|MadSci Network: Medicine|
Aloha, Ana, Perhaps we should start off directly with my questionning from where you received the information about 'exactly 2000 (kilo)calories.' It is totally incorrect, so your source is questionnable, at very best. There is no need for you to be so concerned about your pre-teen daughter eating exactly a set amount of kilocalories each day...there is no scientific merit to that advice. As a nutritionist, I teach large sections of introductory nutrition here at University of Hawai`i at Manoa, and this is just like some questions that I get from my students each semester. Now, let's get into some practical reasons why that information just can't be true. People come in all different ages, sizes, shapes, etc. To argue that anyone, regardless of all of those variables, must eat a set (and very arbitrary) amount of kilocalorie just doesn't make nutrition sense. The bigger the person, the younger the adult(and, especially for a pre-teen who will soon have a tremendous growth spurt to accomplish healthfully), the more active the person, the more energy the person will need. As for your daughter, since I don't have any personal information about her (size, degree of development, age, activity), it would be difficult for me to estimate her energy needs. It could be less than 2000 kcal/day or more than 2000 kcal/day...and her needs probably could vary by day, depending on her activity level for the day, at the very least. The best way to decide long-term if she is getting enough energy and other things like a balance of all the nutrients she needs in her food, is to measure her weight and height periodically...and compare those to standard charts (probably available from your medical doctor...or from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA). You can find the information directly (I just did) by doing a Google search on 'Centers for Disease Control growth charts'...takes you right to the correct page which allows you to access the proper growth chart for your daughter. These charts were developed for a multi-ethnic population of breast-fed babies/children in the U.S., but they should work as an approximation for your daughter, too. If she is growing consistently (for weight and height) along a particular percentile line, for her age, and is generally healthy, then she's eating just fine. A balanced, moderate, and varied diet will do wonders for your daughter's growth...and letting her eat foods (aim for less-processed ones, for the majority of her food) to satisfy her hunger, not according to some arbitrary bit of incorrect advice. And, not according to someone else's idea of what an adult woman's body should eventually look like (like in many of the fashion and body-building magazines...these looks are not achievable for almost all women without doing dangerous things to their bodies). In addition, any eating style, like the currently popular one of 'low carbs,' that restricts/eliminates any nutrient, type of food or particular food should also be a warning signal to you that it probably isn't correct/safe information for your daugher, for you, or for the rest of the family. I totally understand your concern about your daughter's needs, including kilocalories/day; I have two grown children in their thirties, and went through the same sorts of worries throughout their growing. So, I guess my advice to you as a scientist and as a mother, is to 'lighten up' just a bit and enjoy your daughter...and allow her to eat and enjoy food...not obsess over it.
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