How many calories do children need?

Updated April 17, 2017

Good nutrition is especially vital to children because they are growing and developing, and their bodies need calories and nutrients to do it correctly. Because most kids are very active, they need the right amount of calories to have the energy to do all the things they like to do. Depending on their activity levels, caloric requirements vary widely for growing children, from 900 each day for a 1-year-old to 3,200 a day for an active teenage boy.

2- to 3-Year-Olds

Boys and girls in this range should consume between 1,000 and 1,400 calories each day, depending on their activity level, according to the Mayo Clinic. A total of 5 to 20 per cent of their daily calories should come from protein; 45 to 65 per cent should come from carbohydrates and 30 to 40 per cent of their daily calories should come from fats.

4- to 8-Year-Olds

This is where boys and girls start to need different amounts of calories each day, because of different growth levels. Girls in this age group should eat 1,200 to 1,800 calories a day, and boys in this group need 1,400 to 2,000 calories daily, depending on their activity level. For both boys and girls, 4- to 8-year-olds should get 10 to 30 per cent of their daily calories from protein and 45 to 65 per cent from carbohydrates. Fats should make up 25 to 35 per cent of their daily caloric intake.

9- to 13-Year-Olds

As kids' bodies prepare for puberty and their activity levels increase as they get more involved in sports and school activities, their bodies need more fuel. Girls between the ages of 9 and 13 should consume 1,600 to 2,200 calories daily, and boys in this group need 1,800 to 2,600 calories every day. Like younger kids, this age group should get 10 to 30 per cent of their calories each day from protein, 45 to 65 per cent from carbohydrates, and 25 to 35 per cent from fats.

14- to 18-Year-Olds

Because teens are growing at a higher rate and their bodies are changing through puberty, they need more food than younger kids. This is especially true for teen boys, who are growing faster than any other group and, for most, are engaged in more physical activity. In this age group, girls should get 1,800 to 2,400 calories each day, and boys should get 2,200 to 3,200 calories daily. Percentages for proteins, carbohydrates and fats are the same as for younger groups.

Physical Activity

According the American Heart Association, kids with increased physical activity require more calories. The lower number in the figures above is based on a sedentary lifestyle with very little activity. The higher number is appropriate for kids who get lots of physical activity, like practicing a sport for a few hours each day.

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About the Author

Amanda Hermes has been a freelance writer since 2009. She writes about children's health, green living and healthy eating for various websites. She has also been published on, Parents Tips Blog and Weekly Woof Blog and she has worked as a ghostwriter for parenting articles. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of North Texas.