Is 400 Calories A Lot? A Nutritionist Explains

When you’re reading a nutrition label and you see that one serving of a particular food has 400 calories, you may be wondering if 400 calories is a lot.

400 calories is not a lot when compared with the recommended daily caloric intake of 2500 calories per day for men, and 2000 calories per day for women. 400 calories would be 16% of the average man’s daily calories and 20% of the average women’s daily caloric intake, which is equivalent to a small and medium-sized snack.

With that said, people will have different daily caloric budgets based on their gender, goals, and activity levels. A person’s caloric budget will determine whether 400 calories should be equivalent to a meal or a snack.

Plus, 400 calories can look a lot different when looking at the ingredients that make up those calories.

What Do 400 Calories Look Like? 10 Examples 

1. Poptarts

  • 1 ¾ Poptarts
  • 400 calories
  • 75 grams of carbs
  • 9 grams of fat
  • 4 grams of protein

2. Ground Turkey, Sweet Potato, and Broccoli

ground turkey, sweet potato, and broccoli
  • 3 ½ oz ground turkey, 1 medium sweet potato, and 1 cup broccoli
  • 400 calories
  • 30 grams of carbs
  • 17 grams of fat
  • 32 grams of protein

3. Greek Yogurt Bowl

greek yogurt bowl
  • 6 oz greek yogurt, ½ cup mixed berries, and 1 ½ oz mixed nuts
  • 400 calories
  • 25 grams of carbs
  • 21 grams of fat
  • 27 grams of protein

4. McDonald’s Blueberry Muffin

McDonald's blueberry muffin
  • ¾ of Blueberry Muffin
  • 400 calories
  • 50 grams of carbs
  • 20 grams of fat
  • 5 grams of protein

5. Pita Chips & Hummus With Cucumber

pita chips and hummus with cucumber
  • 1 cup cucumber, ¼ cup hummus, 1 oz pita chips, and 1 oz cheese
  • 400 calories
  • 31 grams of carbs
  • 24 grams of fat
  • 15 grams of protein

6. Avocado Toast

avocado toast
  • 2 oz avocado, 2 slices whole wheat bread, and 2 eggs
  • 400 calories
  • 33 grams of carbs
  • 20 grams of fat
  • 22 grams of protein

7. Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal

cinnamon toast crunch cereal
  • 65 grams cinnamon toast crunch, 1 cup 2% milk
  • 400 calories
  • 64 grams of carbs
  • 11 grams of fat
  • 11 grams of protein

8. Popcorn

  • 10 cups popcorn (skinny pop)
  • 400 calories
  • 38 grams of carbs
  • 25 grams of fat
  • 5 grams of protein

9. Salmon Bowl

salmon bowl
  • 5 oz salmon, ¾ cup rice, 30 grams feta, and 1 cup asparagus
  • 400 calories
  • 40 grams of carbs
  • 8 grams of fat
  • 41 grams of protein

10. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
  • 5 oz Half Baked Ben & Jerry’s
  • 400 calories
  • 46 grams of carbs
  • 21 grams of fat
  • 7 grams of protein

Why 400 Calories Can Look So Different

400 calories can look very different based on what these calories are composed of, whether the calories are coming from carbs, protein, or fat.  

Carbs and proteins only have 4 calories per gram, so if the food you’re eating is composed of these two macronutrients then your serving size will always be larger because you can get more volume out of these foods for fewer calories.

Some examples of carbs are:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Pasta

Some examples of protein are:

  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Eggs

On the other hand, fats have 9 calories per gram which means that you get a much smaller serving size for the same number of calories. So foods that are high in fat could add up to 400 calories quickly but look like very little food.

Some examples of fats are:

Therefore, rather than judging how many calories are on a plate, you also have to consider which macronutrients are included.

  • Related Article: How To Increase Your Protein Without Increasing Your Fat

Is 400 Calories Too Much To Eat or Not? 

Determining if 400 calories is a lot depends on your daily calorie intake. Your daily caloric intake will be based on your goals, your metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories), and your activity level.

For example:

● Those who are actively trying to gain weight will have a higher calorie intake than those trying to lose weight.

● Those who have more muscle mass will have a higher calorie intake than those who have less muscle mass.

● Those who are very active throughout the day will have a higher caloric intake than those who are more sedentary.

To get an estimate of how many calories you should be eating per day based on the factors mentioned above, check out this calorie calculator.

Higher Caloric Intakes

If your calorie goal for the day is 3000 calories, for example, then 400 calories might be the number of calories you would eat as a snack.

Men who are maintaining their weight or are actively trying to build muscle are more likely to have a daily caloric intake of 3000 calories. 

For these individuals, 400 calories is only 13% of their daily calories, which is more reflective of the number of calories they’d want for a snack rather than a meal.

They are probably eating 3 or 4 main meals, along with this 400-calorie snack to meet their 3000-calorie goal; therefore, 400 calories isn’t a lot for those with a higher calorie intake.

Lower Caloric Intakes

On the other hand, if you’re only eating 1200 calories per day, for example, then 400 calories may be a full meal for you.

Those who would have a 1200-calorie daily intake are women who are aggressively dieting to lose weight, and ideally those who are less active because 1200 calories is a very low intake for someone who is active.

If you’re eating 1200 calories a day, then 400 calories is 33% of your total daily calories. Therefore, 400 calories is probably the equivalent of one of your three main meals of the day.

