What do two thousand calories look like?: the ‘real food’ edition

January 31, 2020

We have all heard that the average person should eat about 2000 calories a day. It tends to vary from person to person, depending on various factors such as sex, age, how active you are, and a bunch of other factors (but since I’m not a nutritionist I cannot think of other factors). For example, according to Calculator.net, my couch potato self should consume only 1,800 calories a day. 

Why am I even talking about this if I am not a nutritionist? Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to convince you of anything. I would just like to point out a truth about the world we live in today: food has a lot of calories. 

Being a loyal Brandeisian, I decided to conduct my field research in the C-Store, because at Brandeis food has to be high in calories and overpriced. Enjoy your different “real food” options and how many calories they cost you. 

Warning: this article contains complex mathematical calculations, however, I was unable to find a math major to verify my data. 

Let’s start off with a classic. Exhibit A: Cup Noodles (in this case, the spicy chicken flavor). I guess you can say that this is my favorite flavor, but it is also the only flavor I have tried. I have very strong opinions about “ready-made” food. I really am a much bigger fan of making things from scratch even if it takes much more time. Just the thought of all the preservatives that are in that little cup makes me queasy. The good news is that this ramen does not have a lot of calories, with only 280 per serving. This means that you can eat 7.14 cups of Cup Noodles and stay within the daily limit. That is honestly not terrible; I think I could easily be full after eating seven cups of noodles. The bad news is that one serving has 1,340 milligrams of sodium.  This means that the seven cups would put 9,380 milligrams of sodium in your body. For reference, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dietitians recommend an intake of less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Isn’t that insane? You’d think that something with so much salt would be repulsive. 

I think it’s just about lunch time so it’s time for exhibit B: Campbell’s Chunky Beef Soup with country vegetables. Just reading that name made me want to throw that thing back on the shelf and run into Lower Usdan—and you know things have to be desperate for someone to want to run into a dining hall. This little box of puke will cost you 250 calories, which means that if you are insane enough to decide to eat this garbage and nothing else for a day, you can only have eight cans of it. To be completely honest with you, I don’t know how anyone can bear to put more than one container of this in their system. Something else on the nutrition label caught my attention: one serving of this “soup” has 1,520 milligrams of sodium. This means that the eight servings would put 12,160 milligrams of sodium in your body, again compared to the 2,300 milligrams per day limit. That means that just one of these devil boxes has over half of your recommended daily sodium intake. You can calculate how much seven more boxes would add. I propose we start a petition to ban the sale of these things on campus.  

For those of you who pretend to be healthy, let me present exhibit C: The York Street Market Classic Caesar Salad (please note that this is the one without chicken). Ah, another throwback to freshman year. There are a few problems with this “meal,” other than the fact that most of the time the lettuce is not fresh and the cheese does not smell trustworthy. Let’s start with the fact that this 510 calorie meal has no nutritional value. But it’s also 510 calories. What a scam, guys. It should become Sodexo’s new symbol. As you can probably guess, you can eat a little less than four of these a day to stay below the 2,000 calorie limit. Let me say that again. You can have less than four salads a day. Now look me in the eyes and tell me this is not a scam. All this salad has is some lettuce, croutons that taste like they were made back in the day of Brandeis’ founding, cheese that I’m not even sure can be considered cheese and too much dressing (which is also the source of most of the calories in this meal). Whenever I had this salad, I’d add maybe half the dressing, because otherwise it would be dressing with salad, not salad with dressing. 

Let’s talk about another classic, exhibit D: boxed macaroni and cheese. Mac and cheese isn’t healthy in the first place, and really is pure carbs and salt, but boxed takes it to a new level of gross. Imagine all the preservatives and other garbage that is added to this stuff. According to the label, a serving unprepared (about half the box) is 250 calories, so the entire box is 500 calories, which already isn’t little. That is not the end of the calories in this meal, however, since no one eats uncooked mac and cheese. When prepared, the mac and cheese is 280 calories per portion, totaling 560 calories per box, and over a quarter of your average daily calorie intake. So if you decide to eat only this mac and cheese for a day, you can have a little over three and half boxes (3.57 boxes to be exact). This is a little more than the salad, and I am not sure if this makes things look worse for the mac and cheese or the salad. Neither are great for you to be honest. If you want a nutritious meal, I would recommend going to the dining hall instead of eating this. 

Ah, frozen pizza, a culinary invention I have yet to try, but I’m not going to lie, I do not exactly want to try it. So let’s talk about exhibit E: DiGiorno Four Cheese Pizza. Since I’ve never tried this pizza, I am not going to comment on it, no matter how much I want to say that the concept of frozen food is repulsive to me. But I have to say that the pizza on the box looks good. According to Digiorno.com, the pizza is made “with only the very best: California vine-ripened tomatoes, real mozzarella cheese, a preservative-free crust, and is loaded with four cheeses.” I believe that the pizza includes these things, but the majority of it would be lesser quality ingredients. A portion, which is a sixth of the pizza, has 300 calories. This means that a whole pizza has 1,800 calories, almost the daily quota. So you can have a little less than seven slices of pizza a day: I cannot say whether that is good or bad because I don’t know how filling it is. But given that it is dough, cheese and tomato sauce, I cannot say that the amount of calories surprises me. But also note that this is a pizza without any additional toppings. 

After all of this research, honestly, I think I am going to stick to homemade food. Although these are supposed to be meal replacers, some of them still have too many calories for what they are. 

Editor’s note: This is the second part of the series “What do two thousand calories look like?”

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