The Perfect Amount of Calories for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

by Julie Christensen

    Finding the perfect amount of calories for each meal is tricky, and likely to result in discouragement. Instead, focus on providing healthy meals throughout the day, with the majority of calories served at breakfast and lunch. Schedule a morning and afternoon snack for children, as well. Children have small stomachs and can rarely meet their nutritional needs through three meals each day. Healthy snacks fill in the gaps.

    Caloric Intake

    The perfect amount of calories varies depending on an individual's sex, age and activity level. In general, though, young children need between 1,000 and 1,400 calories each day. Teens and young adults need 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day and adults need 1,800 to 2,800 calories daily. Talk with your doctor to determine the daily caloric intake you need for optimal health.

    Meal Planning

    Plan to have your children eat at least two-thirds of their daily caloric intake before 4 p.m. for weight loss and maximum health benefits. Start with a filling breakfast to fuel their metabolism and prepare a healthy mid-morning snack. Serve a hearty lunch, followed by an afternoon snack and a light dinner with plenty of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid snacking after dinner.

    Considerations

    What your children eat is as important as when they eat it. Plan a balanced diet of vegetables, whole grains, fruit and moderate amounts of meat and dairy products. Limit sweets and fatty processed foods as occasional treats and encourage your children to engage in exercise daily. Stock your home with convenient, healthful foods, such as whole-grain pasta, frozen vegetables and fruits, canned beans, nuts and lean meats.

    Nutritional Requirements of Children

    Do not attempt to limit a child's caloric intake, but focus instead on providing nutrient-dense foods. Many children do not get enough calcium for their growing bones. Serve at least two to three cups of milk to children daily, or provide equivalent dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese. Insist that children eat a good breakfast, even if it's just a fruit smoothie with some yogurt for protein and calcium.

    About the Author

    Julie Christensen's first experience with food was in a friend's family restaurant as a child. She worked as a cook in a small diner through college and has dabbled in catering for more than 20 years. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: 200 Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."

    Photo Credits

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