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How Much Should I Feed My Child?

Although many of these recipes were created to appeal to both adults and children, depending on their age and activity level, children may need to eat smaller servings of food than do adults.  In general, children need to consume a sufficient number of calories and nutrients to promote growth; additional calories may contribute to excess weight gain.  

Here are some guidelines on how much to serve children at different ages.  For more information on tips for feeding children, see the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid Web site (www.MyPyramid.gov).

Estimated Calorie Requirements

In Kilocalories for each gender and age group at three levels of physical activitya

Activity Level b,c,d
Gender Age (years) Sedentaryb Moderately Activec Actived
Child 2–3 1,000 1,000–1,400e 1,000–1,400e
Female 4–8 1,200 1,400–1,600 1,400–1,800
9–13 1,600 1,600–2,000 1,800–2,200
14–18 1,800 2,000 2,400
19–30 2,000 2,000–2,200 2,400
31–50 1,800 2,000 2,200
51+ 1,600 1,800 2,000–2,200
Male 4–8 1,400 1,400–1,600 1,600–2,000
9–13 1,800 1,800–2,200 2,000–2,600
14–18 2,200 2,400–2,800 2,800–3,200
19–30 2,400 2,600–2,800 3,000
31–50 2,200 2,400–2,600 2,800–3,000
51+ 2,000 2,200–2,400 2,400–2,800
Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005
  1. These levels are based on Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) from the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes macronutrients report, 2002, calculated by gender, age, and activity level for reference-sized individuals. "Reference size," as determined by IOM, is based on median height and weight for ages up to 18 years of age and median height and weight for that height to give a BMI of 21.5 for adult females and 22.5 for adult males.
  2. Sedentary means a lifestyle that includes only the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.
  3. Moderately active means a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.
  4. Active means a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.
  5. The calorie ranges shown are to accommodate needs of different ages within the group. For children and adolescents, more calories are needed at older ages. For adults, fewer calories are needed at older ages.

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