Or your main meals could be even less than 400 calories if you want to incorporate some snacks along with your meals to reach your 1200-calorie daily goal.

So for those with a lower calorie intake based on their goals, 400 calories would be a significant amount of calories.

Tips For Eating 400 Calories

Now that you know how 400 calories could be incorporated based on your daily caloric intake, it’s important to know how to make the most of 400 calories based on your goals.

If you have a higher calorie intake, you’ll want your 400 calories to be composed of high-calorie low-volume foods (i.e. foods that don’t fill you up too much).

If you have a lower calorie intake, you’ll want 400 calories to be composed of low-calorie high-volume foods (i.e foods that fill you up).

Tips For Consuming 400 Calories On A High-Calorie Diet

tips for consuming 400 calories on a high-calorie diet

If you’re on a high calorie diet, here are my tips for eating 400 calories as a snack: 

  • Be Mindful About Protein Intake
  • Choose High Carb/Fat Options
  • Reduce Serving Sizes Of Fruit/Veg

Be Mindful About Protein Intake

Protein is an important macronutrient but it also keeps you full for longer, so you need to be mindful about how much you’re consuming in a snack.

If your snacks are keeping you too full then you may find it hard to eat as many calories as you’re supposed to throughout the day without feeling physically unwell.

If you’re finding it difficult to eat enough throughout the day, then you may want these 400-calorie snacks to be a bit lower in protein (~15-25 grams).

Choose High Carb/Fat Options

When you have a daily intake that’s higher in calories then it’s probably best to keep your 400-calorie snacks higher in carbs and fats because these macronutrients digest faster than protein.

In addition, fats will be a smaller serving size but higher in calories so it will be easier to have a snack that’s 400 calories without becoming too full if you’re having a snack that contains a fat source.

Having your snack composed of fats and carbs will be super palatable and easily add up to 400 calories, like the poptart and McDonald’s muffin for example.

Reduce Serving Sizes Of Fruit/Veg

Lastly, if you’re eating 400 calories as a snack you may want to keep your fruit/veg intake lower because high-volume foods like fruits and veggies are going to fill you up way too quickly.

If you fill up on fruits and vegetables in your snack, then it will be harder to reach 400 calories so it’s best to reduce your serving sizes of fruits/veg and focus more on higher-calorie carbs/fats. 

Tips For Consuming 400 Calories On A Low-Calorie Intake

tips for consuming 400 calories on a low-calorie intake

If you’re on a low calorie diet, here are my tips for eating 400 calories as a meal: 

  • Choose High Protein Foods
  • Add A Fruit/Veg
  • Reduce Serving Sizes of Fats

Choose High Protein Foods

When you’re eating 400 calories as a meal, it’s best to include high-protein foods to ensure that you’re full for longer. When 400 calories is a meal, you’ll want to make sure that it’s keeping you full to hold you over until your next meal or snack.

Protein is the best macronutrient to help keep you full and ultimately help you to stick to your daily calorie target based on your goals.

If you don’t consume enough protein, then you’ll likely find yourself starving until your next meal or snack.

Add A Fruit/Veg To Your Meal

Another great tip if 400 calories is a meal for you, is to add a fruit or vegetable component because they fill you up quickly for very few calories.

When you’re eating a low-calorie diet, it’s helpful to feel full so that you’re not feeling deprived and this is best accomplished by incorporating high-volume foods that are filling but low enough in calories that you can still reach your goals.

Reduce Serving Sizes Of Fats

The last tip for those trying to stick to 400 calories at meal times is to reduce your serving of fats at your meals because fats have more calories per gram than any other macronutrient.

Therefore, it’s easier to eat more than your 400-calorie goal with fats because a small serving size packs a calorie punch. This is why it’s very important to be precise with your serving size of fats if you want to stick to only eating 400 calories at a meal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will 400 Calories Fill You Up? 

400 calories will fill you up if the 400 calories are composed of protein and fruit or vegetables because protein will keep you full for longer and fruit and vegetables will fill you up quickly for a lower number of calories. If the 400 calories are purely carbs and fats, then it probably won’t fill you up.

Is 400 Calories A Lot For A Snack?

400 calories is not a lot for a snack if your daily calorie intake is higher than 2500 calories/day. However, if your calorie intake is lower because you want to maintain your weight or lose weight, then 400 calories is too much for a snack, and you should consume less than 400 calories when snacking.

Is 400 Calories A Lot For Breakfast?

400 calories isn’t a lot for breakfast for most people, but if you’re cutting on very few calories (~1200 calories/day) then 400 calories for breakfast may feel like a lot if you’re wanting to have snacks and three meals per day.

Is 400 Calories A Lot For A Drink? 

400 calories is a lot for a drink that has no protein because it won’t keep you full for very long. If there are 400 calories in a smoothie, this is a better option; however, if there are 400 calories in a coffee, this is probably too much for the average person.

What To Learn Next

If you’re on a low calorie diet, but want tips on how to feel full and stick to your diet, then check out my article How To Eat 1200 Calories & Feel Full (8 Tips + Meal Plan)

If you’re counting calories and finding it overwhelming, then I encourage you to read How To Count Calories Without Getting Obsessed.

Lastly, many people who track calories worry that if they go over their daily caloric limits it will ruin their goals.  If this is your mindset, then check out What Happens If You Go Over Your Calorie Limit Once A Week.   

Similar Article:

About The Author

Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath.  She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.

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