There are several factors that affect how many calories an individual should consume on a daily basis, including age, weight, height and activity level. Based on the variables, it might be difficult for a mom to plan a meal that fits everyone’s needs. One way to overcome meal-planning issues is to understand the basic calorie need for certain ages and activity levels.
Promote Activity for Younger Kids
When a mom stresses out over calories, kids sometimes pick up on the issue. This has the potential to lead to an eating disorder later in life as the child becomes more aware of her physical appearance. With the activity level younger children tend to exhibit, the number of calories they get shouldn’t be your main concern. Instead, provide a well-balanced diet. If you want a number of calories to aim for, Kids Health recommends a range of 1,600 to 2,500 for school-age kids who haven’t reached puberty. In most cases, a child’s normal appetite will help him to get the right amount of calories he needs.
Boost Older Kids Through Puberty
With the onset of puberty, most kids will need to increase their calorie content to a range of 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day. As a rule of thumb, teenage boys should consume more calories than teenage girls, but the exact number will also depend on the level of activity for each person. Kids involved in sports will need to be at the higher end of the range, because their bodies will burn more calories during exercise than kids who aren’t as active.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
You don’t have to burn every calorie you consume by exercising to maintain your weight; your body burns calories just to function. Weight gain occurs when you eat more calories than you need for those basic functions. Calorie calculators can help you get an idea of how many daily calories you need for your body based on a variety of factors you enter into the calculator. Regardless of the factors, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 1,200 calories a day for females and 1,800 a day for men. Going below the minimum can result in serious health risks.
Feed Your Body for Exercise
Physical activity can burn between 20 percent and 50 percent of calories a day, depending on your level of activity. This means you need to eat more than the basic amount you need to maintain your weight at a non-active level. For example, a 5-foot-4-inch tall female weighing 135 lb. at the age of 30 who rarely exercises would need approximately 1,900 calories to maintain her current weight. If she were to exercise an hour a day, she could consume 2,373 calories without gaining weight. Extreme athletes need even more calories—the ACSM estimated a 173-lb. man would burn more than 9,000 calories competing in the Hawaii Iron Man.
Cut Calories to Lose Weight
Moms who need to lose weight or who want to help a family member lose weight should keep in mind that it takes 500 calories less per day every day to lose 1 lb. of fat per week. Adding moderate exercise can also help you lose weight provided you don’t increase your calorie content past what you need to maintain the weight you would like to reach.