie needs. Your age, weight, height and activity level all play a role. According to dietary guidelines in the United States, adults 21 years old and older should consume anywhere between 1,600 and 3,000 calories per day.

So, what do you need to know to strike a healthy balance? Registered dietitian Julia Zumpano RD, LD, helps us do the math.

Estimated calorie requirements by age

Whether you want to gain weight, lose it or find the perfect Goldilocks balance to stay exactly where you are, calories matter. And if you’re a person who likes to track and measure things, you could benefit from determining exactly how many calories you need.

Digital apps and online calorie calculators can help, Zumpano says. But because it can be complicated (are you really active, pretty active or just kind of active?), Zumpano recommends seeing a dietitian to get an expert’s take.

Others may not need to crunch the numbers to meet their calorie targets. Simply knowing your recommended calorie ranges can help you hit your goals.