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How many calories do teenagers need?

Teenagers 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), commonly just referred to as calories.

Teenagers need lots of energy and nutrients because they're still growing. The amount of energy that food and drink contains is measured in kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal), commonly just referred to as calories.

A report from 2011 estimated the average energy requirements for children aged 13 to 18 to be:

   Age  

             Boys            

             Girls            

13

10,100kJ / 2,414kcal 

9,300kJ / 2,223kcal

14

11,000kJ / 2,629kcal

9,800kJ / 2,342kcal 

15

11,800kJ / 2,820kcal

10,000kJ / 2,390kcal

16

12,400kJ / 2,964kcal

10,100kJ / 2,414kcal

17

12,900kJ / 3,083kcal

10,300kJ / 2,462kcal

18

13,200kJ / 3,155kcal

10,300kJ / 2,462kcal

However, these figures are only a guide. Young people might need more or less energy depending on a number of factors, including how physically active they are.  

While the amount of energy teenagers need is important, they should also eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Diet

healthy, balanced diet for teenagers 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 – choose low-fat options where you can
  • some foods that are good sources of protein – such as meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils

Teenagers shouldn't fill up on too many sugary or fatty foods – such as crisps, sweets, cakes, biscuits – or sugary fizzy drinks. These tend to be high in calories but contain few nutrients. Get ideas for healthy food swaps and healthy takeaway.

Read the answers to more questions about healthy eating.

Further information:

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