If you’ve ever inspected the back of a Nutrition Facts label, you’ve probably noticed the phrase “Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.” The FDA settled on this number after analyzing food consumption data from American men and women and children. Survey results revealed an average daily intake of about 2,350 calories but for various reasons (worry about overconsumption being one of them), the FDA rounded down to 2,000 as the standard reference for Nutrition Facts labels.
So who might be someone who needs 2,000 calories a day? Calorie intake is dependent on various factors like gender, age, weight and activity level, but this calorie goal suits a wide variety of people — all the way from a woman in her mid-20s who exercises moderately 3–5 times per week, to an overweight, middle-aged man who is trying to lose a pound per week.
If you think you fall into this spectrum, see what that amount of healthy, nutrient-rich meals and snacks might look like. (Scroll to the bottom for how to make lunch and dinner.)
CLICK TO TWEET THIS ARTICLE > Before you start your 2,000 calorie diet, check out this sample meal plan from @MyFitnessPal.
HOW TO MAKE
Loaded Greek Salad: 3 cups romaine lettuce, 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, 1/4 cup diced bell pepper, 1/4 cup diced cucumber, 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, 2 tablespoons diced red onion, 8 pitted Kalamata olives. Dressing: 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, black pepper to taste.
Burrito bowl: 3 ounces grilled chicken breast (chopped or shredded), 2 cups chopped romaine lettuce, 1/2 cup cooked long-grain brown rice, 1/4 cup diced bell pepper, 1/4 cup corn, 1/4 cup diced avocado, 1/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed, 2 tablespoons diced red onion, 1/4 lime (sliced), 2 tablespoons full-fat sour cream, 1/4 cup fresh salsa.
READ MORE > SEE WHAT 1,200 CALORIES LOOKS LIKE
Like what you see but don’t quite have 2,000 calories in your budget? Stick to what’s pictured for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a delicious and satisfying 1,500-calorie day.
Originally published June 2017, updated with additional reporting