What do two thousand calories look like?: the breakfast edition

January 24, 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. There is way too much food to review in one article, so I decided to start with the chronologically logical category: breakfast.

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

Box of Apple Jacks in the C-Store.
Photo by Sasha Skarboviychuk/The Hoot.

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

Exhibit A: Apple Jacks. Arguably a better example of the sugary garbage that is American cereal, although it is an insult to apples, cinnamon and apples with cinnamon, as it tastes nothing like any of those. However, my hate for American cereal will be expressed in another article. 

According to the box, a portion of Apple Jacks is a cup, which will cost you 110 calories. This whole box—which contains approximately 14 portions—is a total of 1,540 calories: two-thirds of your daily norm! So to get to 2,000 calories, you only need to eat a little less than 1.3 boxes of Apple Jacks (around 18 servings). But let’s be real, who eats cereal without milk? 

According to the same box, you need about half a cup of skim milk per cup of cereal, for which they estimate 40 calories. (Let’s say I believed them because I was too lazy to calculate how many calories are in half a cup of milk….Also, ew skim milk). A serving of cereal with milk will cost you 150 calories, so to stay within the 2,000-calorie limit, you can only have 13 and one-third portions of cereal: the entire box of Apple Jacks with seven cups of milk. Not terrible, but not great either. 

Staying in the breakfast foods, allow me to present Exhibit B: Pop-Tarts, also known as strawberry flavored puke in a box. I really do not want to imagine what that garbage is made out of for it to be able to be stored for so long without spoiling. But once again, we’re here to talk about calories. 

The calorie gods have blessed me with this one, as a single strawberry Pop-Tart is exactly 200 calories, according to the box. That means that you can only have 10 Pop-Tarts to stay within the limit. 10! Now are you curious about what they’re made out of? Granted, I really hope no one is going to eat only Pop-Tarts on a single day.

For those who like their breakfast in the form of liquid caffeine, Exhibit C: Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee in my favorite flavor, French vanilla. Not going to lie, I was guilty of having these for breakfast every day of freshman year. I know, I know, I am very health-conscious. A bottle is a serving which has 270 calories, so if I decided to live off just coffee, I could only have 7.4 bottles. Now that is crazy. I get that this is a very sugary drink but only seven bottles a day? I could have seven just for breakfast. But it’s good, so maybe as a treat every now and again? 

Moving on…

I really wanted to include pancakes in this, but, depending on the recipe, calories will vary, so to simplify my life, introducing Exhibit D: Aunt Jemima’s Pancake and Waffle mix. Just the pancake mix has 150 calories, but who eats just the pancake mix? So, when you make it as per the instructions on the box, the pancakes contain 160 calories per serving. A serving is considered two four-inch pancakes. 

The box claims to have 49 servings, so this entire box has 7,840 calories: That’s enough to feed you for almost four days. To get to the two thousand calorie norm, you can only eat 12.5 pancakes. But who eats plain pancakes? You need toppings on them, which once again adds calories, so realistically it would be closer to eight pancakes with toppings. But I think American pancakes are gross and so not worth the calories, so go eat a cucumber or something instead.  

Now after all these scary examples, let me present a healthier option, Exhibit E: hard-boiled eggs. Now let’s be real here, no one likes boiled eggs. I remember my mother making me eat them as a kid, and I think they are a large part of the reason why I hate breakfast. Then again, I don’t like most breakfast foods anyway. The average boiled egg contains 78 calories, which isn’t much at all. This means that you can eat 25.6 eggs to stay within the 2,000 calorie limit. They are also a great source of protein with about six grams per egg, so you would get 153.6 grams of protein. We can say that minus the terrible taste of boiled eggs, this is a good breakfast alternative. 

If there’s one thing I learned from this article, it’s that food has more calories than we think. And eating fewer than 2,000 calories is not an easy task. Happy eating everyone!  

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

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