More and more people are choosing not to eat meat. Religious beliefs, environmental issues, personal ethics and food safety concerns are some of the main reasons cited for making the choice. Whatever the reason, it's important to make nutritious vegetarian food choices.
So what do you do if your teenager decides to become vegetarian? How can you support their decision while ensuring all of their nutritional needs are met? First, make sure they understand what foods to choose to meet their energy and nutrient needs to account for the lack of meat in their diet. For many parents, showing encouragement can be difficult.
Another major challenge is finding a way to satisfy everyone at mealtime. This can be an opportunity to cook creatively and add foods to your family's diet that you wouldn't normally serve.
Q & A
Do all vegetarians eat the same thing?
Semi-vegetarians - Exclude red meat or all meat, but include fish and other animal products. Some people also include poultry.
Lacto -vegetarians- Exclude all meat, fish and poultry and eggs; milk and milk products are still consumed.
Lacto - ovo vegetarians- Exclude all meat, fish and poultry. Milk, milk products and eggs are still consumed.
Vegans- Exclude all foods of animal origin.
For vegans, which foods are a good source of calcium?
The most well-known sources of calcium are vegetables and nuts such as almonds, baked beans, broccoli, fortified soy products and red and white kidney beans.
How do I ensure my teenager gets enough protein?
If vegetarians and vegans eat a variety of vegetable proteins there is no reason why their intake of protein cannot be as good as that of a person who eats meat or other foods that contain animal protein. Proteins from cereal and plant sources should be eaten together (or at least over a day), so that the different constituents (amino acids) of the plant and cereal proteins complement each other.
For example, try:
Pulses/rice – bean casserole and rice, dhal and rice Pulses/cereal - baked beans on toast Nuts/cereal – peanut butter sandwich, nut roast
Should I worry about anaemia?
Iron from non-meat sources is less well absorbed than iron from meat, however, vitamin C from vegetables and fruit juices helps the body to absorb iron. Iron stores in the body are usually lower in female vegetarians, but provided sufficient iron is included in the diet, iron deficiency anaemia is not common amongst vegetarians and vegans. Dried fruits, nuts, leafy veggies, beans, enriched breakfast cereals and wholegrain breads are all good sources of iron and folic acid.