How much does a 13 year old boy need to eat?

Quick Answers

A 13 year old boy needs between 1,800 and 2,600 calories per day to support healthy growth and development. The exact amount depends on the boy’s size, activity level and rate of growth. On average, teen boys need 2,000-2,800 calories per day.

A 13 year old boy should aim to eat 3 balanced meals per day, with nutritious snacks in between. Focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy and healthy fats. Limit processed foods, salt, sugar and saturated fats. Stay hydrated by drinking water and low-fat milk.

Eat bigger portions to fuel growth spurts. But don’t overdo it – portion control is still important to avoid excess weight gain. Talk to your pediatrician if you are concerned your teen is eating too much or too little.

Calorie Needs for 13 Year Old Boys

The number of calories a 13 year old boy needs each day depends on several factors:

– Age – Calorie needs peak during the growth spurt in puberty.

– Size – Bigger and taller boys need more calories than smaller boys.

– Activity level – Active boys who play sports or exercise regularly need extra calories.

– Rate of growth – Boys grow fastest right before and during puberty. More calories are needed to fuel growth spurts.

On average, teen boys ages 12-13 need:

– 2,000 to 2,600 calories per day for moderately active boys
– 2,400 to 2,800 calories per day for very active boys

These recommended calorie intakes represent the Estimated Energy Requirement (EER) to maintain a healthy weight. EER accounts for differences in growth, body size and physical activity.

As a general guideline, most 13 year old boys need about:

– 1,800 calories per day (sedentary activity level)
– 2,000 calories per day (moderately active)
– 2,200 to 2,600 calories per day (very active)

However, each child is different. A larger, more active teen or one going through a big growth spurt may need calories at the higher end of the range. A petite, less active boy may need fewer calories.

Talk to a pediatrician or dietitian if you are unsure how many calories your growing teen boy needs. They can help determine the right calorie intake based on your child’s unique needs.

3 Balanced Meals Per Day

In addition to the right number of calories, it’s important for 13 year old boys to eat balanced, nutritious meals.Aim to provide:

– 3 meals per day – breakfast, lunch and dinner
– 2 to 3 snacks spaced between meals

Follow the MyPlate guide for balanced nutrition at each meal and snack:

– Grains – Focus on whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa. Aim for at least half of all grains from whole grain sources.

– Fruits – Provide a variety of fresh, frozen and canned fruits. Fruit juice should be limited to one small glass per day.

– Vegetables – Offer a rainbow of vegetables, including dark leafy greens, red peppers, carrots, broccoli and squash.

– Protein – Choose lean protein foods like chicken, turkey, eggs, beans, tofu, nuts and low-fat dairy. Limit processed meats like bacon and sausage.

– Dairy – Provide 3 cups per day of low-fat milk or yogurt. Cheese, calcium-fortified juice and soy milk also count.

– Oils – Cook with plant-based oils like olive and canola oil instead of butter. Nuts, seeds and avocado provide healthy fats.

Limit sweets, sugary drinks, salty snacks and saturated fats from fatty meats and full-fat dairy products. Stay hydrated by drinking water and skim or low-fat milk with meals.

Fueling Growth Spurts

Growth spurts during puberty increase a teen boy’s appetite and calorie needs. It’s important to provide enough food to fuel this rapid growth.

Signs your child is going through a growth spurt include:

– Increased hunger and appetite – he wants second helpings!

– Growing pains in muscles and joints

– Clumsy movements as the body grows faster than coordination develops

– Needing new clothes and shoes as he grows taller

– Weight gain of up to 37 pounds per year

– Increase in height of up to 4 inches per year

During growth spurts, allow your teen to eat satisfying portions and get second helpings of healthy foods. But don’t let him overdo it. Portion control is still important:

– Grains – aim for 5-8 ounce equivalents per day. One slice of bread or 1⁄2 cup cooked pasta, rice or cereal counts as 1 ounce equivalent.

– Fruits – 1 medium piece of fruit, 1⁄2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit or 4 ounces of 100% juice

– Vegetables – 1 cup raw leafy greens or 1⁄2 cup cut-up raw, cooked, frozen or canned veggies

– Protein – 4-6 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or plant-based proteins like beans, tofu and nuts

– Dairy – 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1 1⁄2 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese

– Oils/fats – aim for just 2-3 teaspoons per day of plant oils or other healthy fats like nuts, seeds and avocado.

Gaining Too Much Weight

It’s normal for teen boys to gain weight as they grow taller and more muscular. But too much weight gain can lead to obesity.

Signs your teen may be gaining too much:

– Weight gain that exceeds expected growth patterns

– BMI percentile increasing above the 85th percentile

– Weight gain concentrated around the stomach area

– Lack of energy and motivation

– Difficulty keeping up during sports/exercise

– Teasing or bullying about weight from peers

– Feeling self-conscious about body changes

If you are concerned about too much weight gain, take these steps:

– See a pediatrician to rule out any medical issues

– Get a referral to meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist

– Limit junk foods and sugary drinks

– Encourage physical activity, sports and exercise daily

– Be a role model for healthy eating and self-acceptance

– Avoid “fat shaming” – focus on health, not just weight

– Seek counseling if excess weight gain leads to depression or isolation

With a team approach, treatment for excess weight gain focuses on the whole child – medical, nutritional, emotional and psychosocial wellbeing.

