How Many Calories Should a Teenager Eat a Day? Easy Guide

Written by Noleen Arendse
How many calories should a teenager eat a day

On average, a teenager should eat between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day. This might seem like a lot but these years are characterized by rapid physical, emotional and cognitive growth. The average teenager uses plenty of energy during the day, so it’s important to ensure they get all the protein and healthy vegetables they need to help them thrive during this season.

So, exactly how many calories should a teenager eat? Let’s dig in. 

How many calories should a teenager eat a day?

What a growing teen should eat to give them enough calories to function depends on many factors such as their age, current diet, activity levels, and other health issues. 

How many calories should teenage boys consume each day?

According to health experts such as doctors, and dietitians, the average teenage boy from age 13 to 18 should consume about 2,400 up to 3,155 calories daily. This may sound like overeating, but a growing boy’s body focuses on growing in height and gaining muscle mass.

How many calories should a teenage girl consume each day?

On the other hand, health experts also advise that the average teenage girl should consume about 2,200 calories daily. Of course, a teen girl should consume more calories depending on her activity level. 

Factors affecting the calorie needs of a teenager — age

Your teen’s age is a critical factor in how many calories are needed each day. After all, a teenager’s mind and body change rapidly throughout puberty and adolescence. Ensuring your teen gets all the caloric intake needed to function through school hours and extracurricular activities means taking an honest look at their meals. It is the parent’s job to provide a well-balanced diet free of junk food for their children during these critical years of development. 

Let’s look at the various caloric needs of teens based on age.

How many calories should a 12- to 14-year-old eat?

As mentioned, health experts believe teen girls aged 12 to 14 should eat around 2,200 calories while teen boys in that same age group need approximately 2,400 calories.

This level of caloric intake allows for mind and body development during this crucial developmental stage. Many teens in this age group are focused on athletics or extracurricular activities that may require healthier calories and foods. Not to mention, their academic demands also require high energy levels to maintain concentration and focus. 

How many calories should a 15- to 16-year-old eat?

As teens age, their caloric needs will vary based on their lifestyle choices. A moderately active teen girl between 15-16 years old should eat around 2,000 calories daily. Moderately active teen boys between 15-16 years old, however, may need to consume 2,600 to 2,800 calories daily.

How many calories should a 17- to 19-year-old eat?

Caloric intake at this period in a teen’s life tends to lessen as they reach adulthood. As a result, teen girls at this age may consume anywhere from 1,800 to 2,400 calories depending on their activity levels. As for males, caloric intake needs may vary from 2,000 to 3,000 calories.

Factors affecting calorie needs: activity levels

A teenager’s activity level will also inform their caloric intake. A sedentary teenager will need fewer calories compared to a teenager playing sports or one involved in the marching band, for example. Parents may see the need to increase their child’s caloric intake through lean proteins or more healthy dietary choices.

Sedentary teenagers

A sedentary teenager does not necessarily mean they are lazy or unmotivated. Many teens may have trouble exercising due to underlying medical issues. Still, a sedentary teen’s dietary needs in calories are much less than more active teens. 

While health experts’ opinions vary on caloric intake for sedentary teens, most agree that an average caloric intake of 2,000 calories across all teen ages is acceptable.

Active teens

An active teen is a teen who takes more control of their diet and exercises for 30 – 60 minutes a day. These teens are not necessarily running track or playing a team sport but will require more calories because they are active. As a result, depending on gender, an active teen may need anywhere from 2,000 to 2,800 calories a day.

Teenage athletes

Teen athletes are the ones that may eat you out of your house and home. Staying in athletic shape means they will need to focus on healthy eating habits and an intense exercise routine. As a result, calories are necessary for the courts, pitches, fields, and the classroom. 

Gender plays a role as well. Depending on your teen, they may need anywhere from 2,400 to 3,200 calories daily to stay energized.

Healthy eating for teens: 5 stress-free tips

With teens bombarded with marketing for junk food, it’s no wonder many young people struggle to eat a healthy diet and maintain their weight. On the other hand, many teens also face pressure to lose weight and can also develop unhealthy eating habits in terms of under-eating. 

Eating the healthiest food does not have to incur stress. Following these five tips will allow a teen to focus on what matters with foods versus becoming distracted by nutritional information overload.

Which foods should be included in a healthy diet for teens?

Foods rich in fiber and protein are fantastic energy boosters for teens and are needed during these high growth phases. However, it is all about a well-balanced diet that includes good wholesome food such as fruits, vegetables, fats, carbs, proteins, and dairy. (Keep in mind that some teens may have intolerances to foods such as dairy or gluten in which case it’s best to avoid them.)

Stay away from the sweets, too! That includes sugary drinks like sodas and fruit drinks masquerading as healthy juices.

Keep food portions under control

It can be very easy to eat more than you need. Helping teens with portion control will go a long way to preventing obesity and the associated health conditions. 

Smaller plates may make smaller portions seem larger. More proteins, high-fiber foods, and fats will also make teens feel fuller for longer periods of the day.

Eat regularly — don’t skip meals

Starving yourself is not an effective eating habit. With many teens battling negative mindsets and a culture obsessed with vanity — skipping meals is not valid or acceptable medical advice. A meal is an opportunity to re-energize a growing body and mind. Skipping a meal deprives the body of the ability to run its crucial processes. 

Exercise daily

Daily exercise will not only benefit a teen physically but can also emotionally. The teenage years are usually associated with hormonal changes and mood swings. A daily dose of exercise-induced endorphins will do wonders for your teen’s mental health and happiness. 

Many health experts recommend the average teen dedicates 60 minutes of their day to moderate exercise. This could be as simple as walking and doing bodyweight exercises, to joining a local gym or sports club. The key is to encourage exercise as a habit and tool to be the best you can be.

Get enough sleep

Teens love to sleep in, but getting enough sleep, in general, is crucial to maintaining a healthy body and mind. Surprisingly, the average teen needs at least 9 – 9.5 hours of sleep each night. The reason for this is that they are not only going through a physical growth spurt but also cognitive maturation. The extra sleep helps support their physical growth and their developing brains. Encourage your teen to make sleep a priority and help them establish a regular sleep routine.


Teens need plenty of calories and a well-balanced diet to fuel them through this season of physical growth and cognitive maturation. 

  • How many calories should a teenager eat a day? This will vary but, on average, between 2,000 and 3,00 calories daily.
  • A well-balanced diet is crucial to give their bodies all the building blocks needed to develop and grow.
  • Encourage your teen to take responsibility for portion control, daily exercise, and a good sleep routine. 
  • Teaching healthy habits will go a long way to preventing obesity and associated health conditions later on in life.