How Many Calories Should A Teenager Eat A Day? Teenager’s Nutritional Needs Explored!

The teenage years spanning between 13 and 19 years old are marked by continuous growth and development. This statement further signifies the need to intake calories in amounts that are adequate to support this growth process.

Further, since it is the caloric intake that helps convert fat into energy through foods rich in nutrients, this fact reinforces the importance of consuming them in adequate amounts in one’s teenage phase.

Doing so not only facilitates developing healthy eating habits but also ensures good overall health and well-being, going forward. 

Nutritional Needs Of Teenagers

The nutritional needs of the teenagers are primarily determined by their activity status. As per the calorie intake reference chart, boys need precisely 2,800 calories and girls require 2.200. This amount is considered to be an ideal one for the physical activities (sports) that they engage in, and their need to perform well in their academics.

However, it has been noted that while boys intake more calories, girls tend to miss out on the same, thus placing them at a 75% deficit of daily nutrients when reaching the later stage of their adolescence.

Nutritional Needs Of Teenagers

This signifies that their daily nutrient intake comes to only 25% – much less than what their male counterparts consume. It is this less-eating tendency towards reaching their mid-to-late teen years that puts them at a significant risk of developing vitamin and mineral deficiency.

This being stated, all those calorie counts that will provide them with the energy to effectively engage in their curricular and co-curricular activities have been specified below in the order of their age and gender.

Caloric Requirement For Teens Based On Age, Gender,  And Activity Levels


Highly Active Individuals

Somewhat Active Individuals

Non-Active Individuals

9-13 years
1,800-2,200 calories2,000-2,600 calories1,600-2,000 calories1,800-2,200 calories1,400-1,600 calories1,600-2,000 calories
14-18 years2,400 calories2,800-3,200 calories2,000 calories2,400-2,800 calories1,800 calories2,000-2,400 calories

Understanding The Differences In Caloric Requirements Between Teen Boys And Teen Girls

From the caloric needs provided in the table above for both boys and girls in their teenage years, ages between 9 and 13 years and 14-18 years, it is visible that compared to the former, the latter requires comparatively lesser caloric intake per day.

Though it may sound unfair for the female gender, the reality, rather to say, the biological build-up of both boys and girls says something different. As could be explained further in this regard, the metabolic rate of a boy is higher than that present in girls. 

Growth And Its Role In Caloric Requirements In Teens

As mentioned in the beginning, growth is a natural and continuous process during teenage. It also flows from here that adequate caloric intake is crucial to support the same. When it becomes certain that the body has stopped growing further or is taking a longer time to fulfill the process, this mandates a reduced caloric requirement.

This statement is enough to explain why taller adolescents require more calories than those who are shorter in height. It is also needless to mention here that younger children need to take as many calories as are required to assist in their growth.

Significance Of Adopting Good Dietary Habits In Adolescence/Teenage

Noting that teen obesity is a major concern across the globe, it is high time for this segment of the younger adult population to realize the significance of adopting a healthy and balanced diet regime.

Likewise, possessing good dietary habits is also necessary for those adolescents, who are not getting or ingesting enough calories as are required for their continuous growth and development in their teenage years,

The fact that dietary habits have a long-term impact on one’s life, where these can either turn out positive or negative, it has been deemed highly important to note how one’s eating habits can affect one’s overall health later in life.

Of note, this particular statement holds true for those categories of teenagers, who either eat more than what their body requires or those who do not.

Impact Of Improper Eating Habits On Teenage Health

The term ‘Improper Eating Habits’ obviously carries two meanings, consuming too little or way too much than required.

  • Inadequate Dietary Intake: Those sections of teenagers, who do not possess good dietary habits, are more than often exposed to various health-related complications, such as stunted growth, delay in reaching puberty, menstrual irregularities, etc.
  • Excessive Eating Habits: Consuming foods high in fat and sugar content in adolescents undeniably results in the accumulation of fat content later in adulthood, also leading to comorbid conditions, such as heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes among a few. 

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Teenage years spanning six years, i.e., between 13 and 19, is a crucial period of growth and development. It is the kind of eating habits that one adopts during this phase that determines one’s overall health in adulthood.

The current article that explored dietary-cum-caloric requirements in teenagers has made a deliberate attempt to establish the significance of adopting good eating habits in the concerned population. This was facilitated through gaining a brief understanding of the typical nutritional intakes of teenagers to what is needed.

It was followed by noting the difference between the caloric requirements of teenage boys and girls, as well as analyzing the role of growth and development in determining caloric intake.

Lastly, the impact of improper eating habits on teenage health conveyed how inadequate and excessive eating may harm the health and well-being of teenagers.  

About the Author

Nicole Carter is a dedicated and passionate nutritionist, committed to helping individuals achieve their health and wellness goals through the power of proper nutrition. With a Bachelor's degree in Nutritional Science and years of practical experience.

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