Is a vegetarian lifestyle safe for teens?

Or roast yams in the oven at 400 degrees F. for one hour, she says. “They are amazing. Add some butter once they’re done; you can even drizzle some maple syrup to entice. Or, peel, slice, toss with olive oil and cinnamon, and roast on a baking sheet 25 minutes at 375 degrees until soft. They will be gone minutes after taking out of the oven.”

As broad a variety of foods as possible is key to good meatless nutrition. Vegetarian teens need to try new things, to expand their horizons. Other foods high in protein include soy products (like tofu and tempeh), nut butters, quinoa, lentils and legumes. The crucial calcium intake a vegan may otherwise lack can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and fortified orange juice and soy milks. And what vegetarians don’t get from iron-rich meats can be found in seaweed, dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, beet greens and spinach, iron-fortified breads and cereals, and blackstrap molasses.

Foods like citrus, tomatoes and red peppers help the body absorb Vitamin C. Vegans may be deficient in vitamin B12, which is available only in animal products, supplements and nutritional yeast, or in “nooch,” a cheesy, umami-rich flake that vegans sprinkle on everything from popcorn to pasta. Teens need to make sure they are getting plenty of Vitamin D and zinc as well, in supplement form if necessary.

During the teen years there is fast growth in the human body. Getting good nutrition in every possible way is crucial. So consulting a nutrition counselor or dietitian, your pediatrician and taking a multi-vitamin (check the label for meat products) are excellent ideas, too, to help a growing vegetarian teen. The recommendations here do not substitute for the advice of your own physician or dietician. It’s up to the teen and a watchful parent or two to make sure the teen’s vegetarian diet is a healthy one and they are getting all they need for health, energy and growth.

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