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why you may need more calories

Calories aren’t bad for you. Your body needs calories for energy. But eating too many calories — and not burning enough of them off through activity — can lead to weight gain.

Most foods and drinks contain calories. Some foods, such as lettuce, contain few calories (1 cup of shredded lettuce has less than 10 calories). Other foods, like peanuts, contain a lot of calories (½ cup of peanuts has 427 calories).

You can find out how many calories are in a food by looking at the nutrition facts label. The label also will describe the components of the food — how many grams of carbohydrate, protein, and fat it contains.

Here’s how many calories are in 1 gram of each:

carbohydrate — 4 calories
protein — 4 calories
fat — 9 calories

That means if you know how many grams of each one are in a food, you can calculate the total calories. You would multiply the number of grams by the number of calories in a gram of that food component. For example, if a serving of potato chips (about 20 chips) has 10 grams of fat, 90 calories are from fat. That’s 10 grams x 9 calories per gram.

Some people watch their calories if they are trying to lose weight. Most kids don’t need to do this, but all kids can benefit from eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes the right number of calories — not too many, not too few.