Obesity in kids has reached epidemic levels. Experts estimate that 15% of kids are overweight and another 15% are at risk of becoming overweight. And two thirds of these overweight kids will become overweight adults.
Although a lack of physical activity and poor eating habits are a big part of this rise in childhood obesity, another big problem is that many children are simply getting too many calories, which are then turned into extra fat.
Although you usually shouldn't have to count calories each and every day, it can be helpful to know where the calories your child is getting are coming from. This is especially important if your child is already overweight.
Kids and Calories
In learning about calories in food, you are really just trying to make better choices between high calorie foods and healthier alternatives. Still, it can help to understand how many calories your child actually needs each day.
In general, kids who are:
- 1-3 years old need about 1300 calories each day
- 4-6 years old need about 1800 calories each day
- 7-10 years old need about 2000 calories each day
This Calorie Calculator can help you figure out how many calories your child needs each day, including for teens, and based on their activity level.
Calories to Avoid
Although all calories count, they do not all necessarily count equally.
For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that most children get about:
- 10 to 12 percent of their calories from protein
- 50 to 60 percent of their calories from carbohydrates
- 30 percent of their calories from fat, with a preference for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
Although we all need calories from protein (4 calories/gram), carbohydrates (4 calories/gram), and even fats (9 calories/gram), you should limit the amount of calories your child gets from:
- saturated fats to less than 10% of total calories (about 14g if your child is on a 1300 calorie diet)
- trans fats to less than 1% of total calories
- solid fats (butter, lard, shortening, etc.) and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
- added sugars (soft drinks, fruit drinks, candy, etc.), which you can usually identify on the ingredients list - sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, molasses, syrup, lactose, fruit juice concentrates, brown sugar, etc.
- low fat foods that are high calorie because of added sugar
Do all of these rules seem a little overwhelming?