Is your teen turning off meat and becoming a vegetarian? Then get out some good cookbooks, because she’ll need help keeping her diet balanced.
Teens are going through a period when experimentation and testing the waters are a way of life, which is probably why it’s not uncommon for many teens to want to give a vegetarian diet a try. Of course adolescence is also a period of great physical growth, which is why it’s so vital that parents and teens find ways of meeting nutritional requirements.
Vesanto Melina, co-author of Becoming Vegetarian says it’s important to get teens to take some responsibility for their vegetarian diets. “I think teens can and need to learn how to cook, and how to support themselves in eating however they want. I’ve found that humus is a very good product for kids to learn how to make. It has a lot of nutritive value and can be in the fridge all the time. Kids can just run in, grab some pita bread and humus and they’re off again. What teenagers want is that it’s ready right now, and that it tastes great. Period. They’re not usually thinking about health.”
However Melina adds that vegetarian cooking requires a little planning to make sure all the nutrients are there. “People can’t just leave out meat. Meat needs to be replaced and can be with all the different forms of legumes. We grow about twenty different varieties of legumes from soybeans to lentils. These are great products which provide iron and protein.”
One concern with the vegetarian diet is iron deficiency. Pediatrician Dr. Lillian McLean-Beard suggests that a diet rich in green leafy vegetables can help. But if your teen is ignoring his spinach and broccoli, Dr. McLean Beard suggests appealing to his senses. “All teens want to have a lot of energy. If you’re finding your teenager is sleeping a lot more than he should or just doesn’t have the energy, you might suggest that he eats more vegetables, and that he eats more fruit. We know that fruit helps a body to absorb iron more efficiently. If you have any question however, check with your doctor because he may be a candidate for an iron supplement.”
Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.