Mom Says Vegetarian Son Not Getting Enough Protein

My 19 yr old son went vegetarian 5 months ago, and he doesn’t seem to be getting enough protein or adequate nutrition

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My 19 yr old son went vegetarian 5 months ago, and to me, he just doesn’t seem to be getting enough protein. Can you help me out with things he SHOULD eat. He eats no meat whatsoever, doesn’t eat fish either.

I’m worried that he will drop all kinds of weight, he’s 5’11” and weighs like 155 lbs. To me, that’s worrisome.

Could you please help me? I want to make sure he gets adequate nutrition. M. M.

Savvy Vegetarian Advice:

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Your son might be on the thin side for his height, but I don’t know anything about him – he could also be completely normal.

How much protein he needs depends on how active he is, and whether or not he’s still growing. If he’s getting enough calories and nutrients to support his size, his growth, his health, and his physical activities (e.g. sports), and he’s eating a wide variety of whole foods, then he’s probably getting enough protein.

From what I know about teens, it’s likely that he’s NOT getting enough calories or protein and NOT eating right, just as you suspected. You’ve indicated that neither of you knows just what he should be eating as a vegetarian. So you and he should do some studying up on this.

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Start with the SV Nutrition Report, for a general overview.

Take a look at these 4 articles about protein in a vegetarian diet:

How To Get Enough Protein In Your Vegetarian Diet
How Much Protein & Calories Do We Really Need
Plant Food Protein Chart
Veg Protein Sample Menus

Those articles will help you and your son figure out what he should be eating as a vegetarian. Plus, please buy and read this book: Becoming Vegetarian by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis It’s the veg nutrition bible that all vegetarians should own and know by heart.

Finally, I have to say, your son’s vegetarian diet is really his responsibility. He’s 19, he chose to go veg, and HE needs to learn how to do it right and avoid malnutrition, which is NOT FUN! If he’s too stubborn or not interested enough to learn, then you don’t have much choice but to let him do his thing and take the consequences.

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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4 Responses to “Mom Says Vegetarian Son Not Getting Enough Protein”

  1. Savvy Veg says:

    Thanks for weighing in on this :-). I’ve had the same experience, if anything I tend to gain weight (since menopause), and I’ve been vegetarian for over forty years.

  2. Codes says:

    I’d just like to add that to be concerned about a BMI like her son’s seems absurd. I’m 6’1 and 145 lbs, and even that’s in what’s conventionally considered the “normal” range (and I’ve never had a doctor tell me I’m not in perfect health.) Incidentally, this is also the same BMI I consistently held back when I was a meat eater, so I would dispute the claim that becoming vegetarian will necessarily cause him to lose “all kinds of weight.”

  3. Savvy Veg says:

    Actually I don’t think it’s better to be protein deficient than a carnivore. Protein deficiency happens in starvation. It’s true that pulses & grains are good sources of protein, and a vegan diet isn’t likely to be protein deficient EXCEPT when the vegan isn’t getting enough calories. I agree that at 155 lb, her son is probably fine, but at your height and weight, your body mass index is 14.2, which is so low it’s off the charts. I understand that ome people are skinny by nature, but even so, you are easily 30 lb or more underweight. Please consider upping your calorie intake considerably (e.g. with more fats, carbs and protein foods), drinking more liquids, and exercising more to build up your weight. All the best, Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

  4. Shark says:

    Well, I’m sure he is getting enough protein.
    I’m 5″11 ( strangely ) and 101 LB , male…I am vegan and in good health.

    I sure if he is at 155lb and functioning, there’s nothing to worry about.
    Also eating meat would do him more harm in the long run. It’d better to be protein deficent than a carnivore.
    But regardless, pulses and grains are good sources of protein.

    Good luck

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