How a Nutritionist-in-Training Eats 1,800 Calories a Day


This is a bit of a risky post to write. There are a lot of rather bossy articles and blogs that love to tell you exactly how their author eats and that it’s the BEST, the ONLY way to live your life. “See, whatcha gotta do is this juice cleanse/this vegan diet/go gluten-free/be Paleo.” But if there’s anything I sure don’t want to be, it’s bossy…or obnoxious…or condescending. Still, in light of some recent conversations I’ve had about healthy eating, particularly as pertains to weight loss, I got to thinking about the way I eat and the fact that it’s effectively kept me at a stable, low-side-of-healthy weight for about 12 years. I don’t want to hold myself up as some kind of paragon of perfect eating, or decree exactly what anyone else should do with their digestive tract. I just thought, hey, if anyone is curious about how someone with a long-term healthy weight just one semester away from becoming a nutritionist eats on a pretty regular day, I’m game to put it all out there.

But there’s a second reason why writing a post like this is risky. There’s a lot of tasteless oversharing on the internet when it comes to food and eating. Why else would Weird Al include the line “I instagram every meal I’ve had” in his song “Tacky,” a parody of Pharell’s “Happy”? We live in an age where anyone can share anything on the internet–everything from meals going into their bodies…to meals on their way out. Maybe sharing everything I’ve eaten in a day is nothing short of navel-gazing grossness. But the fact is, as a fledgling nutritionist, I’m morbidly curious about what people eat. Taking a diet history is an invaluable part of almost any nutrition assessment, and I can tell you from experience that people are not always honest. And I really want to know the truth.

nitty gritty

So here we are. I’m about to fling open the vault on the no-holds-barred nitty gritty of a day in the life of my eating. Today, as a matter of fact. For the record, I am 33 years old, 5′ 4 (and 1/2!)”, and weigh about 112 pounds. My BMI is 18.9, which is considered pretty low (underweight is 18.5 and below), but this weight is where my body feels comfortable and has for years. Prior to this weight, in college I weighed between 125-132, but lost about 20 pounds when I moved out on my own. My lowest weight ever was 102, taken the morning of my gallbladder surgery in 2008. P.S. I don’t recommend being 102 pounds…or having a faulty gallbladder. It sucks.

According to the Mifflin St. Jeor equation–a standard calculation for dietitians calculating appropriate calories based on age, sex, height, and weight–as a “lightly active” person, I should only be eating between 1,200-1,450 calories a day to maintain my weight. But that just goes to show that equations are largely theoretical, that “activity factor” is difficult to determine, and that every body is different. I regularly consume between 1,800-2,200 calories a day and haven’t gained any significant weight (other than my pregnancies) at any time in my adult life. Maybe I’m more active than I think I am (probably true), or maybe I’m lucky when it comes to metabolism. Maybe I just fidget a lot. That’s definitely true. The day I’m about to share is approximately 1,800 calories. I have calculated my calorie values mostly using food labels from actual items consumed. In other cases, I’ve done my best to estimate. As you’ll see, this day isn’t perfect. If you know me, you won’t be surprised to see that there’s a hefty dose of sweets, and somehow a Diet Coke snuck its way in there, too.

So without further ado, and at the risk of oversharing, here’s what it looks like when an almost-nutritionist eats 1,800 calories in a day. I have put individual calorie values in parentheses.


Almond Joy Overnight Oats:

1/2 c. rolled oats (150)
1/2 c. Greek yogurt (85)
1/4 c. almond milk (10)
1/8 tsp. almond extract, 1/2 tsp. vanilla (0)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (53)
1 Tbsp. sliced almonds (45)
1 1/2 Tbsp. shredded coconut (50)
2 Tbsp. mini chocolate chips (70)
Total: 463. I ate only about 3/4 of this oatmeal, for a total of ~350.

12 oz. coffee with 1 Tbsp. Coffeemate Natural Bliss Sweet Cream Creamer (35)

Total Breakfast Calories: 385


Turkey wrap:

Low-calorie whole wheat tortilla (50)
Thinly-sliced cheddar cheese (40)
1 Tbsp. olive oil mayo (50)
4 thin slices deli turkey (60)
3 large lettuce leaves (5)
1 1/2 Tbsp. sundried tomatoes (25)
Total: 230

1/4 c. leftover gazpacho (30)

2 large strawberries (40)

1 Duncan Hines strawberry cupcake with 1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon buttercream frosting (220)

10 oz. Diet Coke (0)

Total Lunch Calories: 520


1/2 c. Califia Farms espresso with almond milk (40)


1/2 frozen banana (50)
Splash almond milk (5)
1/3 c. plain Greek yogurt (57)
1 tsp. honey (20)
2 Tbsp. rolled oats (40)
Total: 172

Snacks at Costco:

1 cracker with brie (30)
1 piece baguette with marinara (30)
1 bite mac and cheese (10)
2 itty bitty beef crumbles (10)
Total: 80

Total Snack Calories: 252


1 c. gazpacho (cucumber, red pepper, red onion, tomatoes, garlic, tomato juice, olive oil) (120)
2 pieces jalapeño-cheddar toast (120)
3 Tbsp. guacamole (175)
9 medium shrimp (65)

3 Tbsp. homemade peanut butter chocolate chip fudge (200)

Total Dinner Calories: 680

Total Day’s Calories: 1,837

There you have it! The more I study nutrition, the more my take-home messages for healthy weight have become twofold:

  1. Portion control
  2. Common sense basics: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, moderate dairy, lean meats

I’d welcome your comments or questions!

One thought on “How a Nutritionist-in-Training Eats 1,800 Calories a Day

  1. Very forthcoming of you to include the Costco snacks! Me, I’m tempted to believe those bites don’t count! 🙂

    * I see almond milk. listed more that once here. Is that just personal preference because you don’t really like cow’s milk, or is there a more nutritio-based reason?
    * I know deli meats are available without nitrates and other nastiness, but I wonder about the processing it takes to press, say, a nice fleshy turkey or chicken breast into those paper-thin, evenly sized sheets of deli meat. Your thoughts?

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