Healthy Teenage Diet Plan for Better Nutrition
Teen vegetarian needs healthy diet plan, nutritious recipes the whole family will like
I’m 14 years old and have officially been a vegetarian for a little over a year. My parents don’t really approve, because they think I will become sick from it, but they allow me to make my own choices. I haven’t gotten sick as a result of being a vegetarian, but I know several people who became very sick after only a few months, and I don’t want that to happen to me.
I usually cook for myself because everything my mom cooks has meat in it. Right now, my nutrition would probably be considered poor. I don’t eat a lot of fruit or vegetables. Most of what I eat comes from the grain and dairy food groups.
I’ve tried some vegetarian recipes, from a vegetarian cookbook, and they were very good. The problem was, I was the only one who would eat them, even though the recipe served more than one person, and the food would go to waste.
My mom hates food waste, and I see her point. Do you know of any recipes that my whole family will like, and aren’t too difficult to cook?
Also, I’ve heard of foods that are imitation meat. Do these have a lot of nutrients in them? What brands are the best? – J.S.
Savvy Vegetarian Advice:
Hi J.S., There are lots of recipes that the whole family can eat, that just happen to be vegetarian. Some of them involve cheese, but there are also many non-dairy recipes that everybody likes too. I’ve noticed (over & over) that as long as it’s familiar and tasty, it doesn’t matter if it has meat in it or not – people will eat it.
A few ideas: calzones, quiche, chili, lasagna, burritos, quesadillas, veggie burgers. Have a look at Savvy Vegetarian’s Kid Friendly Recipes – many of those recipes are ones that everybody likes.
The problem with eating lots of dairy but not much fruit and vegetables (and whole grains, beans, lentils) is that you don’t get the vitamins and minerals your growing body desperately needs, and as you said, that can be serious. Here’s some suggestions to help you eat more:
1. Eat 2 – 4 pieces of fresh fruit a day – any kind – as snacks.
2. Make smoothies with fresh fruit (banana, blueberry, strawberry, mango, raspberry etc), almond or soy milk, orange juice, and if you like, additions like protein powder or ground chia seeds, green barley grass powder, yogurt and other interesting things.
3. Eat a salad every day, or some raw veggies and dip
4. Make salads involving rice or quinoa or noodles, and beans, a one-dish meal which will keep in the fridge for 2 – 3 days for you to eat whenever you’re hungry.
5. Eat beans – as in hummus, or chili or refried beans in burritos or quesadillas – beans are powerfully nutritious, low fat, low carb, full of protein, iron, B vitamins.
6. Try tofu and seitan (wheat gluten)
Imitation meats (like veggie sausage, hot dogs, burgers etc) are fine in moderation. Most are made with soy, so are high in protein, plus other things like artificial flavorings, fat, sodium, preservatives, msg and so on.
You can buy TVP (textured vegetable protein) made from soy, soak it, and add it to stews, casseroles, sloppy joes, burgers, chili etc in place of meat. Seitan or extra firm tofu can also be used like that. I’m not so familiar with fake meats, so can’t tell you what brands to buy – also I don’t know what’s available in your area. Go exploring.
One way to get your veggies and avoid food waste at the same time is to make a pot of something like vegetarian chili or jamaican red bean stew (recipes your family might like), then freeze it in individual portions so you can have something to eat when you’re hungry.
Same with whole grains, veggie burgers, baked tofu, hummus, etc. That way there’s less cooking and no waste.
A few more suggestions: (are you sorry yet that you asked me for advice? :-)
1. Try making 1/2 or 1/4 of a recipe in case you’re the only one to eat it.
2. Take a multivitamin, which includes Vit B12, Omega 3s and Vit D, or eat foods that are enriched with those and other vitamins and minerals, like iron (extremely important for teenage girls)
3. Study up on vegetarian nutrition – I recommend the book ‘Becoming Vegetarian’ by Melina & Davis, but you could start with the Savvy Vegetarian Nutrition Report. See if you can get your Mom and Dad to read it too.
4. Check out our weekly menu plan for kid friendly meals as an example, to put the nutrition info in context
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian