How Many Calories Should A Child Eat


How Many Calories A Child Should Eat is a question often asked of dietician. This article will take you through some simple mathematics which will enable you to determine how many calories your child should be eating on a daily basis.With all the information available on how many calories are in a child’s diet, it is no wonder that less than 30% of children consume enough food to meet their caloric needs. This leads us to ask two questions; how many calories should a child eat and what will it benefit you if your child is eating enough food?

How Many Calories Should A Child Eat

When people talk about the calories in food, what do they mean? A calorie is a unit of measurement — but it doesn’t measure weight or length. A calorie is a unit of energy. When you hear something contains 100 calories, it’s a way of describing how much energy your body could get from eating or drinking it.

Are Calories Bad For You?

Calories aren’t bad for you. Your body needs calories for energy. But eating too many calories — and not burning enough of them off through activity — can lead to weight gain.

Most foods and drinks contain calories. Some foods, such as lettuce, contain few calories (1 cup of shredded lettuce has less than 10 calories). Other foods, like peanuts, contain a lot of calories (½ cup of peanuts has over 400 calories).

Some people watch their calories if they are trying to lose weight. Most kids don’t need to do this, but all kids can benefit from eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes the right number of calories — not too many, not too few. But how do you know how many calories you need?

How Many Calories Do Kids Need?

Kids come in all sizes and each person’s body burns energy (calories) at different rates, so there isn’t one perfect number of calories that every kid should eat. But there is a recommended range for most kids between 6 and 12 years old: 1,600 to 2,200 per day, depending on how active they are.

When they reach puberty, girls need more calories than before, but they tend to need fewer calories than boys. As boys enter puberty, they may need as many as 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day, especially if they are very active. But whether they are girls or boys, kids who are active and move around a lot need more calories than kids who don’t.

If you eat more calories than you need, the body changes extra calories to fat. Too much fat can lead to being overweight and other health problems. Only your doctor can say if you are overweight, so check with him or her if you’re concerned. And never go on a diet without talking to your doctor!.

High-calorie foods — such as sugary sodas, candy, and fast food — quickly add up to too many calories. Instead, eat a healthy, balanced diet. Exercising and playing are really important, too, because physical activity burns calories.

How The Body Uses Calories

Your body needs calories just to operate — to keep your heart beating and your lungs breathing. As a kid, your body also needs calories and nutrients from a variety of foods to grow and develop. And you burn off some calories without even thinking about it — by walking your dog or making your bed.

But it is a great idea to play and be active for an 1 hour or more every day. That means time spent playing sports, playing outside, or riding your bike. It all adds up. Being active every day keeps your body strong and can help you maintain a healthy weight.

Watching TV and playing video games won’t burn many calories at all, which is why you should limit those activities to no more than 2 hours per day. A person burns only about 1 calorie per minute while watching TV, about the same as sleeping!

Dietary Recommendations For Healthy Children

Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children

The American Heart Association has dietary recommendations for infants, children and adolescents to promote cardiovascular health:

AHA Scientific Position

Start In Infancy:

  • Breast-feeding is ideal nutrition and sufficient to support optimal growth and development for about the first 4–6 months after birth. Try to maintain breast-feeding for 12 months. Transition to other sources of nutrients should begin at about 4–6 months of age to ensure sufficient micronutrients in the diet.
  • Delay introducing 100 percent juice until at least 6 months of age and limit to no more than 4–6 oz/day. Juice should only be fed from a cup.
  • Don’t overfeed infants and young children — they can usually self-regulate the amount of calories they need each day. Children shouldn’t be forced to finish meals if they aren’t hungry as they often vary caloric intake from meal to meal.
  • Introduce healthy foods and keep offering them if they’re initially refused. Don’t introduce foods without overall nutritional value simply to provide calories.

The American Heart Association Recommends This Eating Pattern For Families:

  • Energy (calories) should be adequate to support growth and development and to reach or maintain desirable body weight.
  • Eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
  • Keep total fat intake between 30 to 35 percent of calories for children 2 to 3 years of age and between 25 to 35 percent of calories for children and adolescents 4 to 18 years of age, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
  • Choose a variety of foods to get enough carbohydrates, protein and other nutrients.
  • Eat only enough calories to maintain a healthy weight for your height and build. Kids should be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day.
  • Serve whole-grain/high-fiber breads and cereals rather than refined grain products. Look for “whole grain” as the first ingredient on the food label and make at least half your grain servings whole grain. Recommended grain intake ranges from 2 oz./day for a one-year-old to 7 oz./day for a 14–18-year-old boy.
  • Serve a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, while limiting juice intake. Each meal should contain at least 1 fruit or vegetable. Children’s recommended fruit intake ranges from 1 cup/day, between ages 1 and 3, to 2 cups for a 14–18-year-old boy. Recommended vegetable intake ranges from ¾ cup a day at age one to 3 cups for a 14–18-year-old boy.
  • Introduce and regularly serve fish as an entrée. Avoid commercially fried fish.
  • Serve fat-free and low-fat dairy foods. From ages 1–8, children need 2 cups of milk or its equivalent each day. Children ages 9–18 need 3 cups.
  • Don’t overfeed. Don’t overfeed. Children shouldn’t be forced to finish meals if they aren’t hungry as they often vary caloric intake from meal to meal. Consult your health care professional for your child’s specific caloric needs.

