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.

A report from 2011 estimated that the average energy requirements for children aged 13-18 years old a day is:

Age (years)       Boys                            Girls
13                    10,100kJ /2414kcal        9,300kJ /2223kcal
14                    11,000kJ /2629kcal        9,800kJ /2342kcal
15                    11,800kJ /2820kcal       10,000kJ /2390kcal
16                    12,400kJ /2964kcal       10,100kJ /2414kcal
17                    12,900kJ /3083kcal       10,300kJ /2462kcal
18                    13,200kJ /3155kcal       10,300kJ /2462kcal

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. Read 10 ways to get fit

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

Healthy balanced diet

A healthy balanced diet for teenagers should include:

  • at least five 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, and sugary fizzy drinks. These foods 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:


Media last reviewed: 25/02/2015

Next review due: 25/02/2017

Page last reviewed: 16/06/2015

Next review due: 15/06/2017