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Healthy Caloric Intake for Teens


Fluctuating weight and strange eating habits are normal and characteristic of the teen years, but it's important for adolescents and young adults to be consuming enough calories.

The physical changes and growth that accompany this time of life require adequate nutrition for both brain and body health. While each individual is different, the following guidelines may help in understanding the caloric needs of teenagers.

General Guidelines

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), females from the ages of 9 to 13 should eat about 1,600 calories per day, while 14-18-year-old girls should eat roughly 1,800 calories per day.

Boys, on the other hand, may require slightly more calories: 9-13-year-old boys need about 1,800 and 14-18-year-old boys need about 2,200 calories per day.

Quality of Calories

The quality of calories is also an important thing to note. Calories from junk food, soda, sugar, or processed foods are considered nutritionally "empty" calories, as they don't provide lasting energy or sustenance for the body.

Most calories should come from vegetables, fruits, dairy products, protein sources, and grains, the AHA says.

Other Considerations

While calories are important to note, body fat percentage may be more revealing of a teenager's true health. Body composition tests can usually be administered by a physician - or even at your local gym or fitness center.

Additionally, if a teen is extremely active, he or she may need more calories than the average young man or woman.

When considering caloric intake, the most important thing is that calories are coming from nutritionally sound sources and that the teen has enough energy and stamina for school work, social activities, and other commitments.

Helping teens understand how food intake affects how they feel - not what they look like or their weight - is one of the best ways to encourage them to make healthier decisions.