Home Diet A 2,000-Calorie Diet: Food Lists and Meal Plan – Healthline

A 2,000-Calorie Diet: Food Lists and Meal Plan – Healthline

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2,000-calorie diets are considered standard for most adults, as this number is considered adequate to meet most people’s energy and nutrient needs.

This article tells you everything you need to know about 2,000-calorie diets, including foods to include and avoid, as well as a sample meal plan.

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Though nutritional requirements vary by individual, 2,000 calories are often considered standard.

This number is based on the estimated nutritional needs of most adults and used for meal-planning purposes according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines (1).

Additionally, it’s used as a benchmark to create recommendations on nutrition labels (2).

In fact, all nutrition labels contain the phrase: “Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs” (3).

Due to these daily values, consumers can compare, for example, amounts of sodium and saturated fat in a given food to the maximum daily recommended levels.

Why calorie needs differ

Calories supply your body with the energy it needs to sustain life (4).

Because everyone’s body and lifestyle is different, people have different calorie needs.

Depending on activity level, it’s estimated that adult women require 1,600–2,400 calories per day, compared with 2,000–3,000 calories for adult men (1).

However, calorie needs vary drastically, with some people requiring more or fewer than 2,000 calories per day.

Additionally, individuals who are in periods of growth, such as pregnant women and teenagers, often need more than the standard 2,000 calories per day.

When the number of calories you burn is greater than the number you consume, a calorie deficit occurs, potentially resulting in weight loss.

Conversely, you may gain weight when you consume more calories than you burn. Weight maintenance occurs when both numbers are equal.

Therefore, depending on your weight goals and activity level, the appropriate number of calories you should consume differs.

Summary The average adult needs approximately 2,000 calories per day. Yet, individual calorie recommendations depend on many factors, such as your size, gender, exercise level, weight goals, and overall health.

Following a 2,000-calorie diet may help some people lose weight. Its effectiveness for this purpose depends on your age, gender, height, weight, activity level, and weight loss goals.

It’s important to note that weight loss is much more complicated than simply reducing your calorie intake. Other factors that affect weight loss include your environment, socioeconomic factors, and even your gut bacteria (5, 6).

That said, calorie restriction is one of the main targets in obesity prevention and management (7, 8).

For example, if you reduce your daily calorie intake from 2,500 to 2,000, you should lose 1 pound (0.45 kg) in 1 week, as 3,500 calories (500 calories saved over 7 days) is the approximate number of calories in 1 pound of body fat (9, 10).

On the other hand, a 2,000-calorie diet would exceed the calorie needs of some people, likely resulting in weight gain.

Summary Though 2,000-calorie diets have the potential to aid weight loss, it’s important to tailor your intake to your individual needs, as calorie needs vary based on many factors.

A well-balanced, healthy diet includes plenty of whole, unprocessed foods.

Where your calories come from is just as important as how many calories you consume.

While it’s vital to ensure that you’re getting enough carbs, protein, and fat, a focus on foods rather than macronutrients may be more helpful to create a healthy diet (11).

At each meal, you should focus on high-quality protein and fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

While you can indulge on occasion, your diet should mainly consist of the following types of foods:

  • Whole grains: brown rice, oats, bulgur, quinoa, farro, millet, etc.
  • Fruits: berries, peaches, apples, pears, melons, bananas, grapes, etc.
  • Non-starchy vegetables: kale, spinach, peppers, zucchini, broccoli, bok choy, Swiss chard, tomatoes, cauliflower, etc.
  • Starchy vegetables: butternut squash, sweet potatoes, winter squash, potatoes, peas, plantains, etc.
  • Dairy products: reduced or full-fat plain yogurt, kefir, and full-fat cheeses.
  • Lean meats: turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, bison, veal, etc.
  • Nuts, nut butters, and seeds: almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, and natural nut butters
  • Fish and seafood: tuna, salmon, halibut, scallops, mussels, clams, shrimp, etc.
  • Legumes: chickpeas, black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans, lentils, etc.
  • Eggs: organic, whole eggs are the healthiest and most nutrient dense
  • Plant-based protein: tofu, edamame, tempeh, seitan, plant-based protein powders, etc.
  • Healthy fats: avocados, coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, etc.
  • Spices: ginger, turmeric, black pepper, red pepper, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.
  • Herbs: parsley, basil, dill, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, etc.
  • Calorie-free beverages: black coffee, tea, sparkling water, etc.

