How Do You Figure the Calories in a Food Dish?


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.

  1. Measure the amount of each ingredient

    Using a consistent measuring unit, determine the amount of each ingredient in the food dish.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.