This eating pattern supports a child’s normal growth and development. It provides enough total energy and meets or exceeds the recommended daily allowances for all nutrients for children and adolescents, including iron and calcium.

Information For Ages 1 Year And 2-3 Years

Calories/ Food 1 year 2 to 3 years Detail
Calories kilocalories per day (kcal/d) 900 kcal/d 1000 kcal/d Calorie estimates are based on a sedentary lifestyle. Increased physical activity will require additional calories: by 0-200 kcal/d if moderately physically active; and by 200–400 kcal/d if very physically active.
Fat 30-40% 30-35%
Milk / Dairy 2 cups 2 cups Milk listed is fat -free (except for children under the age of 2 years). If 1%, 2%, or whole-fat milk is substituted, this will utilize, for each cup, 19, 39, or 63 kilocalorie of discretionary calories and add 2.6, 5.1, or 9.0 grams of total fat, of which 1.3, 2.6, or 4.6 grams are saturated fat.

For 1-year-old children, calculations are based on 2% fat milk. If 2 cups of whole milk are substituted, 48 kilocalories of discretionary calories will be utilized. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that low fat or reduced fat milk not be started before 2 years of age.

Lean Meat and Beans 1.5 ounces 2 ounces
Fruits 1 cup 1 cup Serving sizes are 1/4 cup for 1 year of age, 1/3 cup for 2 to 3 years of age, and 1/2 cup for children 4 years of age and older.
Vegetables 3/4 cup 1 cup Serving sizes are 1/4 cup for 1 year of age, 1/3 cup for 2 to 3 years of age, and 1/2 cup for children 4 years of age and older. A variety of vegetables should be selected from each subgroup over the week.
Grains 2 ounces 3 ounces Half of all grains should be whole.
4 to 8 years 9 to 13 years 14 to 18 years

Information for 4-18 Years

Calories / Food 4 to 8 years 9 to 13 years 14 to 18 years Detail
Calories kilocalories per day (kcal/d) For youth 2 years and older; adopted from Table 2, Table 3, and Appendix A-2 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2005); Nutrient and energy contributions from each group are calculated according to the nutrient-dense forms of food in each group (eg, lean meats and fat-free milk).
Female 1200 kcal/d 1600 kcal/d 1800 kcal/d
Male 1400 kcal/d 1800 kcal/d 2200 kcal/d
Fat 25% to 35% 25% to 35% 25% to 35%
Milk / Dairy 2 cups 3 cups 3 cups
Lean Meat / Beans
Female 3 ounces 5 ounces 5 ounces
Male 4 ounces 5 ounces 6 ounces
Female 1.5 cups 1.5 cups 1.5 cups
Male 1.5 cups 1.5 cups 2 cups
Female 1 cup 2 cups 2.5 cups
Male 1.5 cups 2.5 cups 3 cups
Female 4 ounces 5 ounces 6 ounces
Male 5 ounces 6 ounces 7 ounces

How many calories does a child of 7 to 10 need?

Children aged 7 to 10 years old need lots of energy and nutrients because they’re still growing.

The amount of energy that food and drink contains is measured in both kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal), and is commonly referred to as calories.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition estimates the average daily energy requirements for children aged 7 to 10 years old are:

This table splits average daily requirements for kilojoules and kilocalories, for boys and girls aged 7 to 10, into separate columns and rows.
Age Boys Girls
7 6,900kJ or 1,649kcal 6,400kJ or 1,530kcal
8 7,300kJ or 1,745kcal 6,800kJ or 1,625kcal
9 7,700kJ or 1,840kcal 7,200kJ or 1,721kcal
10 8,500kJ or 2,032kcal 8,100kJ or 1,936kcal

But these figures are only a guide. Children may need more or less than these estimates depending on a number of factors, including how physically active they are.

Read tips on sports and activities with your kids.

While the amount of energy your child needs is important, they should also eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Healthy, Balanced Diet

A healthy, balanced diet for children aged 7 to 10 should include:

  • at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
  • meals based on starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, pasta and rice (choose wholegrain varieties when possible)
  • some milk and dairy products or alternatives (choose low-fat options where you can)
  • some foods that are good sources of protein, such as meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils

Make sure that your child doesn’t eat too many sugary or fatty foods, such as sweets, cakes and biscuits, or drink too many sugary fizzy drinks.

These foods and drinks tend to be high in calories but contain few nutrients. Get ideas for healthier lunchbox recipes and helping your family get 5 A Day.

What And How Much To Feed Your Toddler

Experts explain how to provide toddlers with the nutritious food they need for their growing bodies.

Your child is walking, climbing, running, and “talking” nonstop now. Such developmental milestones mean their nutritional needs have changed, too.Welcome to toddler territory. Armed with some basic know-how, you’ll discover how best to nourish your child up to age 3.

Feeding Toddlers: How Much To Serve?

It’s ironic: Because of a slowdown in growth, toddlers, who are far more active than infants, have lower calorie needs, pound for pound. That doesn’t diminish the importance of good nutrition, but it does present some challenges.

Toddlers need between 1,000 and 1,400 calories a day, depending on their age, size, and physical activity level (most are considered active). The amount of food a toddler requires from each of the food groups is based on daily calorie needs.

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