Nutrition: Determine Your Calorie Needs


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Different groups of people have different daily calorie needs. For example, an adult athlete will need to consume more calories than a moderately active 3 year old.

When eating store-bought foods, be sure to look at the nutrition label to see how many calories are in one serving.

When eating out, choose what you’ll eat before you go. Most restaurants offer nutritional information online.

The following chart will help you determine the appropriate calorie need for your age, gender and activity level.

    Activity Level
Gender Age (years) Sedentary Moderately Active Active
Child 2-3 1,000 calories 1,000-1,400* calories 1,000-1,400 calories*
Female 4-8 1,200 calories 1,400-1,600 calories 1,400-1,800 calories
  9-13 1,600 calories 1,600-2,000 calories 1,800-2,200 calories
  14-18 1,800 calories 2,000 calories 2,400 calories
  19-30 2,000 calories 2,000-2,200 calories 2,400 calories
  31-50 1,800 calories 2,000 calories 2,200 calories
  51+ 1,600 calories 1,800 calories 2,000-2,200 calories
Male 4-8 1,400 calories 1,400-1,600 calories 1,600-2,000 calories
  9-13 1,800 calories 1,800-2,200 calories 2,000-2,600 calories
  14-18 2,200 calories 2,400-2,800 calories 2,800-3,200 calories
  19-30 2,400 calories 2,600-2,800 calories 3,000 calories
  31-50 2,200 calories 2,400-2,600 calories 2,800-3,000 calories
  51+ 2,000 calories 2,200-2,400 calories 2,400-2,800 calories

* - The calorie ranges shown reflect the needs of different ages within the group. Children and adolescents need more calories as they get older. However, adults needs fewer calories at older ages.

The following terms are used in the chart and are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Sedentary - a lifestyle that includes activity that is only associated with day-to-day life.

Moderately active - a lifestyle that includes physical activity equal to walking between 1.5 and 3 miles per day.

Active - a lifestyle that includes physical activity equal to walking more than 3 miles per day.

A healthy tip: If you're counting calories, watch what you drink

Sugar-sweetened drinks, such as fruit juice, fruit drinks, regular soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened or flavored milk and sweetened iced tea can add lots of sugar and calories to your diet. But staying hydrated is important for good health. Substitute water, zero-calorie flavored water, non-fat or reduced-fat milk, unsweetened tea or diet soda for sweetened drinks.

Talk with your family doctor or a dietitian if you have questions about your diet, how many calories you need, or healthy eating for your family.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 11/14
Created: 10/07

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