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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 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:

Table showing the recommended calorie intake for boys and girls aged 13 to 18
Age Boys Girls
13 10,100kJ or 2,414kcal 9,300kJ or 2,223kcal
14 11,000kJ or 2,629kcal 9,800kJ or 2,342kcal
15 11,800kJ or 2,820kcal 10,000kJ or 2,390kcal
16 12,400kJ or 2,964kcal 10,100kJ or 2,414kcal
17 12,900kJ or 3,083kcal 10,300kJ or 2,462kcal
18 13,200kJ or 3,155kcal 10,300kJ or 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.


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 or alternatives – choose low-fat options where you can
  • some foods that are good sources of protein – such as meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils

Teenagers should not 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 healthier takeaways.

Read the answers to more questions about food and diet.

Further information

Page last reviewed: 3 August 2021
Next review due: 3 August 2024