While many store-bought packaged foods list calorie totals per serving, fresh foods and restaurant meals may not offer the same information. The amount of calories in a food dish can be calculated by finding the total of each ingredient and adding the total together.
- Measure the amount of each ingredient
Using a consistent measuring unit, determine the amount of each ingredient in the food dish.
- Look up the calorie content of each ingredient
Use a resource that provides calorie amounts for food, such as the USDA’s National Nutrient Database or the conversion tool from Epicurious. Convert units as needed to find the appropriate listing.
- Add calories together
After you have determined the calorie content of each ingredient, add the total together. The USDA’s National Nutrient Database provides a tool for combining ingredients in a single dish. Alternatively, enter the information in an Excel spreadsheet, and use a formula to add up the total.
- Look up the meal in a database
Although experts recommend that you calculate the calories in a dish individually, many reference resources provide the likely calorie count for many dishes. To check your calculations, look up your meal in a resource such as CalorieKing, MyFitnessPal or ChooseMyPlate.