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Teen Vegan's Unhealthy Eating Habits

Nutrition advice for Mom of 14 year old vegan

About a month ago, my 14 year old daughter announced that she is now a vegan. She won't eat any animal products at all. Actually, she hardly eats anything, she has lost weight, and doesn't look very healthy.

I don't know what to cook for her, I don't know what to do with her. My husband is ready to throw her out, and her brothers tease her all the time. Our house is a war zone. Do you have any suggestions?

Savvy Vegetarian Advice

You have my complete sympathy! I'd say the first thing to do is start communicating. If you can't all sit and discuss the issue without losing it, then try just you and your daughter to start. Get a professional counsellor to help if necessary. There's a lot at stake here.

Try to understand what's behind your daughters sudden decision to be vegan, do your best to accept her choice, and respect her feelings. She needs to know how her new regime affects the rest of the family. For instance, you are being forced to feed her different food than what the rest of you eat, and which you don't know how to prepare. I'm pretty sure you all feel upset about being cast in the role of evil meat eaters.

Your daughter should take responsibility for her decision, and learn to cook for herself. Be prepared to spend some time with her on this. You and she could pick out one or two beginner level vegetarian cookbooks, and try out recipes together. The whole family could try them, keeping an open mind to new tastes.

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I recommend The Everything Vegan Cookbook as a good place to start, because the recipes are simple, and there's a lot of information on vegetarian nutrition.

Vegetarian Nutrition is a big concern. Your daughter is still growing, and the risk of malnutrition is very real. It takes time to adapt to eating different foods, so the change should be gradual - two years is ideal. If she won't start with just cutting out red meat, then she could start with a lacto ovo vegetarian diet, with a variety of whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds, to meet her nutritional needs. Easy on the junk food, sugar, and soft drinks.

Work toward a compromise, where she agrees to make the change gradually, learn about vegetarian nutrition, and harmonious co-existence, and you all agree to support her choice.

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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