How Many Calories Do You Need to Eat at Lunch Time?

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When you sit down to eat lunch, you need to give your body enough nutrition to get through the rest of the afternoon without weighing yourself down and getting sluggish. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute recommends consuming fewer calories at lunch than you do at breakfast or dinner, so be careful about what you put in your body -- gobbling up empty calories, for example, only makes it harder to focus until dinner time.

Relative to Exercise

The amount of calories you consume should always relate to your body type and exercise regimen. When you exercise, you burn calories. Burning more calories than you consume in a day leads to weight loss, so the amount you eat depends on whether you want to gain weight, maintain your weight or lose weight. For example, an 18-year-old male who does not exercise may consume only 2,200 calories in a day, while a physically active male of the same age may consume 1,000 calories more without gaining weight.

Empty Calories

Empty calories are found in unhealthy foods. These are foods that give your body calories without a significant nutritional value. High-sugar food and drink like soda, cookies, candy, energy drinks and chocolate generally don't provide your body with nutrition -- just a temporary sugar high and empty calories. When the sugar high wears off, you may find yourself looking for another quick fix in the form of another unhealthy snack. Avoid empty calories at lunch to maintain healthy eating habits for the rest of the day.

Nontraditional Meal Plans

The calories you consume at lunchtime depend on how often you eat. For example, some people eat three square meals per day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Other people, for reasons influenced by dietary or scheduling needs, eat more often. For example, someone may eat five small meals in a day that are only three hours apart. If this is your case, you should consume an amount of calories relative to your meal plan. Instead of eating a 400-calorie lunch, eat two 200-calorie lunches.

Healthy Lunch Tips

The type of food you eat at lunch is just as important as the caloric content. Counting calories doesn't help if you aren't getting all the nourishment you need. For example, prepare a sandwich with vegetables and lean meats to get iron and fiber and use light versions of mayonnaise or creamy dressings as a spread. For dessert or a snack, eat a serving of fruit to get vitamins like vitamin C.