Calories

All you need to know about calories for the whole family

Calories

Calories are a measure of the amount of "energy" in food and drinks. Having a rough idea of how many calories your child has each day, and balancing that with the amount of physical activity they do, will help them reach and stay at a healthy weight.

Calories and kids

Remember, we don't all need to eat the same amount of calories – children need less than adults. So keep an eye on portion sizes and offer "me-sized meals" for kids. For example, a five-year-old needs less than a 10-year-old, and a 10-year-old needs less than a grown-up.

How many calories for adults?

The rule of thumb for calories is simple! Just eat:

  • around 400 kilocalories (kcal) for breakfast (including any drinks and accompaniments)
  • 600kcal for lunch (including any drinks and accompaniments)
  • 600kcal for your evening meal (including any drinks and accompaniments)

So remember: 400-600-600

That leaves you with just enough left over to enjoy a few healthy drinks and snacks throughout the day.

Women should aim to eat no more than 2,000kcal each day, men 2,500kcal. Using calories as a guide is the easiest way to make healthier food choices and to make sure we're not eating too much.

Too much saturated fat and too much sugar can mean we eat too many calories. Try comparing food labels, or use the Be Food Smart app to choose lower-fat, lower-sugar and lower-salt options.

Keep on top of calories with these tips!

Have healthy meal portions

Explain to your child how to get the balance of their diet right using The Eatwell Guide – it shows how much (the proportion) of what we eat overall should come from each food group. Always aim for your 5 A Day.

Make healthy packed lunches

Get hints and tips on what your child's lunchbox should contain, as well as lots of easy-to-prepare ideas your children will love. See our easy lunchbox ideas.

Understand calories

Find out more about calories and how to check the calorie content of the food and drink you buy on NHS Choices.

'Me-sized bowls'

Plates and bowls are often bigger these days. Often the bigger the serving, the more calories we eat. Try getting child-sized plates and bowls for the kids – it'll make it easier to tell if they're getting the right amount for their "Me-Sized Meals".

Be calorie smart

Counting calories doesn't have to mean you're on a diet! They're a really handy way of helping you choose balanced meals each day and not eating more than your body needs. Use the online calorie checker.

Calorie Smart Recipes

Change4Life has loads of calorie smart recipes to feed the family. You can find them online and on the Smart recipes app – simply click on the 'nutritional information' to find out how many calories are in each serving.