Are you feeding your kids too much?

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Are you feeding your kids too much?

Australian children and teens are not an overly healthy bunch. Data suggests that at least 1 in 4 has significant weight issues and they are eating far too much, and too much junk food. In fact, up to 30% of the calories our toddlers eat each day are coming from ‘extra’ or ‘junk’ foods, while up to 40% of a teens calories can be attributed to discretionary ‘extra’ foods.

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At the root of this issue is habitual overfeeding – consuming too many calories on a daily basis that leads to weight issues and overeating over time. So how much food do toddlers, school aged children and teenagers really need? Probably nowhere near as much as you think. 

Toddlers – 1-3 years 

Unlike newborns and infants in their first 12 months of life, toddlers energy requirements reduce significantly and while toddlers can be a busy bunch, their lack of interest in food at this time confirms this. Indeed it may appear that they can literally survive on air, and with energy requirements of just 800-1000 calories on average each day, there is no need to worry about adding in extra milk, yoghurt or junk food simply to make sure they have had enough.


1 boiled egg + 1 slice of toast = 160cal

Small cup of milk (150ml) = 100cal


1 slice bread + avocado = 140cal

100g yoghurt + fruit = 160cal


50g mince + ½ cup pasta = 160cal

Cut up salad = 40cal


20g cheese = 70cal

1 fruit = 80cal

Total = 910cal

Primary School Children – 4-7 years


Primary school aged children can have widely differing energy demands depending on gender, daily activity levels and timing of growth. In general they will eat less than a small female but across a number of different times during the day. Often they will eat very little at school before overeating later in the day and including regular high calories treats such as sugared drinks, muffins, banana bread and confectionery can very quickly increase their overall calorie intake. 


Smoothie with milk and banana = 250cal

At School

Carrot sticks = 20cal

1 fruit = 80cal

Popcorn = 60cal

Chicken Wrap = 200cal

After School

Homemade banana bread = 150cal

Glass of milk = 100cal


70g chicken + 1 potato + peas = 200cal


½ cup yoghurt + berries = 120cal

Total = 1180cal

Pre-Teens – 8-12 years


The energy requirements of this age of older children will largely depend on activity levels. Extremely active children may require 500 or 600 more calories than a younger inactive child. An indicator of overfeeding at this age may be a child who always claims to be hungry, who can eat far more than a small female and who is clearly carrying excessive weight around the abdominal area. 


Ham and cheese toasted sandwich = 300cal

At School

Cut up salad = 60cal

1 fruit = 80cal

Popcorn = 60cal

Cheese and crackers = 150cal

Tuna and avocado bread roll = 250cal

After School

Toasted sandwich = 300cal

Homemade milkshake = 200cal


2 lamb cutlets + 1 potato + peas = 300cal

Total = 1700cal

Teenagers – 12-16 years


Perhaps the hungriest group of all but also the group most likely to fill up on high sugar, high calorie junk foods on a daily basis. In fact, teenage boys are the highest consumers of sugar based drinks. Instead the calories consumed at this age should be all about quality over quantity. 


Banana Smoothie = 250cal

At School

2 pieces of fruit = 160cal

Chicken sandwich = 200cal

Tuna salad = 200cal

Cheese and crackers = 150cal

Nut Bar = 150cal

After School

Bowl of leftovers = 200cal


150g chicken breast + potato + sweet potato + peas = 500cal

Total = 1810cal