Many people need to regulate their caloric intake, but when making recipes at home, that can be difficult if you do not know the proper method of counting calories or the number of calories in each ingredient and/or dish. See Resources below for a link to the USDA’s database of calories and nutrients in thousands of raw, processed, and prepared foods. You will need this information to determine the number of calories in your homemade food.



On a piece of paper, write down all of the ingredients and their amounts in your recipe. For instance if you are making two peanut butter sandwiches you would write down: “Four slices of white bread, 4 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter.”

Look up each of the foods in the database. If you are using the USDA’s website, type in the name of the food in the search box, then select the option from the list that matches your food. For instance, typing “peanut butter” into the box will return results such as “peanut butter cookies,” “peanut butter” and “peanut butter-flavored breakfast cereal.” You would select “peanut butter, smooth, with salt.”

Choose the amount of the food you use for the entire recipe. For peanut butter, since the recipe requires 4 tablespoons, you would choose two servings of 2 tablespoons from the menu. This will return the calories in that food. Look at the number next to “kcal” (kilocalories), which is the same as calories. Write this down on your paper, next to the food. Two tablespoons of peanut butter have 376 kcals.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 for all of the remaining foods in your recipe. For the peanut butter sandwiches you would have: 4 tablespoons peanut butter = 376 kcals; four slices of white bread = 266 kcals.

Add the number of calories for all of your recipe ingredients. For the example, you add 266 to 376 to get a total number of calories for the entire dish: 642 kcals.

Divide the number of total calories in the recipe by the number of servings. Since the example total of 642 kcals was for two peanut butter sandwiches, this number will be divided by two to get a total of 321 kcals per sandwich, which is one serving.

References and Resources

USDA Food Calorie and Nutrient Database