Teen Vegetarian Vitamin Deficiencies
Happy Teen goes vegetarian, gets tired & depressed. Got vitamins?
Hi, I’m worried about my daughter. She has stopped eating meat for nearly 18 months now, she is 18 years old and is feeling very tired and depressed. I think it has something to do with lack of vitamins!
She eats some chicken now and again.
My doctor is useless – I had to suggest a blood test. I have just booked her to have the blood test, and also am giving her Vitamin B12 supplements.
She is usually a happy girl and has no worries. I would be grateful for any advice you can give me – Donna P
Savvy Vegetarian Advice:
Hi Donna, I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. Deficiencies will do that to you! Unfortunately, this situation is all too common with teens who go veg. Good for you for giving her the B12!
It’s not that it’s bad for her to go veg (as the useless doctor might suggest). It’s that vegetarians must replace the nutrients they would formerly get from eating red meat. That includes a bunch of B Vitamins, which are found in whole grains, beans & lentils, and veggies, esp. green veggies.
Vitamin B12 is in egg and dairy, but not plant foods, and veg dietitians say that both vegetarians and vegans should supplement with B12. Eating the occasional bit of chicken is not going to do it.
If the blood test shows that your daughter is iron deficient, then besides getting the iron shot, and/or taking the supplements, she should focus on getting plenty of iron rich foods in her diet.
Even if her iron stores are low to normal, she should start eating plenty of iron rich foods, or she soon will be deficient if she’s not now. Some processed cereals and breads are supplemented with iron, but it’s likely to be iron filings which the body can’t absorb – so don’t depend on that.
Other possible deficiencies which could cause depression and lack of energy are Omega-3 and Vitamin D.
It is possible to get enough omega 3 from plant based sources, if you eat a wide variety of whole foods, as we need minute amounts. Walnuts, flax or hemp seed, oil or milk are especially high in Omega 3s. You can buy Omega 3 supplements too.
For Vitamin D, you need daily sun exposure, or supplements added to food (like dairy or non-dairy milk), or taken separately. More Vitamin D info
If your daughter plans to continue with a plant based diet, I recommend she get a copy of the veg nutrition “bible” ‘Becoming Vegetarian’ or ‘Becoming Vegan’ by Melina & Davis, and learn it off by heart, keep it always by her side and so on.
I’ve been veg for 40 years and I still look stuff up.
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian