When Teens Make Their Own Choice to Become a Vegetarian

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As our children mature into tweens and teens, parents are sometimes faced with when, and how, to best support their kids' desire to make independent and conscious food and health related choices. A good example of this is when teens choose to give up meat, for any variety of reasons, including animal rights, health or the influence of their peers.

While avoiding meat, however, sometimes kids choose meals that are heavy on carbohydrates and low in fiber and protein (e.g. enriched pasta with marinara, french fries and soda, etc.). As parents, we are here to guide them as they assert themselves and start to make their own choices. It's important for parents of teens who choose a vegetarian lifestyle to be aware of the health aspects and to prepare food that will provide the necessary nutrients your child needs for his or her growing body. In a meatless diet, particular areas of concern are vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, protein, iron, zinc and fiber. Below are some good sources of these important nutrients:

  • Vitamin B12: dairy products, eggs, and vitamin-fortified products, such as soy and rice milks, and nutritional yeast.

  • Vitamin D: milk and vitamin D-fortified orange juice.

  • Calcium: dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, dried beans, and calcium-fortified products, including orange juice, soy and rice milks.

  • Protein: dairy products, eggs, tofu and other soy products, dried beans, and nuts.

  • Iron: eggs, dried beans, dried fruits, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables.

  • Zinc: wheat germ, nuts, dried beans, and pumpkin seeds.

  • Fiber: beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains 

A plant-based diet can be very healthy. Some of the latest research supports the idea that vegetarians and vegans have a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, obesity and some types of cancer.

Do you want to learn how make nutritious, easy-to-prepare plant-based meals? Join me and Chef Lisa for Let's™ Get Vegucated: a plant-based nutrition talk and cooking demo on March 23 from 7-8:30pm at Gale Ranch Middle School. This class is geared for parents and teens but all are welcome. Please register for this free event!