How many calories do teenagers need?

Page contents

  1. Diet
  2. Further information

Teenagers need lots of energy and nutrients because they're still growing. The amount of energy that food and drink contains is measured in kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal), commonly just referred to as calories.

A report from 2011 estimated the average energy requirements for children aged 13 to 18 to be:

Age Boys Girls
13 10,100kJ / 2,414kcal 9,300kJ / 2,223kcal
14 11,000kJ / 2,629kcal 9,800kJ / 2,342kcal
15 11,800kJ / 2,820kcal 10,000kJ / 2,390kcal
16 12,400kJ / 2,964kcal 10,100kJ / 2,414kcal
17 12,900kJ / 3,083kcal 10,300kJ / 2,462kcal
18 13,200kJ / 3,155kcal 10,300kJ / 2,462kcal

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.  

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

Diet

healthy, balanced diet for teenagers should include:

  • at least 5 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 – or sugary fizzy drinks. These 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

Page last reviewed: 01/06/2018
Next review due: 01/06/2021