The NHS’s recommendation for a man’s daily calorie intake is 2,500 (women, you get 2,000 to work with), but some people have a funny old idea of the best way to get there.
To give an indication of just what 2,500 calories looks like, Coach has produced eight “days” based on the intake of real individuals. That includes breakfast at McDonald’s, fizzy drinks, crisps, supermarket prawn sandwiches, takeaways, ready meals and dinner at the pub.
Two conclusions were immediately apparent: you don’t get a lot for your 2,500, and some of you have a truly shocking idea of what constitutes “healthy” and “balanced”. Are you one of them? If you are, or these meal plans feel depressingly familiar, Sharmain Davis, a dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, has applied her expertise to improving them.
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Day One: A Fry-Up and Dinner at the Pub
- Two scrambled eggs with milk and butter (197), one chorizo sausage (273), two rashers of streaky bacon (128), potato croquette (88), beans (191) 877
- Two glasses of champagne 180
Dinner (from a pub)
- Two gin and tonics 220
- Three pieces of deep-fried chicken and chips 900
- Two pints of beer 360
Total 2,537 calories
The dietitian says If an evening in the pub is on the cards, it’s wise to start the day with a healthier brunch option. Choose a high-protein, vegetable- and nutrient-rich option, such as spinach and red pepper omelette with granary toast and smoked salmon. And keep alcohol to a minimum too, if you want to optimise health.
Day Two: Breakfast at McDonald’s and a Ready Meal for Dinner
- McDonald’s Sausage and Egg McMuffin 430
- McDonald’s vanilla latte 128
- Diet Coke 4
- Caffè Nero chocolate twist croissant 320
- Ham and cheese panini 263
- One glazed doughnut 260
- Bag of Walkers crisps 132
- Cup of tea with skimmed milk and two sugars 68
- Tesco Cottage pie ready meal 468
- Portion of peas 81
- Tesco Finest sticky toffee dessert 360
Total 2,514 calories
The dietitian says This diet is high-salt, high-fat and high-sugar, with peas. It is in desperate need of some fresh, whole foods that haven’t been sweetened or salted. A good start here would be to make at least two meals from home, such as a scrambled egg on toast with grilled tomatoes for breakfast and perhaps a cheese salad panini and an apple, omitting the crisps for lunch.
Day Three: Prawn Sandwich for Lunch, Ready Meal for Dinner and Red Wine
- Two slices of toast with butter and jam 300
- Cup of tea with milk 20
- Two chocolate biscuits 80
- Marks & Spencer prawn mayonnaise sandwich 360
- One Granny Smith apple 80
- One cup of white coffee, no sugar 20
- Sainsbury’s Spaghetti Bolognese ready meal 550
- 2tbsp freshly grated parmesan 43
- One small green salad dressed with oil and vinegar 200
- Two large glasses red wine 428
- One Gail’s Bakery chocolate pecan brownie 482
Total 2,563 calories
The dietitian says With around two-thirds of the day’s calories consumed in the evening and much of the extra energy coming from biscuits, a brownie and alcohol, there’s definitely scope to add more nutrient-dense options. Replace the mid-morning biscuits with a piece of fruit and the brownie after dinner with Greek yogurt to help meet calcium needs and to support healthy bones.
Day Four: Fizzy Drinks, Takeaway Pizza and Beer
- Banana 90
- Two Wagon wheels 328
- Dr Pepper 250
- Bacon, avocado and chilli sandwich 339
- Coke 140
- Domino’s American hot, classic crust pizza 1,225
- Pint of lager 180
Total 2,552 calories
The dietitian says This diet is low in fruit and veg, and therefore vitamins, minerals and fibre. If nothing else, swap the Dr Pepper and Coke with freshly squeezed juice or a fruit/veg smoothie to add some much-needed nutrients to support digestion and immune health.
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Day Five: Porridge for Breakfast, Salmon for Dinner and a Whole Tube of Pringles
- Porridge with banana and cinnamon from Leon 367
- Flat white 179
- Hummus (166), crudités (75), pack of beef biltong (75) 316
- Grilled salmon (280), boiled new potatoes (135) with pat of butter (36), and a portion of green beans (31) 482
- Two 50ml glasses whisky 240
- One 190g tub of ready salted Pringles 963
Total 2,547 calories
The dietitian says This day started so well. High-fibre porridge with fruit for breakfast, vegetables with lunch and dinner, and grilled salmon, providing essential fats. One whole tube of Pringles is a high-fat, high-salt snack void of useful nutrition. Choose a healthier snack such as a handful of unsalted cashews or almonds, and grilled fresh beef at lunch instead of high-salt biltong.
Day Six: Granola for Breakfast, Salad for Lunch and Thai Green Curry for Dinner
- One pot plain Greek yogurt (190) with 2tbsp honey (30), handful of fresh blueberries and strawberries (35) and a 50g serving of granola (193) 448
- Glass of orange juice 45
- One black coffee 2
- Pret a Manger beets, squash and feta superbowl 541
- Pret Souper Tomato 228
- One slice of wholegrain bread (no butter) 75
- Pret large fruit salad 472
- Cup of tea, no milk, no sugar 2
- Thai green curry with prawns (180) and Tilda Takeaway coconut rice (232) 412
- Two squares of dark chocolate 104
- One glass of dry white wine 77
Total 2,406 calories
The dietitian says This diet is a pretty good example of how much more food you can eat when you choose plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean protein sources, such as prawns. My main suggestion here would be to add extra vegetables to the curry at dinner to increase micronutrient intake.
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Day Seven: Smoothie and a Double Bacon Cheeseburger
- 250ml Innocent strawberries and bananas smoothie 136
- Double bacon cheeseburger, chips and a milkshake 1,751
- 25g Mattessons fridge raiders chicken bites 47
- Piece of garlic bread 172
- Two glasses of Amaretto on ice 388
Total 2,494 calories
The dietitian says Despite the smoothie, there’s a lack of nutrient-dense food here. All meals appear to be a convenient, grab-and-go option, with not much of anything green. Make your own smoothie adding in greens, such as spinach, and some yogurt or milk for extra protein. Omit the chips or milkshake and add salad to pack out the bun. If easier, choose cooked chicken breast and a salad for a more balanced whole food evening meal.
Day Eight: Weetabix for Breakfast and Cheesy Baked Potato for Lunch (No Dinner)
- Two Weetabix (134) with milk (60) and sugar (16) 210
- Mug of instant coffee with milk and two sugars 75
- Mars Bar 242
Lunch (from a canteen)
- Baked potato with butter and cheese (578) and coleslaw (152) 730
- Slice of apple pie 237
- Half a packet of Haribo Tangfastics 340
- Two pints of cider (210 each) 420
- Packet of peanuts 290
- Empty plate! 0
Total 2,544 calories
The dietitian says Empty plate and empty calories. This diet is low in fruits and veg, and low in protein and healthy fats, too. Eating like this every day would result in nutrient deficiencies. Swap the sugar at breakfast and sweeten with chopped bananas and strawberries. Ditch the jelly sweets and cider, and instead have a wholesome meal of grilled mackerel with broccoli and couscous.
Find out more about Sharmain Davis at thedietconsultant.com (opens in new tab)
Bridget was a freelance journalist who contributed features to the print edition of Coach in 2016.
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