Latin America

Understanding calories

It’s important to understand the role calories can play when it comes to your diet and lifestyle and the relationship between calorie intake and expenditure.

Calories are essentially a measure of the amount of energy in food and drink. When you eat or drink, there’s an intake of energy (or calories) into the body. Different food and drink provide different amounts of energy.

How does the body use calories?

Our bodies expend energy (calories) through movement or exercise. To maintain a healthy and stable weight, the energy we put into our bodies should be in balance with energy expenditure – otherwise known as the energy balance.

Every time we consume food or drink more energy (calories) is taken in. Every time we are physically active – be it walking, cycling or even household chores – energy is expended, and calories burned. Therefore, the more active we are, the more calories we burn and what’s more, the greater the effort – so faster or heavier – the more calories we burn.

Recommended calorie intake

As a general guide, an average man needs 2,500 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight and a woman needs 2,000 calories (76) however the amount of energy (calories) we require can vary depending on gender, age and different levels of physical activity, among other things. The World Health Organization guidance sets out the percentage of your total energy intake which should come from different nutrients including sugars and fats. (1) Please consult local dietary guidance and recommendations where appropriate.

Tracking calories

Food labels and packaging can be a good source to identify calorific value. Nutritional information is often available on pre-packaged foods and drink, to help understanding of the nutrient and calorie count. There is often useful information such as the amount of fats, saturates, sugars and salt.

Our guide to understand more about food labelling is available here.


  • The first place you are able to find out whether a product contains sugars is in the ingredients list. All the ingredients that have been used to make the product will be shown in order of weight.