Frequently 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 the NIH Weight-Control Information Network's Tips to Help You Get Active.

I am a 42 year old female weighing 200 pounds and I am 5’5”. Can you provide a diet that will help me lose weight?

  • We are unable to provide nutrition counseling or create a personalized weight loss plan, however we can point you towards some interactive tools and information that may be helpful.’s Strategies for Success webpage contains a variety of credible weight management resources. In addition, the Body Weight Planner, from the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), allows users to make personalized calorie and physical activity plans to reach a goal weight within a specific time period and to maintain it afterwards. You may also use the MyPlate Plan to learn more about your food group targets – what and how much to eat within your calorie allowance. Your food plan is personalized, based on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level.

    If you would like a more specific meal plan and want to speak with a nutrition professional, ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also has a Find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist tool that allows you to locate an RDN in your area.

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 Finding a Balance web page to learn more about the calorie balance equation.

How can I burn off my stored body fat?

  • We all need some body fat, but if stored fat is excessive it may increase risk of diet-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. This is particularly true if excess fat is in the abdominal area. Check out Ways to Be Active, a publication from the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, to learn more.

    According to the CDC, a body mass index, or BMI, of 25 or higher is an indication that your weight may be unhealthy. Also, a waist circumference of over 40 inches in men and over 35 inches in women indicates excessive abdominal fat if BMI is 25 or higher. Calculate your BMI and find information on measuring your waist size from CDC.

    The best strategy for losing excess weight and stored body fat involves calorie reduction, increased physical activity, and a behavior change plan. See Interested in Losing Weight? from to learn more.

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 Finding a Balance 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 Management section of

    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.