You need calories

You get energy from what you eat and drink every day. And that energy is measured in calories.

Calories are not bad. You need them to live.

How many calories you need is based on your age, gender and level of activity.

Level of activity

Your level of activity might be:

  • Not active: when you don’t move much and spend most of the day sitting (at school, at home)
  • Low-active: when you sometimes get moving, like walking to school and running around in gym class
  • Active: when you exercise every day for at least 20 minutes (2 ½ hours per week minimum), enough to break a sweat

Whatever your level of activity is, you need a certain amount of calories.

On the charts below – one for girls, one for guys – find the row with your age and match it with your activity level. That’s approximately how many calories you need every day.

Calories for girls

AgeNot activeLow-active levelActive level

Calories for guys

AgeNot activeLow-active levelActive level

These numbers come from Health Canada.

Canada’s Food Guide

You need to eat different types of food to get certain nutrients. It’s the same with calories.

Different types of food (e.g. fruits and vegetables, grains, meat and alternatives) give you different amounts of calories. It’s important to get the right amount of calories from each type of food.

Canada’s Food Guide can help you eat a balanced diet wherever you’re eating – out with friends or at home.

Where you’ll see calories posted

You’ll see calories in a business that’s part of a chain with at least 20 locations – places like:

  • fast-food restaurants
  • coffee shops
  • restaurants
  • grocery stores
  • movie theatres

These businesses now post the number of calories for every kind of food and drink they sell. You’ll find these calories on menus, menu boards and signs where you get your food and drinks.

Calories = energy

Remember a calorie is a unit of energy you use doing what you need to do.

Even when you’re sleeping your body uses calories to fuel your heart, brain and lungs.

When you’re up, you use about:

  • 100 calories walking for 30 minutes
  • 160 calories shovelling snow for 30 minutes
  • 250 calories running for 30 minutes