Stubborn Ignorant Teen Vegetarian Stepdaughter

My stepdaughter is vegetarian in the most ignorant, stubborn teenager way

Stubborn Teen Vegetarian Girl

I have no problem with her eating a sensible vegetarian diet with lentils, chickpeas, quinoa or whatever it takes to keep her energy levels high, maybe some leafy greens for folate, even supplements if needed. I have a lot of problem with her just skipping meat and eating almost nothing.

My partner is worried she is undernourished, too skinny, low in energy and has bad moods because of her diet. I think he is probably right but I don’t think the problem is being vegetarian. The problem is being ignorant.

My SD does not like to read or do research. I have bought her several vegetarian cook books and given her all mine (I like to sometimes eat vegetarian even if I am not commited to it and don’t want to be).

I have printed and photocopied recipes for her, emailed her and her father recipes and all to no avail. 

She has anxiety disorder, control issues, hates me (I am her stepmother after all and she’s been through a lot) and can barely read so she is not able to process the information on her own and does not want to do it with me.

Her dad gets angry if I try to involve him. He does not want to learn about vegetarian diet or help her cook. He wants me to do it, but he is not willing to help. I think if I were to show him a bit of what I know my SD would be willing to learn too.

I loved your tips on vegetarians and non-vegetarians eating together

That’s pretty much how we got through Christmas (a roast made from cashews and macadamia nuts costs even more than turkey…but at least people liked it.) Whenever I cook I make sure there is some vegetarian food as well as meat.

I got my SD a slow cooker for her birthday. I thought it would be useful to her to throw things in it and come home to a decent dinner. I thought she would be reassured by having her own cooking pot that had never cooked meat.

I researched many simple and more elaborate recipes she could do and put them in a folder for her (this was how I found Savvy Vegetarian). She has not used any of the recipes or tried out her pot (it’s been months) because her dad is really not on side.


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This kid is surviving on packet pasta with the odd tin of beans or frozen veg and far too many chocolate bars and junk food. I get shouted down by both if I say anything. Apparently getting the facts straight is me “putting her off” the few foods she will eat.

I don’t know how to get them to come to Savvy Vegetarian and find some stuff out, but I think her psychiatrist recommended she see a dietician which is a good thing!!

Savvy Vegetarian Advice:

Hi S. R. Thanks for writing.


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It’s great that one of you knows something about vegetarian diet. It would be nice if the vegetarian and her Dad did too.

It’s hard when you live with a problem and can see the solution, but can’t convince anyone who needs convincing. And it’s sad but true that the more you push the less likely it is to happen, especially since your stepdaughter hates you, and your partner is a vegaphobe – and a guy!

At least her therapist has recommended a dietitian. That could help Dad become aware of the nutritional issues, and take more responsibility for her diet. A supplement which includes B12 and Vit D would be a great idea, if you could get him to buy it and her to take it.  A dietitian might have better luck.

I don’t know many parents who have succeeded in forcing their teens to eat properly. SHE has to want to, then it’ll happen, and YOU can’t make her get to that point. She’s made that clear by refusing to use the crockpot or cookbooks you’ve given her.

Many teens have worse diets and survive. She’ll grow up and figure things out, or not, but meanwhile, there’s no point in aggravating yourself or her.

My advice is to continue for now with what has worked for you – making delicious nutritious things that everyone will enjoy when you have the chance – and otherwise stay out of it. Don’t drop helpful hints, hand out reading assignments, nag, or lecture. Hard not to, I know, but do it for the sake of your relationship with your partner.

Maintain a calm, serene, pleasantly detached facade and keep your lip zipped. Generously offer to share your wonderful food, but don’t show that you’re offended when they don’t.

Try to stick with easy kid friendly recipes. I haven’t met anyone, veg or non-veg, who doesn’t like these easy recipes, and they’ll give her the calories and protein she needs: pasta tofu & veg, tofu burgers, or black bean quesadillas, hummus wraps, guacamole & corn chips, fruit salad, veggies & dip, or carrot salad.

She could make these simple vegetarian recipes  easily herself, if she wanted to, when you’re not around. But don’t mention that – let her make the first move. Leave one or two extra servings in the fridge or freezer for Dad to feed her – not too many; scarcity creates demand.

If they ask you about anything veg, say the minimum necessary, then drop the subject. They’ll come ’round – eventually. And you’ll be well on the way to sainthood!

