The Origins of the 2000 Calorie Diet

by Michelle on April 3, 2018

So where exactly did the idea of a 2000 calorie diet come from? We’re discussing its origin and merits on the blog today.

Have you ever wondered why the FDA uses a 2000 calorie per day standard as the basis for a healthy amount of calories and where that number came from?  If so, then you’re in the minority because many people just accept this number as what they should be eating without even questioning if it’s right for them.  Hopefully, I can shed some light on things and possibly give you some information to fine-tune your diet for better health.

2000 Calorie Diet

The 2000 calorie per day standard came about in 1990 when the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that a caloric reference is included on the nutritional labels of packaged foods.  This turned into The Nutrition and Labeling Act and it was designed to standardize food labeling that previously had been at the discretion of manufacturers and individual states. The new Act meant that manufacturers had to list information like ingredients, calories, serving sizes, fat and sodium content as well as carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals in reference to the “daily values”, which are the maximum amounts of recommended intake per day.  Prior to this Act, there wasn’t a standard caloric intake so the daily values were difficult to determine.

The FDA knew that caloric needs to be varied by gender, age, and activity level and they also knew they needed some sort of standard number to put on the label.  So the FDA looked to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food consumption surveys, which reported caloric intake for men, women, and children. The surveys showed the following in regards to the average range of calories each category consumed per day:

Men:  2,000 – 3,000 cal./day Women:  1,600 – 2,200 cal./day     Children:  1,800 – 2,500 cal./day

To simplify the food labels the FDA suggested using a single amount on all labels:  2,350 calories per day (an average of all three categories). After some further research, arguments, and compromise the FDA concluded that the simplified number of 2,000 calories per day would be best as a reference for labeling as well as dietary requirements.  This nice, round number was a more effective tool for educational purposes, for reading labels, and understanding dietary requirements.

The FDA knew that some people would need fewer calories and some would need more for various reasons, but the 2000 calories per day was the best compromise to give away for manufacturers to provide the necessary nutritional information while still allowing for an adjustable reference.  How many calories you might need daily depends on several factors including age, height, gender, goal (weight gain, loss, or maintenance), medical conditions, etc. and there are many calculators online for finding the right amount for you specifically. Here is a good example of an easy Calorie Calculator you can use for reference:  http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html

For example, an average woman needs to eat about 2,000 calories daily to maintain her weight, and 1,500 calories to lose one pound of weight per week. An average man needs 2,500 calories daily to maintain his weight, and 2,000 to lose one pound of weight per week. However, this depends on numerous factors…as well as what foods a person can and can’t eat based on medical conditions (Diabetes, Celiac, etc.) and medications (some have dietary restrictions).  As always, please consult your doctor and pharmacist whenever you embark on a new dietary journey for specific things you need to consider for your personal situation and any medications you’re taking. It’s worth looking into what your actual caloric needs are daily to give you a reference to make any changes you feel are necessary.

 

Michelle

Michelle

Michelle

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