Studies suggest that adding a protein source to meals and snacks can help promote feelings of fullness and aid weight loss and maintenance (12, 13, 14).

Additionally, monitoring your carb intake and choosing the right types of carbs can assist with weight maintenance.

It’s important to eat a variety of whole, unprocessed foods — not only to meet your nutritional needs but also to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and promote optimal health.

Summary A balanced, healthy diet should consist of a variety of whole, unprocessed foods, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats.

It’s best to avoid foods that provide little to no nutritional value — also known as “empty calories.” These are typically foods that are high in calories and added sugars yet low in nutrients (15).

Here is a list of foods to avoid or limit on any healthy diet, regardless of your calorie needs:

  • Added sugars: agave, baked goods, ice cream, candy, etc. — limit added sugars to less than 5–10% of your total calories (11)
  • Fast food: French fries, hot dogs, pizza, chicken nuggets, etc.
  • Processed and refined carbs: bagels, white bread, crackers, cookies, chips, sugary cereals, boxed pasta, etc.
  • Fried foods: French fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, potato chips, fish and chips, etc.
  • Sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages: sports drinks, sugary juices, sodas, fruit punch, sweetened tea and coffee drinks, etc.
  • Diet and low-fat foods: diet ice cream, diet boxed snacks, diet packaged and frozen meals, and artificial sweeteners, such as Sweet n’ Low, etc.

Though most of your diet should consist of whole, unprocessed foods, it’s okay to indulge in less healthy foods occasionally.

However, regularly eating the foods on this list may not only be harmful to your health but also delay or hinder weight loss or even disrupt your weight maintenance efforts.

Summary It’s best to avoid or limit foods with little to no nutritional value, such as fried foods, refined carbs, and sugary snacks and beverages.

Here’s a healthy 5-day sample meal plan with approximately 2,000 calories per day.

Each meal contains approximately 500 calories and each snack about 250 calories (16).

Monday

Breakfast: vegetable omelet

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (20 grams) of spinach
  • 1/4 cup (24 grams) of mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup (23 grams) of broccoli
  • 1 cup (205 grams) of sautéed sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil

Snack: apple with peanut butter

  • 1 medium apple
  • 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of peanut butter

Lunch: Mediterranean tuna pita pockets

  • 1 whole-wheat pita
  • 5 ounces (140 grams) of canned tuna
  • chopped red onion and celery
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 tablespoon (9 grams) of crumbled feta cheese

Snack: cheese and grapes

  • 2 ounces (56 grams) of cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (92 grams) of grapes

Dinner: salmon with veggies and wild rice

  • 5 ounces (140 grams) of baked salmon
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (82 grams) of cooked wild rice
  • 1 cup (180 grams) of roasted asparagus
  • 1 cup (100 grams) of roasted eggplant

Tuesday

Breakfast: nut butter and banana toast

  • 2 slices of whole-grain toast
  • 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of almond butter
  • 1 sliced banana
  • cinnamon to sprinkle on top

Snack: power smoothie

  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) of unsweetened, non-dairy milk
  • 1 cup (20 grams) of spinach
  • 1 scoop (42 grams) of plant-based protein powder
  • 1 cup (123 grams) of frozen blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of hemp seeds

Lunch: avocado-tuna salad

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 5 ounces (140 grams) of canned tuna
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups (100–140 grams) of mixed greens

Lunch: black bean and sweet potato burrito

  • 1 whole-wheat tortilla
  • 1/4 cup (41 grams) of cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup (102 grams) of cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) of black beans
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of salsa

Snack: vegetables and hummus

  • fresh carrot and celery sticks
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of hummus
  • 1/2 whole-wheat pita bread

