We have a 15 year old son who has been on a vegetarian diet (no chicken or fish or meat, some eggs, does not drink milk) for 1 year.
What are the vegetarian protein requirements, both total and nondairy (alternative) in grams per day. He has hit puberty and is still growing - V. C.
Dear V. C.,
I appreciate your concern that your son is getting enough good protein to support his teenage growth. I'm familiar with the challenge of getting teens to eat properly - somehow they manage to survive!
According to the widely accepted RDA, he would need about 60 grams of protein daily. However, most nutritionists agree that the average American diet provides much more protein than we need. Read how much calories and protein do we need?
If your son is getting enough calories daily for his age, his size, and physical activity, and 15 - 20% of those calories are protein, then he should be okay.
With vegetarian protein, it's impossible to separate protein from other foods, and say this is protein, this is carbs, this is fat, etc. Vegetarian nutrition is holistic.
Most foods contain protein, and there are many possible good sources of protein in a vegetarian diet.
Besides enough calories, vegetarian diet should have a wide variety of grains, fresh vegetables and fruit, along with legumes - including tofu, nuts and seeds, and some dairy and/or egg for an lacto ovo vegetarian.
I also recommend a book on vegetarian nutrition: The New Becoming Vegetarian by Melina and Davis.
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian