Some individuals require a 2,000 calorie diet to maintain a moderate weight, while others may need to reduce or increase their calorie intake to 2,000 calories a day to lose or gain weight.

Although calorie needs vary from person to person, following a 2,000 calorie diet can provide a basis for planning healthful meals.

A balanced 2,000 calorie diet includes all the food groups that someone needs to stay healthy. These diets aim to limit foods that put people at risk of chronic conditions and unhealthful weight gain.

This article discusses how many calories people need and provides a way for them to calculate it. It also looks at foods to eat and avoid when following a 2,000 calorie diet and the importance of nutrient density.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) use 2,000 calories per day as a standard for nutrition advice on food labels.

However, the number of calories that someone needs may be higher or lower than 2,000 per day.

Indeed, the number of calories a person needs will vary depending on their:

  • age
  • sex
  • height and weight
  • physical activity levels

For example, according to United States Dietary Guidelines, adult females aged 19–50 years who are moderately active need around 2,000–2,200 calories per day. Meanwhile, moderately active adult males aged 19–50 years require around 2,400–2,800 calories per day.

A person can work out how many calories they need by using the MyPlate Plan tool.

Learn more about the number of calories a person needs here.

If a person consumes too many calories, they can gain weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of adult obesity in the U.S. was 42.4% in 2017–2018.

The CDC also note that obesity-related conditions result in some of the greatest medical costs.

People can lose excess weight by eating around 500–1,000 calories fewer per day and aiming for a weight loss of around 1–2 pounds per week.

Nutrient density, or nutrient profiling, is a term that defines how many nutrients are in foods. Nutrition experts usually express the nutrient content of foods per 100 calories, per 100 grams (g), or per serving.

Nutrient dense foods contain more nutrients than calories and are low in fat, sugar, and salt.

The beneficial nutrients that these foods contain include:

When following a healthful diet, people should consider the nutrient density of foods as well as their calorie content. For example, a sweet muffin has a similar number of calories to a chicken stir fry but fewer beneficial nutrients.

The latter is also more likely to help a person feel fuller for longer.

People should try to eat a variety of healthful foods when following a 2,000 calorie diet.

The following list recommends some foods to eat based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020:

  • Vegetables: Vegetables to eat include dark green leafy vegetables, starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes and squash, and a variety of different colored vegetables, such as red peppers, eggplant, carrots, zucchini, green beans, and tomatoes.
  • Fruits: People should try to focus on consuming whole fruits rather than juice. These fruits can include berries, apples, pears, and citrus fruits.
  • Protein foods: Protein foods to eat include lean meat and poultry, fish and seafood, nuts and seeds, lentils and legumes, and soy protein or seitan.
  • Whole grains: People should try to consume whole grains rather than refined grains. They can include whole grain bread and pasta, brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, and buckwheat.
  • Dairy foods: People should choose low fat versions of milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Plant milk: If a person is vegan, they can opt for plant milks such as soy, almond, or oat milk. They can also choose low sugar or sugar-free brands.
  • Healthful fats and oils: Some examples of healthful fats to consume include avocados, olives, olive oil, and oily fish.

People should try to avoid foods that contain high amounts of sugar, fat, and salt. The calories in unhealthful foods can quickly add up to 2,000 without giving the person the essential nutrients their body needs.

The list below recommends some foods to avoid and limit based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020:

  • Foods with added sugars: People should try to consume less than 10% of their calories per day from added sugars. Foods such as cakes and sweets, processed foods, takeout food, and sugary drinks contain added sugars.
  • Foods high in saturated fat: Most guidelines advise people to limit their saturated fat intake to less than 10% of their daily calories. Foods such as fatty meat, processed meat, and red meat contain saturated fats. People should also try to limit dairy foods that are high in saturated fat, such as butter and full fat milk.
  • Food containing trans fats: Processed foods such as frozen pizzas and takeout food can contain trans fats, which people should try to avoid.
  • Salt: People should aim to consume under 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Processed foods, cured and deli meats and pickles, and sauces can contain high amounts of salt.
  • Alcohol: Most guidelines advise up to one drink per day for adult females and up to two drinks per day for adult males. Alcoholic beverages such as red wine can be part of the Mediterranean diet, but people should be aware of how many calories their drinks contain, as they can quickly add up.

If a person is unsure of how much they need to eat to reach 2,000 calories, the following is an example of a 2,000 calorie day:


  • apple and blueberry bircher made with 50 g of porridge oats (300 calories)
  • coffee with 50 milliliters of low fat milk (25 calories)

Mid-morning snack

  • two whole grain oat crackers (50 calories)
  • one large, hard-boiled egg (77 calories)


  • 100 g of mixed salad — such as mixed leaves, carrots, tomato, cucumber, pepper, radish, and red cabbage — dressed with one tablespoon of olive oil and lemon juice dressing (145 calories)
  • one avocado (150 g) (240 calories)
  • 100 g of plain cottage cheese (100 calories)
  • one tablespoon of pumpkin seeds (56 calories)

Mid-afternoon snack

  • a serving (one medium glass) of spinach, strawberry, and natural yogurt smoothie (150 calories)
  • 50 g of humous with celery and carrot sticks (200 calories)


  • one medium (165 g) grilled chicken breast without skin (294 calories)
  • a cup of cooked broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots (44 calories)
  • one medium baked sweet potato, drizzled with olive oil (220 calories)

Before bed

  • a hot drink made with oat milk, cocoa powder, and a teaspoon of maple syrup, if liked (100 calories)

Following a 2,000 calorie diet can help someone plan their meals to reach or maintain a moderate weight. However, the number of calories a person needs is unique to them, so this diet might not be right for everyone.

A healthful diet includes all the food groups that someone needs to obtain essential nutrients. People should try to eat a variety of foods as part of a 2,000 calorie diet, rather than eating repetitive meals.

Also, focusing on nutrient density can help people make more healthful choices.