Calculating children calorie needs are very easy. It is also the most popular question I am asked as a dietitian. Although the answer is different for children depending on condition, for most children calorie needs are calculated using age and kilograms. The chart below lists the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance), for children. To calculate your child’s needs, simply multiply the number of calories per kilogram by her weight in kilograms.
RDA Calorie Needs for Children
0-6 months 108 kcal/kg
6-12 months 98 kcal/kg
1-3 years 102 kcal/kg
4-6 years 90 kcal/kg
7-10 years 70 kcal/kg
11-14 years (male) 55 kcal/kg
11-14 years (female) 47 kcal/kg
15-18 years (male) 45 kcal/kg
15-18 years (female) 40 kcal/kg
Confused? Here's an example:
Johnny is 2 years old and weighs 25 pounds. To convert pounds to kilograms we divide by 2.2 because there are 2.2 kilograms in 1 pound.
25/2.2 = 11.36 kilograms
Now if we look at the chart above we see children ages 1 to 3 years old need 102 calories per kilogram, so we multiply kilograms by 102.
11.36x102= ~1159 calories.
This means that Johnny needs 1159 calories per day.
Now of course there are exceptions to this rule. If Johnny is underweight and needs to catch up, if he has heart issues, metabolic issues, muscle disorders, or a host of other disorders and diseases, he may need a different amount of calories and there are different formulas for each. Bottom line? Use this formula as a guideline and ask your doctor or pediatric dietitian for a more accurate number regarding children calorie needs and general nutrition for kids.
After I calculate how much a child needs, the cargiver often gets completely overwhelmed and panicked at the thought of having to give their child this much food. Although this is the ultimate goal, it’s obviously not realistic to go from giving Johnny 500 calories per day to 1159. If he would eat that much, chances are he wouldn’t be coming to me and you wouldn’t be on this site to begin with.
The goal is small, realistic changes each week, so that eventually Johnny will be eating around 1159 calories per day. This may take time, and trial and error, but eventually we will find the foods he will accept, and work on volume and other issues to get him to accept enough.
A good starting point is to try different high calorie foods to see which ones your child likes. Often by switching some lower calorie foods with higher calorie ones much progress can be made without much effort.
Of course, each child is different, and some ideas that work beautifully with one child will be a disaster for another. To discuss personal recommendations, make an appointment with us.