Dinner: chicken and broccoli stir-fry

  • 5 ounces (140 grams) of chicken
  • 2 cups (176 grams) of broccoli
  • 1/2 cup (82 grams) of cooked brown rice
  • fresh garlic and ginger
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of soy sauce

Wednesday

Breakfast: berry yogurt parfait

  • 7 ounces (200 grams) of plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup (74 grams) of fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup (76 grams) of sliced strawberries
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) of granola

Snack: banana and almond butter

  • 1 banana
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (24 grams) of almond butter

Lunch: peanut noodles with tofu and peas

  • 3/4 cup (132 grams) of cooked rice noodles
  • 5 ounces (141 grams) of tofu
  • 1/2 cup (125 grams) of peas
  • 1 tablespoon (16 grams) of creamy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) of tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) of Sriracha
  • 2 teaspoons (14 grams) of honey
  • juice of 1/2 lime

Snack: protein bar

  • Look for bars containing approximately 200–250 calories with less than 12 grams of sugar and at least 5 grams of fiber.

Dinner: fish tacos

  • 3 corn tortillas
  • 6 ounces (170 grams) of grilled cod
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 tablespoons (34 grams) of pico de gallo

Thursday

Breakfast: avocado toast with egg

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 slices of whole-wheat toast
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil
  • 1 egg

Snack: Greek yogurt with strawberries

  • 7 ounces (200 grams) of plain Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup (125 grams) of sliced strawberries

Lunch: quinoa with mixed vegetables and grilled chicken

  • 1/2 cup (93 grams) of cooked quinoa
  • 5 ounces (142 grams) of grilled chicken
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil
  • 1 cup (180 grams) of mixed, non-starchy vegetables

Snack: dark chocolate and almonds

  • 2 squares (21 grams) of dark chocolate
  • 15–20 almonds

Dinner: vegetarian chili

  • 1/2 cup (121 grams) of canned, crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup (130 grams) of kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup (103 grams) of butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) of cooked sweet corn
  • 1/4 cup (28 grams) of diced white onions
  • 1/4 of a jalapeño pepper

Friday

Breakfast: oatmeal with seeds and dried fruit

  • 1/2 cups (80 grams) of steel-cut oats
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of hemp seeds
  • 1 tablespoon (12 grams) of flax seeds
  • 2 tablespoons (20 grams) of dried cherries

Snack: bell peppers and carrots with guacamole

  • 1/2 bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 cup of carrot sticks
  • 4 tablespoons (60 grams) of guacamole

Lunch: grilled vegetable and mozzarella wrap

  • 1 whole-wheat tortilla
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) of grilled red peppers
  • 5 slices (42 grams) of grilled zucchini
  • 3 ounces (84 grams) of fresh mozzarella

Snack: chia pudding with banana

  • 5 ounces (170 grams) of chia pudding
  • 1/2 of a sliced banana

Dinner: pasta with pesto, peas, and shrimp

  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of pesto
  • 1/2 cup (42 grams) of whole-wheat or brown-rice penne
  • 6 ounces (170 grams) of shrimp
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) of peas
  • 1 tablespoon (5 grams) of grated Parmesan cheese

A healthy and well-balanced diet can be both delicious and nourishing. This 2,000-calorie sample menu consists of meals with whole, unprocessed foods. Plus, it’s rich in fiber, protein, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats.

With a little planning and preparation, achieving a nutritious diet can be easy. Also, it’s possible to find similar meals similar when dining out.

Nevertheless, it’s often easier to make healthier choices and control portion sizes when you prepare your meals at home from fresh ingredients.

Summary A 2,000-calorie diet should consist of whole, unprocessed foods and be rich in fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. Planning and preparing your meals makes it easier to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

A 2,000-calorie diet meets the needs of most adults.

Still, individual needs vary depending on your age, gender, weight, height, activity level, and weight goals.

As with any healthy diet, a 2,000-calorie diet should include whole, unprocessed foods like fresh produce, protein, and healthy fats.

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