What the FDA-recommended daily intake of 2,000 calories looks like at every major fast-food chain

Hollis Johnson
  • Chain restaurants in America are now required to post calorie counts on their menus.
  • The FDA suggests eating roughly 2,000 calories a day to sustain energy.
  • Americans tend to consume much more than that on average, and many think processed foods, sugars, and fats that are often present in fast-food is to blame.
  • We grabbed some pretty ordinary meals from major fast-food chains that add up to at least 2,000 calories – and it’s pretty surprising how little it takes to reach it.

As of Monday, chain restaurants are now required to post calorie amounts on menus, per a requirement of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The Food and Drug Administration recommends an average daily intake of 2,000 calories.

Yet according to data from The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the Unit red Nations (FAOSTAT), Americans eat about 3,600 calories daily – a 24% increase from 1961. Healthier, more transparent practices are making their way into the fast-food industry, yet simple awareness isn’t always effective.

The Upshot took pictures of 2,000 calories’ worth of restaurant food in 2014. We decided to do our own version and visit 13 fast-food chains to discover what ordering 2,000 calories looks like.

While many of these arrangements look like single meals, each would be all you are recommended to eat in an entireday.

Marina Nazario contributed reporting on a previous version of this article.


Hollis Johnson

Venti white-chocolate mocha, sausage and cheddar classic breakfast sandwich, dark cherry Greek yogurt, salted caramel cake pop, coffee cake.Total calories: 2,030.


Hollis Johnson

Bacon clubhouse crispy-chicken sandwich, large fries, mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce, Oreo McFlurry. Total calories: 2,010.

Panera Bread

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New England clam-chowder bread bowl, chips, chocolate-chip cookie, bottled lemonade. Total calories: 2,160.


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Foot-long spicy Italian sub with cheese, a six-inch BLT flatbread with cheese, chips, oatmeal-raisin cookie. Total calories: 2,010.

Shake Shack

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Double Shackburger, cheese fries, peanut-butter shake.Total calories: 2,200.


Hollis Johnson

Doublicious sandwich, large popcorn nuggets, large mashed potatoes with gravy, large mac and cheese, large coleslaw.Total calories: 2,940.


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Spicy chicken deluxe sandwich, large waffle fries, chicken salad, large vanilla milkshake. Total calories: 2,070.

Taco Bell

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Beef quesarito, triple-layer nachos, crunchwrap supreme, cheesy fiesta potatoes, spicy tostada, large soda. Total calories: 2,080.

Burger King

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Double Whopper with cheese, large fries, large onion rings, two oatmeal-raisin cookies, large Coke. Total calories: 2,990.

Five Guys

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Bacon cheeseburger, large fries. Total calories: 2,230.


Hollis Johnson

Roast turkey ranch and bacon sandwich, large curly fries, ketchup, Horsey sauce, medium chocolate shake. Total calories: 2,010.


Hollis Johnson

Baconator, spicy chicken nuggets, large fries, small frosty, root beer. Total calories: 2,480.


Hollis Johnson

Steak burrito with white rice, black beans, corn salsa, sour cream, and guacamole, chips and guacamole. Total calories: 2,045.

Carl’s Jr.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Superstar cheeseburger, onion rings, chocolate shake.Total calories: 2,150.

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