The number of calories you need every day depends on factors like your age and size. But in general, a 2,000-calorie diet for people assigned male at birth (AMAB) may help you maintain or lose weight.
This level of caloric intake isn't just for people AMAB. People assigned female at birth and people with particular health goals — like weight loss or gain — may also benefit from eating this amount of calories every day depending on factors like age, weight and activity level.
Video of the Day
But here, we'll discuss what people AMAB in particular need to know when it comes to a 2,000-calorie diet plan, including why you might try it, the best foods to eat and a sample meal plan.
Who Should Eat 2,000 Calories a Day?
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, eating 2,000 calories a day may help you maintain or lose weight, depending on your age and size. For instance, here's how many calories the guidelines recommend people AMAB eat every day based on age:
- Ages 19 to 30: 2,400 calories
- Ages 31 to 50: 2,200 calories
- Ages 51 and older: 2,000 calories
Remember that these are just estimates, though — other factors like your activity level, diet, height, weight and health goals (such as weight loss) will also contribute to how many calories you should eat every day, per the Cleveland Clinic.
But with those recommendations in mind, here's why you may opt to follow a 2,000-calories-a-day meal plan:
1. To Maintain Weight
Per the guidelines, if you're older than 51 years, you should eat 2,000 calories a day to get enough nutrients and maintain your weight. But keep in mind that this number may vary based on your other characteristics.
Check out the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Estimated Daily Calorie Needs table for a more specific estimate of how many calories you should eat every day, or calculate it yourself with a calorie needs equation.
2. To Lose Weight
If you're younger than 51 years, eating 2,000 calories a day may contribute to weight loss. That's because creating a daily calorie deficit — where you burn more calories than you take in — can help you lose weight.
Typically, a daily deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories can help you lose weight at the safe and sustainable pace of 1 to 2 pounds per week, per the Mayo Clinic. A 2,000-calorie diet plan for weight loss may fall into this deficit range depending on your baseline daily calorie needs, but even if it doesn't, a smaller daily calorie deficit can still lead to gradual weight loss.
On the flip side, this may not be the diet for you if your goal is to bulk up or gain muscle, as you may not get the extra calories you need to grow new tissue (though again, this ultimately depends on your baseline calorie needs), according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Besides your diet plan, regular exercise is also a key component of creating a calorie deficit. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week (or 75 minutes of intense cardio activity), whether or not your goal is weight loss.
Foods to Eat
Whether you're following a 2,000-calorie meal plan to lose weight or maintain your current size, it's important to emphasize nutritious whole foods, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Here are the foods to prioritize:
1. Fibrous Fruits and Vegetables
Colorful fruits and veggies are a core part of any nutritious diet because produce is full of beneficial vitamins, minerals and other nutrients like fiber, which can help support good digestion.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people following a 2,000-calorie diet should aim to eat the following amount of fruits and veggies every day:
- Veggies: 2 1/2 cup equivalents
- Fruit: 2 cup equivalents
For reference, 12 baby carrots or one large sweet potato counts as a cup equivalent of veggies, and 32 grapes or one large banana counts as a cup equivalent of fruit, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Grains — primarily whole grains — are an important source of complex carbohydrates and other nutrients like fiber, per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Whole grains include:
- Brown rice
- Whole-wheat bread, pasta and crackers
- Wild rice
The guidelines recommend adults following a 2,000-calorie diet eat 6 ounce equivalents of grains per day. For context, a slice of bread or ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta each count as 1 ounce equivalent, per the USDA's MyPlate.
3. Beneficial Fats
Nutritious fats are a significant source of energy and also help protect your organs and support cell function, according to the American Heart Association. Foods with beneficial fats include:
- Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cottage cheese
- Nuts like pecans and walnuts
- Nut butters
- Oils like flaxseed oil
- Fish like salmon
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest adults on a 2,000-calorie diet eat 3 cups of dairy products and 27 grams of oil per day (that's about 2 tablespoons).
Protein is likewise an important source of energy and helps support muscle health, per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Protein-rich foods include:
- Lean meats like lean pork chops
- Poultry like chicken and turkey
- Fish like salmon and tuna
- Legumes like lentils and beans
- Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cottage cheese
- Nuts and seeds
- Nut butters
- Soy products like tofu and tempeh
The guidelines recommend adults on a 2,000-calorie diet eat 6 1/2 ounce equivalents of protein per day. An egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or 1/4 cup of cooked beans all count as 1 ounce equivalent, per the USDA.
Foods to Avoid on a 2,000-Calorie Diet Meal Plan
At the same time, it's important to limit the following foods, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
- Foods with added sugar, like candy or baked goods
- Refined grains like cereal or white bread
- Trans and saturated fats, like those found in butter or fried food
- Alcoholic beverages
Sample 2,000-Calorie Meal Plan
Looking for inspiration? Try this meal plan:
Breakfast Quinoa Bowl with Scrambled Egg Whites, Kale, Squash, Grilled Tomato and Avocado (410 calories)
- Blueberry Protein Power Smoothie (351 calories)
- Vanilla Almond High-Protein Granola (188 calories)
Salmon and Broccolette Superfood Salad (328 calories)
Cheesy High-Protein Twice-Baked Sweet Potato (221 calories)
- Plant-Protein Powered Butternut Mac and "Cheese" (350 calories)
- Protein Plus Quinoa (208 calories)
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- National Academy of Sports Medicine: "Meals for Gaining Muscle: The Right Nutrition for Muscle Growth"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How Many Calories a Day Should I Eat?"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Do You Know How Many Calories You Need?"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "What Counts As 1 Cup?"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate: "Grains"
- American Heart Association: "Dietary Fats"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "What counts as an ounce in the Protein Foods Group?"