Finding a Balance of Food and Activity

A healthy lifestyle includes good nutrition and adequate physical activity. If you need to gain or lose weight, consider changing your dietary pattern and physical activity level to achieve your goal.

Food and Nutrition

Counting calories all the time is not necessary, but in the beginning, it may help to determine how many calories are in the foods and drinks you consume regularly. See MyPlate Plan to determine how many calories a day you need to maintain your current weight based on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level. Then click on the results to see recommended daily amounts fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and grains for adequate nutrition at your calorie level.

To learn how many calories you are taking in, write down the foods you eat and the beverages you drink, plus the calories they have, each day. Check the nutrition facts label for serving sizes and number of calories, and consider portion size.

A food and beverage diary [PDF-126KB] will help you become more aware of what you are consuming. Also, begin writing down your physical activity each day [PDF-571KB] and the length of time you do it.

Image: A  woman practicing yoga
Diaries May Help

Here are simple paper and pencil tools to assist you:

Food and Beverage Diary [PDF-126KB]

Physical Activity Diary [PDF-571KB]

Physical Activity

How much physical activity you need depends mostly on your age.

  • Preschool-aged children (ages 3 through 5 years) should be physically active throughout the day for growth and development.
  • Children and adolescents (ages 6 through 17 years) need 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each day. Children and adolescents need aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities.
  • Pregnant or postpartum women, with their doctor’s approval, should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, such as brisk walking. It is best to spread this activity throughout the week, such as 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • Adults need 150 minutes of physical activity each week, including aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activity. This can be 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • Adults age 65 and older need at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking, at least two days a week of activities that strengthen muscles, and activities to improve balance such as standing on one foot.

Questions and Answers

Q: I’ve heard it is more important to worry about carbohydrates than calories. Is this true?

A: By cutting back on carbohydrates, you can still eat too many calories. Also, if you reduce the variety of foods in your diet, you could exclude vital nutrients or not be able to stay on the diet over time. Learn daily recommended amounts of each food group by visiting MyPlate Plan.

Q: Does it matter how many calories I eat as long as I’m maintaining an active lifestyle?

A: While physical activity is a vital part of weight control, so is controlling the number of calories you eat and ensuring adequate nutrition. If you take in more calories than you use, you will still gain weight.

Q. What factors besides food and physical activity contribute to overweight and obesity?

A: Environment, genetics, diseases, and medications may contribute to overweight and obesity. In addition, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep can help you manage your body weight.

Want to Learn More?

Early Weight Watching
As part of CDC’s Minute of Health series, this podcast discusses the most effective ways for children and adults to maintain a healthy weight (0:59 mins).

Cutting Calories at Every Meal
You can cut calories by eating foods high in fiber, making better drink choices, avoiding portion size pitfalls, and adding more fruits and vegetables to your eating plan.

Losing Weight
Even a modest weight loss, such as 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight, can produce health benefits.

Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight
Physical activity can increase the number of calories your body uses for energy or “burns off.” The burning of calories through physical activity, combined with reducing the number of calories you eat can help with weight loss.

Physical Activity Basics
Physical activity can make you feel better, function better, and sleep better. Learn about the benefits and how to measure progress.

Move Your Way
Tools, videos, and fact sheets with tips that to make it easier to get a little more physically active.

Connect with Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity