Figure 2. Food Sources & Mean Intake of Empty Calories for Male & Female Children & Adolescents in the United States, Relative to Discretionary Calorie Allowance

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Bar graph with eight bars, one for each gender and age group combination, sectioned by type of food.

Bar graph with eight bars, divided into sections, enumerated in the following table. A line through each bar marks the discretionary calorie allowance.

Type of Food Males (by Age) Females (by Age)
2-3 4-8 9-13 14-18 2-3 4-8 9-13 14-18
Soda2 25 82 135 226 20 48 97 167
Fruit drinks 44 57 55 73 32 55 48 52
Dairy desserts 21 59 60 47 32 57 58 43
Grain desserts1 51 72 92 101 44 74 105 74
Pizza 12 38 58 94 18 49 47 49
Whole milk 66 59 45 34 63 50 29 17
All other food combined 355 379 454 484 308 381 373 370
Total 574 746 899 1059 517 714 757 772
Discretionary calorie allowance 164 169 194 289 164 169 129 194
1: Includes cakes, cookies, donuts, pies, crisps, cobblers, granola bars.
2: Includes sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened bottled water including vitamin water.


Among 2-18 year olds, about half of empty calories came from six specific foods: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.
The discretionary calorie allowance for each sex/age group is based on low activity levels, because most children and adolescents do not achieve the 60 minutes per day of cardio-respiratory activity recommended in national physical activity guidelines (21).
Data Source: NHANES 2003-04.

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