Since everyone talking to me about food these days generally talk in terms of exchanges, it helps when there are tools to translate this abstract concept into something concrete. One good set of tools for working with exchanges are the ExRx nutrition pages. Though intended for exercise professionals and fitness buffs, the site conveniently locates a ton of information about exchanges in one place and includes an exchange calculator and a log sheet for meals.

Another useful tool, since I do need to lose weight, is the WebMD diet calculator. This one talks about BMI indices and things I don’t need to worry about now. This will let me ballpark how much I need to eat to lose, say, 1 pound a week. Further, there are certain minimal nutritional goals I need for reach of the six food groups in an exchange diet (note that this site also offers exchange meal plans).

Last, the NIH also has diet advice (though general), and on a very succinct page, they have detailed suggestions for the exchanges necessary to achieve certain dietary goals.

A typical breakfast these days. 2 carb, 2 milk, 1 fat exchange. Love that pepper and olive oil.


1. There are plenty of diet calculators, and they all give slightly different results. In large part it is because each makes slightly different assumptions about how active people are. Some calculators get you to try and estimate your work load, others try to get you to choose a “life style” and then go on and predict what your caloric intake is.

2. As neat as the exchange sites are, they seem to be using different assumptions for their exchanges. If you plug in the exchanges that comes from the daily meal plans at Diet Site into the exchange calculator on ExRx, they don’t add up. I can only assume that the exchanges on ExRx are more intensely broken down. I’m thinking you have to figure out all your fat sources on ExRx (such as the fat in a typical meat), while the exchanges on Diet Rite have them figured in already. At least until I start working with a professional dietician, I’m more inclined to follow the NIH’s advice in terms of exchanges.

3. If you’re big, like me, you need to be careful and not get too enthusiastic. Yes, it’s cool that you can figure out a 1,200 calorie diet when you’re 6’1″ and 265, but you’re not going to lose weight when you cut your calories too low. As this site explains:

Use a “quick and dirty” formula. Without any activity, your body needs at least 10 calories per pound of your ideal weight

If your ideal weight, is say, 150 pounds, you really shouldn’t be looking at diets less than 1,500 calories a day. If you eat too little, your body thinks you are starving and adjusts how efficient it is. Then, when you start eating normally, there is a weight rebound and loss of time before things get adjusted again.