Commonly Asked Questions (FAQs)


These FAQs provide basic information and related resources for common food and nutrition questions. For personalized dietary advice, please talk to a qualified health care professional.

How can I get enough nutrients without consuming too many calories?

    • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages you to choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages to help achieve recommended nutrient intakes. Foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein foods can help you get the nutrients you need without excess calories. Avoid excess calories by limiting consumption of foods high in added sugars and solid fats, and alcoholic beverages; these provide calories but are poor sources of essential nutrients. See USDA's MyPlate Web site to learn more about choosing nutrient-dense foods. And, because calorie intake must be balanced with physical activity to control weight, stay active. See NIH's Weight-Control Information Network Tips to Help You Get Active.



When I eat more than I need what happens to the extra calories?

  • Consuming extra calories results in an accumulation of stored body fat and weight gain. This is true whether the excess calories come from protein, fat, carbohydrate, or alcohol. See CDC's Balancing Calories web page to learn more about the calorie balance equation.



How can I burn off my stored body fat?




How many calories do I need to burn to lose a pound of weight?

  • You need to burn off 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound. This translates into a reduction of 500 calories per day to lose 1 pound in a week, or 1000 calories per day to lose 2 pounds in a week. (1-2 pounds per week is generally considered to be a safe rate of weight loss.) This can be achieved by eating fewer calories or using up more through physical activity. A combination of both is best. See CDC's Balancing Calories web page to learn more.



I'm on a diet to lose weight. Do I still need to exercise?




I would like to gain weight. How can I do this in a healthy manner?

  • Losing, gaining or staying at the same weight all depend on how many calories you eat and how many calories your body uses over time. If you eat more calories than you use, you will gain weight; conversely, if you eat fewer calories than you use, you will lose weight. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Healthy Weight Gain webpage provides some information and advice on how to gain weight and remain healthy.

    Because many Americans are overweight, there are many resources geared toward losing weight. Some of these resources explain the principles of weight balance and can provide guidance for you to gain weight in a healthy manner; you will just need to focus on portion sizes for weight gain, rather than weight loss. One such resource is Aim for a Healthy Weight from the National Institute of Health’s National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. There are many other weight control resources on the Weight Managementsection of Nutrition.gov.

    If you would like personalized advice, or you want to know how many calories or what types of foods are best for you, Registered Dietitians (RD) are health professionals who can physically assess you and your needs. In the United States, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a referral service to registered dietitians. You can find a dietitian in your area by using the Find a Registered Dietitian referral service on their website.