How Many Calories Does a Boy Need to Eat Each Day?

Photo source: Ladies Home Journal (May, 1916)
Photo source: Ladies Home Journal (May, 1916)

I’ve often heard parents say that their teen-aged sons “eat them out of house and home.”Β  That’s apparently been an issue for a long time. Here are some excerpts from a hundred-year-old Chicago Evening Post article as reprinted in the December, 1916 issue of American Cookery:

The Russell Sage Institute has just completed a scientific inquiry into the eating capacity of 300 boys at a big boarding school. The whole thing is summarized in one convincing sentence, “The 5,000 calories thus contained in the daily diet of active American boys of school age are half again as much as a farmer at work is believed to require.”

It is well to keep this scientifically ascertained fact in mind if you have boys of your own; it is their perfect justification for trying to eat you out of house and home.

The fixing of the fact by research has its sociological value, too. There are multitudes of boys who do not get their 5,000 calories daily. “Lack of appreciation of this factor,” says the investigator’s report, “and lack of provision for it, are the probable causes of much of the under-nutrition seen in children of school age.”

37 thoughts on “How Many Calories Does a Boy Need to Eat Each Day?

  1. It’s interesting–they were worried about boys not getting enough calories and now we are so concerned about childhood obesity. Radically different lifestyles and levels of activity, I guess, as well as the kinds of food people were eating.

    1. Boys were definitely not spending all their time playing computer games back then – but the huge number of calories also suggests they were not sitting around reading books (though I may not be fully comprehending how many calories rapidly growing teens need). I suppose that many did farm chores before and after school, and during the summer.

  2. I always declared they first filled their stomachs then their legs, for I never could figure out where the boys put all the food they ate! Lol!!

  3. I shared this with my son and daughter-in-law, whose 14-year-old has shot up 9 inches in the past six months and can demolish a whole casserole of scalloped potatos in minutes.

  4. When my son was a teen, he ate constantly when he was on a growth spurt. It was amazing how fast he grew in height over just one summer. Teenagers can change so quickly over a very short time. Great article. Very informative. πŸ™‚

  5. FOR REAL??????? 5,000 calories????? I just read that an average man can maintain his weight by consuming 2,500 calories a day. What happened here? Did boys 100 years ago grow or burn a prodigious amount? Don’t tell me “they” have inflated the calorie! Things are just not what they used to be. Our incomes have shrunk, and dreams have gotten smaller. Everything is changing shape Now they are messing with my calories, making them bigger than ever. I don’t want these huge calories. I want little ones so I can have lots more of them. If anyone starts a protest movement, I’ll join.

    1. When I read this article I wondered how accurately they were able to measure calories back then – but perhaps there has been inflation. πŸ™‚

      1. I think so. I think it was a need for a lot of calories at the time because of puberty. I was eating a lot of potato chips, chocolate chips, baking walnuts, candy, ice cream :).

  6. This brings back memories of the days when I had two teenage sons to feed. Sometimes I went food shopping three times a week! It must be what their metabolisms need for that final growth spurt. It seemed like the spell would never end but it did and as soon as they started consuming a “normal” amount of food they left home. πŸ™‚

  7. What a neat article. Our two twenty year olds are six feet tall and beyond and I’m pretty sure all they eat goes to their feet. Oh for such a metabolism.

  8. I’m on a tangent here, but your post brings to mind our 6-month old kitten; oh my goodness, does she eat a lot — and constantly throughout the day, and she is still as lean as she can be! I guess anything/anyone doing all that growing needs to consume a lot of calories.

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