A 2,500-calorie diet provides enough energy for most very active women, teens, and less active men. Although a 2,500-calorie diet provides ample calories so you can enjoy an occasional treat, you still want to focus on healthy foods at the majority of your meals. Making the best choices for you and your family's 2,500-calorie diet ensures proper nutrition and a healthy weight.
What to Eat
Like any diet, a 2,500-calorie diet includes a variety of foods from the major food groups. Try to have eight to nine 1-oz. servings of grains daily, making at least half of these come from whole grains. You should also strive to serve about 6 1/2 oz. of protein daily and 3 cups of milk, for strong bones and additional protein, potassium, and vitamin D. Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of any diet as they provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and disease-fighting antioxidants. Opt for 3 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily. Choose plant oils over solid fats to protect your heart health. You can have up to 8 tsp. daily on a 2,500-calorie plan. Finally, you can reserve about 400 calories for extra calories from added fats, sugar, and other treats.
Try to spread the 2,500 calories out over three meals and two snacks to keep your energy levels even. Plan each meal to contain about 700 calories and each snack to contain about 200 calories. Include foods from three or four of the food groups at each of these sittings. When shopping, go for brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and whole grain breads; skinless chicken breast, flank steak, eggs, and fish; low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese; fresh vegetables and fruits in an array of bright colors; and olive oil, nuts and avocados for your oil servings. You might use your added calories on the occasional sweet treat, extra servings from any of the food groups, creamy dressing or dip for your vegetables, creamer in your coffee, or butter and jam on morning toast.
For some people, 2,500 calories may be too generous and could lead to weight gain. If this is the case for you, simply trim 100 to 200 calories from each of your meals and reduce the amount of added fats and sugars you eat. You will still get an adequate number of calories, but prevent the scale from creeping up.
A healthy, 2,500-calorie meal plan might begin with two slices of toasted whole-wheat bread topped with 2 tsp. of butter and 1 tbsp. of all-fruit spread; two poached eggs; 1 cup of fruit salad and 12 oz. of skim milk. In the mid-morning, you might have a cup of non-fat, plain yogurt with 1 tsp. of honey and 1/2 oz. of chopped almonds. At lunch, you could have two cups of tomato soup with a sandwich made with a whole-wheat English muffin, 2 oz. of deli turkey, a slice of cheddar cheese, and shredded lettuce. About 1 1/2 cups of cut-up carrots and celery make a crunchy side dish with a 2 tbsp. serving of fat-free dressing for dipping. Have a banana for dessert. To curb afternoon hunger, you might have 2 fig cookies with a glass of skim milk. For dinner, broil 4 oz. of lean flank steak and have with two corn tortillas, one-quarter of an avocado, 1/4 cup of salsa, and 1 cup of brown rice mixed with 1/4 cup of black beans. Serve a cup of steamed zucchini on the side. You could even enjoy a chocolate chip cookie for dessert.
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Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.