How Many Calories Should My Child Eat? Nutrition Guide for Kids

hild eating vegetables

As a parent, you want to provide your children with the best nutrition. A healthy diet full of whole grains, lean protein, fresh fruits, and vegetables is essential for growing bodies. When you feed your family, you probably try to provide them with balanced meals, healthy snacks, and plenty of water. But, it may be difficult to gauge the portion sizes and calories that your child should be eating, especially since they grow so quickly. Here is a guide on how many calories your children should be eating.

Nutrition Chart for Kids (per day)

Child’s Age


Elementary School

Middle & High School


1,000 to 1,400 calories

1,400 to 2,000 calories

1,600 to 3,000 calories


1 cup

2 cups

3 cups


1 cup

1 ½ cups

2 cups


3 oz

5 oz

6 oz


2 oz

5 oz

5-6 oz


2 cups

2-3 cups

3 cups

Sweets & Fats

30-35% of calories from fat/limit sweets

25-35% of calories from fat/limit sweets

25-35% of calories from fat/limit sweets

girl eating fruit

What if my Child is Underweight or Overweight?

To see if your child is at a healthy weight, you can look up your child’s weight on a children’s growth chart or use a calorie calculator. If your child needs to gain weight, you will want to increase her caloric intake. Adding healthy fats to her meals like peanut butter, nuts, or avocados can help her to pick up weight. You may want to eat smaller meals more frequently and offer more healthy snacks to your child. It is also a good idea to skip water or soda pops before meals to make sure she doesn’t fill up on liquids and not eat at mealtime. If she is a teen or older child, being underweight could be related to peer pressure or be the beginning of an eating disorder. If you suspect your child has an eating disorder, you should consult your doctor for help.

If your child is overweight, the obvious solution is reducing calories and exercising. However, kids may need guidance on portion size and healthy eating habits, as well as encouragement to exercise. Getting your child to fill up on healthier snacks will keep her from snacking on fatty foods and sugars. You may want to keep convenient foods, like sugary cereals, or microwaveable foods out of the house as much as possible. Encourage your child to drink more water and exercise by having fun with activities like sports, dancing, playing games, or taking walks together.

little boy eating lunch

Tips for Getting Your Children to Eat Healthily

  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables available. Don’t just keep them available though. Kids won’t always reach for the fruits or veggies even though they like them. Try cutting them into fun shapes and snacking with them.

  • Make a meal plan. Try to plan meals that your kids will like and are healthy too. Having a plan will keep you from ordering fast food or other unhealthy options.

  • Keep colas and sugary drinks out of the house. Encourage your children to drink water as much as possible. Most of the colas are loaded in sugar and empty calories. Save colas for special occasions.

  • Eat dinner at the table. Eating dinner as a family, at a regular time, will keep your children from over-snacking and will allow you to see how much and what they are eating. To avoid overeating, freeze or store the leftovers as soon as your done eating so that your child won’t be tempted to go for seconds.

  • Don’t criticize your child. It takes time for kids to learn how to eat healthily, and it is perfectly normal for kids to pick up or lose weight during growth periods. Help her with her choices but try not to nag or criticize too much. Children are very sensitive about their bodies. Nagging or insulting your child will probably not help them to eat better, but instead, it is likely to cause self-esteem issues.