It is important, at their ages, not to get them obsessed about calories; this can turn into an eating disorder. Instead you (you are the Mom!) provide the right foods that are full of nutrition, with limited bad choices.
I think calorie counts for kids are difficult to pin down because there is such a variation in size. For instance, I used to teach sixth grade, 11-12 year olds. I have had students ranging in size from barely four foot tall and sixty pounds to 6'2" and 180 or more.
That's why providing a good variety of healthy foods, using the food pyramid as a guide, is the way to go. I would never (in most circumstances, except in the severely obese child) talk about diets, other than a healthy diet, calories or losing weight with kids. It's so easy for them to become negative.
Thank you everyone for your kind responses. I very much appreciate it and look forward to making better eating and exercising more of an "adventure" with the girls from now on. I think if I can find a way to make this transition more fun they won't even realize we are eating better. With my own history of an eating disorder I'm very concerned about creating a monster with them becoming too obsessed with calories, etc., but I found some additional resources since I started checking (along with your responses below) to help guide me. Thanks again.
You can also find good information on www.choosemyplate.gov. They have a tracker there than will give a range for healthy eating, as well as help track physical activity and fruits and vegetables as well as other healthy habits.
You have received some great advice already related to focusing on servings. Here are a couple resources from our sister site Babyfit that can help you with serving sizes and numbers to help your children learn to build a healthy plate.
As a former kid who constantly teetered on the edge of "overweight" in school, Michelle's advice is right on. Focus on the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle (especially finding a physical activity they like to do) and work from there. Given their ages, it's probably likely that they have a growth spurt or 2 in the future anyway. Education early will nip a lot of problems in the bud.
I kinda agree with Michelle - those are the building blocks for a lifetime of healthy eating & healthy habits.
For me the biggest eyeopener was portions / reading labels. Americans are notoriously bad with Portion Distortion, and kids get bombarded with ads of fast food, sodas, candy, sugar filled energy drinks, chips...all showing monster sizes.
Do they get at least 5-10 servings veggies/day? Do they drink enough water? Do they get 8hours sleep per night? Do they exercise (anything physical) EVERY day? Do they get adequate healthy fats? Do they know proper serving sizes (not what is served at most restaurants)?
I would address all of these things before ever mentioning calories personally.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
I cannot seem to find any consistent information regarding how many calories per day a child should eat and how many servings of grains, fruits / veggies, proteins, etc they need. I have two daughters, ages 12 and 11, and don't know how many calories they should be consuming. They were both actually having a conversation with me about it tonight because they do the Presidential Fitness Test at school and both of them received reports that they are "overweight." This saddened me but the reality of it is that both of them do weigh about 15-20 lbs more than they "should." I try to have them focus on health and wellbeing more than a number on the scale, though. That said, I do want them to learn healthy eating habits without becoming obsessive. As someone who survived a nearly deadly eating disorder I know how dangerous it is to start putting too much emphasis on counting calories, obsessing about food, etc. I feel a little lost with how to approach this with the girls . They both seem so enthused about getting more exercise (we will do it as a family) but they said they want me to help them with a meal plan for them to follow. This seems like a slippery slope. Does anyone have any ideas?
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