A 2,000-calorie-per-day diet can be based on 3 meals of 500 calories each and two snacks of 250 calories each. When planned with the principles of variety, balance and moderation, a 500-calorie meal should provide a complete range of nutrients. Base your meals on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and legumes and heart healthy fats like nuts, seed oils and avocados.
The United States Department of Agriculture makes meal recommendations for a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet based on well-rounded meals that supply roughly 500 calories each. For breakfast, have 1 cup of cooked oatmeal with 2 tbsp. raisins, 1 cup low-fat milk and 1 cup orange juice. Another complete breakfast idea includes two egg whites with your choice of vegetables scrambled with 1 tbsp. olive oil, one whole-wheat English muffin and 1/2 cup fruit.
Lunch and Dinner
A meal for lunch or dinner can include 3/4 cup of stir-fry made with lean proteins such as turkey, chicken breast or tofu. Add 1 cup of a whole grain like brown rice or whole-wheat cous cous, and serve with a side salad or fruit plate. Another idea is whole-wheat pasta with vegetable and meat sauce served with a spinach salad. Vegetarian and vegans can meet protein requirements by substituting beans or soy products for recipes that call for meat.
Making 500 calories stretch in each meal means choosing foods that supply vitamins, minerals and a balance of macronutrients to fuel the body. In general, daily food consumption should aim for a macronutrient mix of 45 to 65 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent from fat and about 10 to 15 percent from proteins. Choose mono- and polyunsaturated fat sources in place of trans fats and saturated fats.
Obtaining a complete meal at 500 calories requires smart food choices. Read nutrition labels to determine serving sizes and practice portion control to stay within calorie limits. Reduce or eliminate empty calories by replacing sugary beverages with water. Aim for a colorful plate, as fruits and vegetables with vibrant colors, like kiwis, red bell peppers and sweet potatoes pack significant nutritional value for fewer calories.