5 Essential Food Groups For Teenage Vegetarians: By N. Steele RN, BSN,MPH


teenage vegans

Adults find the vegetarian lifestyle challenging. This occurs because they are so used to having meat during childhood. These taste buds are accustomed to meat and the body may go through its own form of withdrawal symptoms. However although the teenager may find it difficult at first, their taste buds may welcome the change.

Teenagers are more able to change their eating habits. At this stage, they often experiment with various food groups, especially if their diet is popular. Being a vegan or vegetarian can be challenging for them. However, there are a couple of things to consider especially when it comes to growth and development.

Essential Food Groups 

Food groups that are essential for young adults include adequate fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and fats. However for the vegetarian lifestyle to be effective substitutes can be considered. This part may take some getting used to as teenagers are driven by taste, not necessarily how healthy the food is, as such, eating extremely sweet or salty food may be normal for them.

Fruits and vegetables are packed full of enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. These include iron, folate, and calcium. These are also great to reduce the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. Juicing fruits and vegetables for breakfast can be a quick energy booster for the morning activities.

Grains especially whole grains are essential for energy. This is vital during the early teen years as their body undergo various developmental changes. Whole grain would include brown rice, oatmeal, and whole-grain bread. (NIDDK,2020)It is important to note that refined white flour and white bread can do more harm than good, such as increasing the risk of developing diabetes.

Another essential food group for teenagers is protein. Adequate protein enables them to have strong bones and teeth. Now here comes the tricky part. We have been told that in order to get strong bones we need cows milk and meat. However, there are alternatives or substitutes for milk and meat, that vegetarians can consume without reducing their recommended daily protein intake. Substitutes include pulses which are peas and beans and nut milk which can be fortified vitamin D if you are not in contact with the sun on a daily bases. Pulses not only provide protein, but they contain vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc, and magnesium as well as fiber. An additional benefit is that they contain anti-oxidants which may have anticancer effects. (Mudryj,2014)

Last but not least is fat. For the teenager fats are beneficial for growth and development, as well as attaining healthy hair and nails. There are avocados, olives, and nuts. (NIDDK,2020) However, not all fats are healthy. Nut butter is great for teenage vegetarians, these could include pumpkin, almond, and peanut butter. Nuts grounded in its natural form contain the essential nutrients needed for the body to thrive. However, there is margarine and butter that solidify at room temperature. These contain trans fat, which is hazardous to an individual's heart vessels.

 It is therefore important that while the teenager may be enthusiastic about changing his/her lifestyle to a cleaner diet such as veganism or vegetarianism. It may take some planning and determination. It is essential that the major food groups are incorporated in his/her diet and the recommended daily allowance is maintained.