All the best, Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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4 Responses to “Stubborn Ignorant Teen Vegetarian Stepdaughter”

  1. Passer-byer says:

    I personally don’t think step parents have the authority to tell step children what to do (including food-related stuff). They don’t listen because you aren’t really their parent, just their parent’s spouse. And meat isn’t a big source of nutrition. It only has protein and iron out of the many nutrients a person needs so that’s the only additional thing she’d be lacking from becoming a vegetarian. But she really might not be lacking it because protein can be found in dairy, lentils, beans, tofu and many other things. Iron can be found in breakfast cereals and several vegetables. I really doubt becoming a vegetarian has made her diet poorer.

  2. Passer-byer says:

    I personally don’t think step parents have the authority to tell step children what to do (including food-related stuff). They don’t listen because you aren’t really their parent, just their parent’s spouse. And meat is a big source of nutrition. It only has protein and iron out of the many nutrients a person needs so that’s the only additional thing she’d be lacking from becoming a vegetarian. But she really might not be lacking it because protein can be found in cheese, lentils, beans, tofu and many other things. Iron can be found in breakfast cereals and several vegetables. I really doubt becoming a vegetarian has made her diet poorer.

  3. Savvy Veg says:

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful, practical and helpful comments! It’s been a while since my children were teens, and I had forgotten about the time crunch from homework, extracurriculars, the amount of rest they need because they’re growing – all that in addition to the typical emotional teenager ups and downs. It’s an inescapable fact that teens do need to be fed carefully, just like younger children, for all the same reasons. They may look like grownups, and think they’re grownup, but they are still children, and the teen years are a critical growth period. Needing to eat doesn’t always go along with a desire to learn to cook, or the time to do it, in teens especially. The time to establish cooking skills is the pre-teen years, when kids are much more willing to learn something from parents, and have time to do it. So, it’s really up to the parents to make sure teens are fed right, which is a big challenge all by itself. To her great credit, this girl’s stepmom is trying to make that happen in the face of huge obstacles – she just needs to change the way she’s going about it, because it’s not working. Your comments will help very much. Thanks again for taking the time to write.

  4. AudreyGS says:

    My daughter has been a vegetarian since she was eight, and only this year has she evinced ANY interest in cooking. It’s by default, as I now work very late hours, and her dad is also quite conservative, picky, self-indulgent (he’ll think nothing of eating a bacon-and-butter sandwich, which curls my teeth when I think of it!).

    The problem as I see it in many households with teens is the time crunch. My daughter is now fifteen, and for the last four years or more she has had literally three hours of homework every night. Many kids also have sports or other organized extra-curriculars (for us, it’s theater and religious school). Even a “30-minute” meal takes longer than that: they have to prepare, eat, clean up — many of them do not have the luxury of that unbroken span of time even if they have the interest.

    R really likes some of the “fake” meat foods, and will make “chicken tacos” with tomato and lettuce and salsa. I use whole grain taco shells, and she does like sour cream which add calories and dairy (which she needs). Avocados are amazing for stuffing calories, vitamins, fiber, and healthy fats into reluctant teens. Most everyone likes guacamole, and if you keep good salsa in the house, it couldn’t be easier to make; whole-grain tortilla chips are another good source of fiber.

    She also will boil cheese or pesto-filled mini-pastas, with pesto sauce and chopped tomato. If your stepdaughter isn’t vegan, adding cheese in is nice too. We make whole-grain bowties with canned white canellini beans and chopped tomato, with chard wilted into it. You’d be surprised at how much chard can disappear into that, and they’ll wind up eating it accidentally in small doses.

    Parsley is a good addition, I keep some parsley and garlic chopped for us all to use.

    My stepson is a very picky eater with major sensory issues. It is possible that your stepdaughter also has some sensory issues with textures. For example, a lot of people don’t like “slimy” textures, so they won’t eat a good risotto or sauteed greens. For my stepson and my husband, they can’t stand food that “crunches.” I crave crunch. It’s not just flavor, or pickiness, but sometimes just a threshhold for strong flavors or obvious textures that’s the problem. When it’s a step-child, and the dad isn’t particularly cooperative, I do know it’s doubly difficult.

    Good luck. My daughter is starting to cook, and now has a couple of “specialties” that she can make. Baking is another good entree for a reluctant teen, if you can find a weekend where the homework is done and she will give you an hour of her time. What’s not to like, when there’s cookies or bars or muffins on the other end?

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