Nutrition: Determine Your Calorie Needs

Nutrition: Determine Your Calorie Needs

People have different calorie needs based on their gender, age, and level of activity. Review the chart below to get an idea, then talk to your doctor.

Path to improved health

The following chart will help you determine your daily calorie needs. Calculate your range based on your gender, age, and level of activity. Keep in mind that these are estimates based on average heights and weights. Also, your calorie needs may vary at times, such as while women are pregnant or breastfeeding.

GenderAge (years)InactiveModerately ActiveActive
Female2-31,0001,000-1,2001,000-1,400
 4-71,2001,400-1,6001,400-1,800
 8-101,4001,600-1,8001,800-2,000
 11-131,6001,800-2,0002,000-2,200
 14-181,8002,0002,400
 19-252,0002,2002,400
 26-501,8002,0002,200
 51+1,6001,8002,000-2,200
Male2-31,0001,000-1,4001,000-1,400
 4-51,2001,4001,600
 6-81,4001,6001,800-2,000
 9-121,600-1,8001,800-2,2002,000-2,400
 13-152,000-2,2002,200-2,6002,600-3,000
 16-182,4002,8003,200
 19-202,6002,8003,000
 21-402,4002,600-2,8002,800-3,000
 41-602,2002,400-2,6002,600-2,800
 61+2,0002,200-2,4002,400-2,600

Source: 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Eighth Edition.

An inactive person gets light day-to-day physical activity (1,000 to 3,000 steps). A moderately active person walks about 1.5 to 3 miles per day (3,000 to 5,000 steps). An active person walks at least 3 miles per day (5,000 steps or more).

Things to consider

As you can see from the chart, children’s calorie needs increase with age. Adults need fewer calories once they reach a certain age. If you are trying to lose weight, you’ll want to consume fewer calories.

Consider using a calorie counter or journal. These tools can help you meet your daily calorie needs. You should keep track of the calories you consume (eat) and expend (exercise). When you’re counting calories, watch what you drink. Drinks with sugar add unneeded calories to your diet. This includes soda, fruit juices, sports and energy drinks, and some alcohol. Instead, drink water, diet soda, unsweetened tea, or low-fat milk.

Also remember that all calories are not equal. If you are trying to lose weight by cutting calories, filling up on carbohydrate calories with no fat or protein is not the best solution. Calories from healthy fats and proteins will keep you fuller longer. These types of foods are more calorie dense, so you will need to pay attention to serving sizes.

Be sure to check nutrition labels to see how many calories are in one serving. Most restaurants offer nutritional information on their menus or online.

Talk with your family doctor or a dietitian if you have questions about your diet. They can help you define calorie counts and healthy eating plans for you and your family.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Do my calorie needs depend on the type of diet I’m on, like vegetarian or low-carb?
  • Do my calorie needs change if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

Resources

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Dietary Guidelines for Americans

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Calculators and Counters

U.S. Department of Agriculture, SuperTracker