Meeting Vegetarian Teens' Special Needs
Teen-agers who decide to become vegetarian when their families aren’t often require special resources and support. It’s an increasingly popular choice, according to Graff, who estimates that young people are the fastest-growing group of vegetarians.

A complete list of vegetarian-friendly Web sites and books.

When parents worry about their teen-agers’ nutritional needs, Hass advises them to find out “what they like to eat, and if what they are eating is nutritionally sound,” he says. “And if it’s low in some areas, like vitamins and iron, add those to their diet in the form of supplements.” If worries persist, he recommends seeing a nutritionist.
One common mistake that can cause teen-age vegetarians to become malnourished is to “remove the protein or meat from the plate and eat whatever is left,” Stepaniak says. She stressed the importance for kids, “especially those in a growth spurt, to get a good consistent source of protein.”
Proper nutrition is not the only issue. Another danger is a lack of emotional support, either from parents or from peers who may not understand the decision, according to Stepaniak. “Even if a kid wants to be a vegetarian, it can still be very difficult,” she says.
Whatever the child’s age, and to whatever degree the family embraces a vegetarian lifestyle, parents should avoid the message that certain junk foods are rewards while the rest of the stuff is good for you, but no fun to eat, Filardo says.
Kids won’t see healthful eating as unusual – or as a form of punishment – if the family presents fruits and vegetables as delicious, Filardo adds. “We should eat them because they’re good for you, but also because they taste good.”

Return to Special Report: Raising Healthy Vegetarians


–Sarah Tomlinson