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Kids Need Calories

Unlike adults, children’s body’s are still growing and developing, and this requires energy. However, young children still have very small bodies and will require less calories than adults. As they enter and move through puberty caloric intake increases and most teenagers will need more calories than adults, particularly as most teenagers will be relatively active. As a general guide, children should be receiving calories primarily from carbohydrates, which should comprise 45-65% of daily caloric intake. Fats should comprise about 25-35% of daily caloric intake and the remaining 10-20% should come from protein.

Toddlers aged between 2 and 3 will need around 1200 calories, but intake will vary depending on the child’s age, size, activity levels and growth rate. Children will go through growth spurts and during these times will require more calories and will generally show a larger than normal appetite. A caloric intake of anything from 1000-1400 calories can be expected and so long as the child is thriving and not carrying excess weight they should be allowed to eat according to their appetite. Large amounts of fibre should be avoided in children this age, as it fills them up and they may not eat enough to ensure they are getting the full range and quantity of different nutrients. 14-15g a day is enough fibre for a child of 2-3 years.

Between the ages of 4 and 8 children will need more calories, averaging about 1600 for girls and 1750 for boys. Again this can very, anywhere from 1200-2000 depending on growth rate, activity level and body size. Fibre intake should increase to up to 18-20g a day and this is the best way to satisfy a child with a large appetite, rather than giving them simple sugar sweets and nutritionally poor snack foods. By this age, ‘puppy fat’ from toddlerhood should have been lost, and children should not be overly chubby. Avoid forcing children to clean their plates and so long as the child is of healthy weight and shows no sign of nutrient deficiency, let their appetite guide their food intake. The rate of growth in children after the age of 2 and up until they enter puberty is more slow and stable than it is in infancy and teenage years, so a decrease in appetite is common. The increase in calories is generally related to the increased mobility of children in these age groups and their increased body size compared to that in infancy.

Between the ages of 9 and 13 many children, particularly girls will enter puberty. Overweight and obese children tend to enter puberty earlier than healthy weight and underweight girls. Caloric intake will very depending on sexual development and growth rate, body size and activity levels. Boy will need anything from 1800 to 2600 calories daily while girls will need slightly less at around 1600-2200 calories. Dairy foods should be skimmed and fibre intake should increase slightly for girls, to 22-24g a day, and more so for boys who should now be getting 24-26g daily. Growth rate picks up dramatically during puberty.

Through the teenage years puberty will be in full swing and energy demands to fuel the variety of processes occurring in the body will increase. Body size will vary quite markedly in this age group (height and weight, muscle mass etc) and does affect calorie requirements. Activity levels will also vary according to personal preferences. For boys 2700-2800 calories a day is average, and anything from 2200 to 3200 can be required. Girls still need slightly less calories, between 1800-2400 per day. This is more than healthy adults require. Fibre intake for girls remains at 26g while boys will need to further increase their intake to around 28g.

Article by Staff of ACS Distance Education

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