For Older Children

Calories supply the energy that your child’s body needs for growth and activities. An older child of 6 to 12 grows about 2 inches and gains about 5 pounds each year.

On top of the calories needed for growth, a 6- to 12-year-old child needs additional calories to fuel their daily activities. A child between 6 to 12 years needs about 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day.

Following the rapid growth phase in infancy, teen years are the fastest growth stage of life. During a growth spurt, a 12-year-old girl or a 14-year-old boy can easily grow 4 inches in a year. Other parts of the body are also developing at a rapid rate.

A moderately active teenage boy needs about 2,800 to 3,000 calories per day and a girl needs about 2,200 to 2,300 calories to maintain normal body functions such as breathing, repairing damaged tissues, and growing.

Depending on your child’s activity level, their caloric needs may be higher or lower than the numbers here.

When a child eats more calories than their body needs, weight gain will follow. This is a growing problem in the US, surveys report that approximately 20 to 40% of American children are overweight and not physically fit.


The healthiest way to control a child’s weight is to serve them meals with enough – but not too many – calories for normal growth and activities.

Restricting calories too severely is not advised since too few calories can have a negative effect and stunt growth.

Another way to control weight is with exercise. Encourage your child to be more active, let them walk to school and get involved in sports and other active games as well as limit TV and video games.

The important thing is for your child to move.

When your child is active, offer plenty of water before, during, and after the activity. This is especially important on hot, humid days since hot weather will cause your child’s body to lose more water than on a cool day. In addition to drinking 6 to 8 cups of water every day, children should drink 1 to 2 cups of water about 30 minutes before a practice or game and then drink another 1/2 cup of water every 15 minutes during a sporting event.

It is important to continue to drink plenty of fluids after exercising to prevent dehydration.

Even with some knowledge of nutrition, teenagers may develop poor eating habits due to peer pressure, busy schedules and readily-available fast foods.

Food choices that teens often make can lead to low amounts of calcium and iron in their diets. Calcium and iron are important minerals needed by growing bones and muscles during a teenager’s growth spurt.

Low iron levels can especially be a problem for girls due to their menstrual flow. For strong bones, encourage your teen to drink milk or calcium-fortified juice instead of carbonated beverages. Iron-rich foods such as red meat, poultry, shellfish, eggs, dark leafy vegetables, and fortified grains are good ways to increase iron intake.

When you serve plant sources of iron, also serve foods high in vitamin C such as orange juice to increase the amount of iron your teen’s body will absorb.

Monitor what your teen is and isn’t eating. Seek professional help if you think your child is beginning to develop an eating disorder.

Sign up for monthly newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.