Signs of Not Eating Enough

While most teen boys tend to over-eat, some undereat due to poor appetite, busy schedules or an eating disorder like anorexia.

Signs your 13 year old may not be eating enough:

– Not growing or gaining any weight from year to year

– BMI percentile dropping below the 5th percentile

– Fatigue, lethargy, weakness

– Dizziness or fainting

– Difficulty concentrating at school

– Hair loss or brittle nails

– Feeling cold frequently

– Delayed puberty or menstruation stopping in girls

If you notice any of these warning signs, take action right away:

– See a doctor to identify any underlying medical issue

– Consult a dietitian to improve nutrition

– Look for causes like bullying, depression or eating disorders

– Offer smaller, more frequent meals and nutritious snacks

– Don’t force food – this can worsen disordered eating

– Model healthy attitudes about food and body image

With professional treatment, counseling and support, teens can overcome undereating habits and behaviors. The goal is restoring health, not just gaining weight.

Special Diets for Athletics

Teen athletes have higher calorie needs than less active peers. But intense training can sometimes lead to unhealthy diets.

Signs of poor nutrition in athletes:

– Restricting calories or entire food groups to stay lean

– Over-relying on supplements or protein shakes

– Binge eating high fat foods after intense workouts

– Focusing too much on weight, body image and comparing to others

– Not getting a period or irregular periods in female athletes

Coaches and trainers should avoid weighing athletes or obsessing over weight. Instead, focus on performance measures tailored to the sport like speed, strength and endurance.

A sports dietitian can help design an eating plan to optimize athletic performance and growth. Key strategies include:

– Consuming enough calories to fuel activity and growth

– Eating protein to build lean muscle mass

– Refueling with carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores

– Staying hydrated with water and sports drinks during exercise

– Focusing on whole foods over supplements or highly processed sports bars/drinks

With guidance from the team, coaches, parents and healthcare providers, young athletes can achieve their performance goals in a healthy, positive way.

Common Concerns

Many parents have questions and concerns when it comes to feeding their growing teen boys. Here are some of the most common:

Is my son eating too much unhealthy food and junk food?
– Set limits on sweets and junk food. But don’t completely restrict or demonize these “sometimes” foods. Moderation and balance is key.

How can I get my picky eater to eat more fruits and vegetables?
– Involve your child in meal planning and cooking. Offer new foods alongside old favorites. Lead by example and eat them yourself. Offer smoothies and fresh juices.

My teen prefers to skip breakfast. What should I do?
– Explain why breakfast is critical for energy, focus and managing hunger later in the day. Offer quick, grab-and-go options he can eat on the way to school.

Are protein shakes and supplements safe for teen athletes?
– Whole foods should come first. But teen athletes may benefit from a basic protein powder to help meet higher needs. Consult a sports dietitian.

Can teenagers diet safely?
– Strict dieting is risky at this age. Focus on building healthy habits, not losing weight. If concerned about weight, see a pediatrician and registered dietitian.

My teen spends half his allowance on vending machine snacks at school. Help!
– Ask the school to provide healthier snacks and drinks in vending machines. Send him to school with homemade trail mix or other healthier snacks.

Setting Your Teen Up for Success

Here are some tips to ensure your growing 13 year old boy stays well-nourished:

– Offer him a say in meal planning and grocery shopping. Teens are more likely to eat foods they help pick out.

– Involve him in food prep – chopping veggies, stirring sauces, grilling meats. It builds lifelong kitchen skills.

– Focus on getting in nutrients vs. narrow weight goals. Praise efforts to eat well and be active vs. looks or pounds on a scale.

– Be a role model for balance. Let him see you eating the same healthy foods you want him to eat.

– Keep the kitchen stocked with grab-and-go items like Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts, whole grain cereal and hummus with veggies.

– Get creative to make healthy eating fun – have smoothie taste tests, make veggie art or kabobs, have themed potluck family meals.

– Eat together as a family as often as possible without TV or phones to build healthy habits through modeling.

– Involve a dietitian early to establish optimal eating habits. Registered dietitians have special training in nutrition for kids and teens.

With patience and support from loved ones, a 13 year old boy can develop a healthy relationship with food to carry forward through his teen years and beyond.


Feeding a growing 13 year old boy adequately takes some finesse. While their appetite and calorie needs peak, portion control and nutritional quality remain vital. Focus on a balanced diet rich in whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and dairy. Be prepared to provide larger portions during growth spurts. But also watch for signs of unhealthy weight gain or malnutrition. With open communication, modeling of healthy eating habits, and the guidance of healthcare professionals, parents can help their teen boys stay well-nourished for all the changes adolescence brings!

Leave a Comment