“If you ate only spinach, how much spinach would you have to eat to maintain your weight?”

Otto Wilhelm Thom&eacute - Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany www.biolib.de (Public domain)

Spinacia oleracea (spinach): Illustration from Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé’s Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany http://www.biolib.de (Public domain)

The Eight-Year-Old wandered into the kitchen the other day while I was prepping a blueberry and spinach smoothie. While watching me stuff the blender with spinach and almond milk, she asked, “Mommyo, if you ate only spinach, how much spinach would you have to eat to maintain your weight?”

She was not satisfied with my off-the-cuff response of “an impossible amount.”

She really wanted to know.

So we ignored the issues of how on earth I’d keep from overdosing on Vitamin A if I subsisted only on spinach and treated it like one of her third grade math problems.

Drink up, Mommyo. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Better drink up, Mommyo. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Question: If one cup of uncooked baby spinach contains 7 calories, and if The Eight-Year-Old’s Mommyo needs to eat 2,100 calories a day to maintain her weight*, how many cups of spinach would Mommyo need to eat every day, if she ate only spinach?


2100 calories/day divided by 7 calories/cup of spinach =
300 cups of spinach each day

Well, blow me down. That’s a lot of spinach.

According to the Taste of Home website, one pound of spinach yields 10-12 cups of torn leaves. Eating 300 cups of spinach would require me to tear up and devour roughly 30 pounds of spinach every day.

And that’s just me.*

Can you imagine how much an 80,000 pound Apatosaurus would have had to eat? According to some estimates, Apatosaurus and other giant sauropods required 100,000 calories per day. That meant eating up to 1,000 pounds of vegetation every day.

Let’s all pause for a moment and be grateful that we aren’t 80,000 pound Apatosaurs.

Related Links: 

*Note: My 2,100 calories a day number comes from the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. On page 13, the report states that adult men require 2,000-3,000 calories per day and adult women need between 1,600-2,400 calories per day, depending on their age and activity level.  I picked 2,100 calories/day for our math problem because 2,100 calories falls on both scales and I wanted a round number that would make the math easier. That’s it. It’s not intended as actual dietary advice for either me or you. In fact, I strongly advise you, dear Reader, not to consult us here at Caterpickles Central for any nutritional advice at all.

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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