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.
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.
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).
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:
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:
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).
Breakfast: vegetable omelet
Snack: apple with peanut butter
Lunch: Mediterranean tuna pita pockets
Snack: cheese and grapes
Dinner: salmon with veggies and wild rice
Breakfast: nut butter and banana toast
Snack: power smoothie
Lunch: avocado-tuna salad
Lunch: black bean and sweet potato burrito
Snack: vegetables and hummus
Dinner: chicken and broccoli stir-fry
Breakfast: berry yogurt parfait
Snack: banana and almond butter
Lunch: peanut noodles with tofu and peas
Snack: protein bar
Dinner: fish tacos
Breakfast: avocado toast with egg
Snack: Greek yogurt with strawberries
Lunch: quinoa with mixed vegetables and grilled chicken
Snack: dark chocolate and almonds
Dinner: vegetarian chili
Breakfast: oatmeal with seeds and dried fruit
Snack: bell peppers and carrots with guacamole
Lunch: grilled vegetable and mozzarella wrap
Snack: chia pudding with banana
Dinner: pasta with pesto, peas, and shrimp
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.