How Many Daily Calories Does a 16-Year-Old Need?

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Gender and activity levels determine the ideal daily caloric intake for 16-year-olds.
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Teens are notorious for eating on the fly, especially when they're busy. It's important to determine the ideal daily calorie intake for teenage males, one that fits their lifestyle and provides the best nutritional profile within those calorie guidelines.

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Gender and activity levels determine the ideal daily caloric intake for 16-year-olds. Female teens need up to 2,400 calories daily, while male teens can require up to 3,200 calories.

Daily Calorie Intake for Teenage Males

The necessary calories for a 16-year-old boy will depend largely on his activity level. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the three lifestyle groups within this category are "inactive," "moderately active," and "active."

Teens may fluctuate when it comes to how much exercise they get. In general, those who are mostly sedentary should take in the fewest calories, while student athletes should eat more. Those who get some exercise during the week but don't work out daily fall somewhere in between.

The daily energy intake for 16-year-old teen girls ranges from 1,800 calories for the inactive to 2,000 for those who are moderately active and up to 2,400 for those with an active lifestyle, according to HHS guidelines. These figures are for teens who are maintaining their current weight, rather than for those trying to gain or lose some pounds.

The recommended daily caloric intake for teenage males is higher. Those with a sedentary lifestyle should take in about 2,400 calories per day. If you're moderately active, aim for about 2,800 calories daily. Teens who very active need around 3,200 calories a day, advises the HHS.

Read more: Extreme Fatigue in Teenagers

Making Weight Changes

Up to 20 percent of kids and teens are facing obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control. On the other end of the spectrum, both males and females may have some form of an eating disorder, which usually starts in adolescence. To avoid these risks, it's important to have a good understanding of healthy caloric intake targets.

If a 16-year-old would be healthier at a lower or higher weight, it's recommended to make those weight changes gradually. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), 1 to 2 pounds of gain or loss per week is the best goal to set.

For weight loss, subtracting about 250 calories a day from a teen's diet while urging him to burn 250 calories a day through exercise will result in a net difference of 500 calories a day, or 3,500 calories a week. That's about the right amount required to lose 1 pound.

To gain weight, adding up to 500 calories a day will result in a gain of one pound a week. If that seems like too big a change at first, aim for gaining only half of a pound each week. Add some healthy snacks and side dishes that total roughly 250 daily calories.

Read more: Weight-Training Exercises for 15-Year-Olds

Not All Calories Are Equal

Whether it's for loss, gain or maintenance, a dietary approach for 16-year-old teens should be one that avoids "empty" calories. Instead, select foods that provide the nutrients that teenagers need each day. Try to plan meals that use healthy sources of proteins, carbs and fats and include nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. A balanced diet will make it easier to meet the daily calorie intake for teenage males and prevent nutrient deficiencies.

To meet those goals, the Cleveland Clinic suggests breakfast options like peanut butter, raisins and chopped apples rolled up in a wheat tortilla, or oatmeal with nuts, berries and fat-free yogurt. Also, consider a breakfast sandwich made with a whole-wheat English muffin, a scrambled egg and some low-fat cheese with fruit on the side.

Lunch and dinner options that offer healthy protein include those centered on peanut butter, turkey, fish or low-fat cheese, as recommended by the Cleveland Clinic. Carbohydrates, such as wheat bread, brown rice and whole-grain pasta, are more nutrient-dense than those from white flour or white rice. Healthy fats can come from peanut butter, nuts, sunflower seeds, avocados, olive oil, peanut oil and canola oil.

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