What Does 2,000 Calories a Day Look Like?

2,000 calories a day or less isn’t a whole lot of food but it’s a sufficient amount to eat for most people. When I was first decided to lose weight, I decided to count my calories for one day without making any changes. I needed to see where I was.

I ate 2,000 calories by lunch time that day. The total for the whole day was around 5,000. That’s a lot of high calorie, high fat food. That’s a lot of extra portions. That’s why I was 250 pounds.

In order to lose weight my goal was to eat 2,000 calories or less. I wanted to eat 1,500 but I’ve never been able to really get that low. It’s too hard for me. Especially now that I exercise a lot. Living a fit life that’s active means I can eat more calories…but it doesn’t mean I can go crazy and eat whatever I want.

On my Rest Days I eat between 1,600-1,800 calories. On normal days when I exercise, I eat between 1,900 and 2,200 calories. For example, two Saturdays ago I consumed 2,700 calories! That’s A LOT but I burned nearly 1,600 calories that day. The day I biked 40 miles? I burned 1,850 calories and consumed 2,800 calories.

So what DOES 2,000 calories look like? You can eat a bunch of diet food to eat more –which is what I did. I ate a lot of low calorie, zero calorie foods in order to save calories for other things. For example: the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray has like 5 calories in it I think. I was able to eat it without worrying about calories. But it’s just a bunch of chemicals. Ick.


One example of a typical breakfast is:  3 egg whites, 1 whole egg scrambled with a little bit of black beans and a protein–usually turkey sausage or bacon. Sometimes it’s just two scrambled eggs, beans and 1 turkey sausage.

Calories: 275-350


I usually have some fruit. It varies weekly with my mood and what I bought at the grocery store. The usuals: an apple, orange, banana, or strawberries.

Calories: Between 80-110


Lunch could be a salad, leftovers, or Lean Cuisine. It really just depends on the day! Here is a salad – spinach, chickpeas, broccoli, chopped peppers, celery with canned Albacore Tuna.

Calories:  300


I don’t always have an afternoon snack. When I’m heading to the gym right after work I do have a snack. Sometimes my pre-workout snack is an English muffin toasted, with a little bit of light butter– Calories:  110. Currently, my pre-workout snack is plain Greek yogurt with a serving of pineapple chunks.

Calories: 130


My dinners run between 600-900 calories depending on my activity for the day. Yes, 900 calories for dinner is a bit high but that’s usually on days where I worked out pretty hard. One example of a “lighter” dinner that I eat often is salmon. Baked salmon with fresh lemon, dill, lemon pepper seasoning and some steamed veggies run pretty low in calories but are packed with fiber that fill me up.

I also often have a salad with it. I usually skip the high calorie dressings, or the creamy dressings, and go with some sort of vinaigrette dressing.

A dinner like this will be satisfying and not over my daily calorie goal. If I skip the glass of wine and stick with ice water, it’s even lower in calories. But if I wanted to have a glass of wine with the salmon I could do that–just add about 100-150 calories to the total.

Calories: 650


I knew even when I first started this journey that I’d always want dessert. I could not eliminate all sweets from life so I allow myself dessert by saving some calories for it by the end of the day. For example, two of these chocolate chip cookies are 170 calories total.

Calories: 170


As you can see, I eat every few hours and I’m eating GOOD stuff. Sure there’s some treats in there here and there, sometimes at work I snag a few pieces of candy to satisfy my craving. But I don’t go nuts and I try and keep my calories within a certain range at each “meal.”

On days when I exercise vigorously that number might change a little bit. And once in awhile I splurge and get something I wouldn’t normally eat.


QUESTION: How many calories a day do you eat on average? What’s keeping you from your goal?

Email Q and A

Yesterday, someone brought cake to work.

I did not eat any! I really wanted a piece…even just a bite to see how it tasted…but I decided to be good. I planned on weighing in this week for my monthly check-in and I wanted to see a good number on that scale.

Monday during lunch I ran the Esplanade loop. It was supposed to be the only decent day this week. It was a nice run! There was no rain and I actually got a bit warm and had to take my jacket off half way through.

Monday’s Stats:

Time: 33:33

Calories: 462

Nike+ Pace: 9’30

I made sure to stretch a LOT when I was done. I did not wear my new shoes. My plan is to bring them to work this week and try them out in the gym on the treadmill. That way, I can return them if I don’t like them.

I got an email from a reader and thought it was a great question. (I edited it to take out specific details.)

I started last month eating around 2000 calories per day and I’ve been staying 1700- 2000. I usually eat more when I’ve exercised a lot. How do I know when it’s time to lower my calories? My doctor wants me to eat 1,200 a day.”

First, I’m not a nutritionist or a doctor. So anyone starting a weight loss program should see their regular doctor and discuss a plan with them. I can only give my opinion of how my weight loss journey worked for me.

I think 1,200 calories a day is unhealthy. Eating that few calories, how will you have the energy to work out? For me, I ate 1800-2,000 calories a day with moderate exercise 5 times a week. Eating 1800 calories to lose weight, I didn’t feel starving. I didn’t have hunger pains. My body adjusted to eating lower calories but I didn’t feel deprived.

Another point I want to make is about plateaus. During my weight loss I had many, many plateaus. In order to remedy that, my personal trainer and doctor both said to A) change my workout and B) reduce my calories a little. My body got used to eating 1800-2,000 calories a day and it got used to the routine I did at the gym.

To get over my plateau, I reduced my calories by about 100 calories a day for awhile. I began incorporating weights into my routine at the gym. I started losing weight again. Then when I hit another plateau, I reduced my calories a little bit more and I started a running program. All these things played a factor in to the equation of weigh loss. If I were only eating 1200 calories a day, I couldn’t reduce my calories anymore without starving myself.

My suggestion to anyone wanting to lose weight is to cut out processed food. Stop eating out at restaurants/fast food joints. Start doing an exercise program. Count your calories/points/keep a food journal. These simple changes make all the difference.

QUESTION: Do you think 1200 calories is unhealthy?