New Teen Vegetarian Has Parental Obstacles
Teen vegetarian needs good nutrition guide and parental help with vegetarian diet
Hi, I’m 14 and I just turned vegetarian 3 months ago. I started feeling better and did not have the headaches I usually do. Anyway, when I asked my parents if I could be vegetarian they were all like, yeah go for it. I think that they thought I couldn’t do it.
So, after 2 months my parents started getting worried and saying that being a vegetarian was nonsense. I told them that I did feel better and that they shouldn’t worry because I did my research.
After a while they started slipping meat into my food and offering me chicken. I felt very hurt because they knew I was vegetarian. Then they started saying that I wouldn’t grow if I was vegetarian, and that I wouldn’t be as strong as the other kids. They also said I would be anemic and sickly.
I practically cooked for myself so I knew that I was getting proteins and everything but they didn’t get it. They even got their friends to try and talk me out of it. I felt criticized most of the time and hurt.
Now eating with my family is like a battle because my parents start blowing up at me and are not supportive. What should I do? Also, are the things they said about not growing true? Thanks! A.D.
Savvy Vegetarian Advice:
I consulted a well known vegan registered dietitian, about your questions, and she had some good suggestions. Her name is Virginia Messina, MPH, RD -here are links to her website & blog: vegnutrition.com and veggiedietitian
Virginia suggests that you ask your parents to make this bargain:
They (your parents) agree to find a good food nutrition guide for vegetarian teens that comes from a professional source and also to make sure the kitchen is stocked with nutritious meat substitutes. You (the teen) agree to follow the food guide without complaint and also to take a multivitamin/mineral supplement. You both agree not to criticize each other’s eating habits.
Virginia usually recommends the book “A Teen’s Guide to Going Vegetarian” (somewhat out of date, but the food guide is still okay) and also Carol Adam’s “Help! My Child Stopped Eating Meat.” which has a good nutrition section and food nutrition guide (she wrote them, so she hopes they are good!)
It seems you feel that your parents are treating you badly. And clearly the tactics they’re using aren’t working! Part of the problem is that you’re eating differently from them, which means you’re questioning their values, which hurts them. And they’re just trying to be good parents and protect you from damaging your health with a vegetarian diet which they see as lacking in the proper nutrition for a growing 14 year old.
It’s true that teens going vegetarian can quickly develop malnutrition if they don’t get the nutrients they need – whether from lack of knowledge about nutrition, or from the right foods not being available.
It’s also true that a good vegetarian diet can supply all the nutrients you need for growth and health, without eating meat, chicken or fish. Opinions differ on this, but I think that it’s best to go vegetarian gradually, and not jump right in to a vegan diet – especially for teens who are still growing – to give yourself time to learn about vegetarian nutrition and cooking.
Talk to your parents, and see if you can work things out with them. Let them know that you have a sincere desire to be vegetarian, and aren’t just rebelling against them or trying to hurt them, that you want them to be able to accept your choice and feel satisfied that you’re getting the nutrients you need.
Then they’re more likely to be willing to get the books, read them with you, and help you to set up a good dietary plan. If that doesn’t work, you could use your own money to get the books, and then offer them to your parents to read, and ask them to help you plan your vegetarian diet.
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian
Medical Disclaimer: Any changes that you make to your diet, and the results of those changes, are your decision and responsibility. I do not claim to be a health care professional, dietitian, or nutritionist. Savvy Vegetarian does not treat, or recommend treatment, for any illness or health condition – Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian