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Vegan Diet for Teens: What Should You Know as a Parent?

Teen-Vegan

Vegan Diet for Teens: What Should You Know as a Parent?

Adolescence is a time of independence-seeking during which your child will achieve their own sense of unique identity and individuality. At this age, your teen might show disinterest in healthy meals and eating meals at the table. 

This is also a time during which your teen might want to experiment with eating meat. On the other hand, your previously omnivore teen might become vegan, independently of the rest of the family. 

Here are some things to look out for regarding the vegan diet for teens.

Vegan-Teen

Is it safe to be vegan as a teenager?

As a vegan pediatric nutritionist, I believe a vegan diet for teenagers can set the stage for a lifetime of good health. 

 

In fact, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a well-planned vegan diet is appropriate for any stage of life, including infancy, childhood, and adolescence. 

 

For healthy growth throughout adolescence, the vegan diet for teens needs to include foods and beverages that are good sources of calories, vitamins, and minerals. 

 

Plant-based foods tend to have fewer calories than animal-based ones. This is not a bad thing, but it’s important to be sure that your adolescent gets enough calories and nutrients, especially during the infamous teenage growth spurt. 

 

Some nutrition packed foods include:

  • avocados, nut butters, seeds, hummus
  • fortified full fat soy milk, tofu, or soy yogurt
  • whole grain breads, whole grain baked goods, cereals, pastas
  • thick soups and stews
  • pudding, frozen desserts, and shakes made with healthier swaps
Vegan-Diet-Teens

Do vegan teens need supplements?

To avoid iron deficiency, teenage girls should ensure they have a variety of iron-rich foods daily. Otherwise, a supplement should be considered. 

As with any age, vitamins B12 and D supplements are important for both boys and girls. Among all the important reasons for taking these supplements, research has shown that vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of stress fractures in female teenage athletes.

Zinc and calcium are also important during teen years. Though all these nutrients can be obtained with a balanced vegan diet for teens, a multivitamin supplement can be considered. 

Calcium, vitamin D, and bone building

Teens have especially high calcium requirements (1,300mg per day!) for the intense process of bone mineralization that occurs between the ages of 9-19. 

Vegan diets for teenagers are often short on calcium unless care is taken to ensure adequate intakes. A calcium supplement in combination with a variety of calcium-rich foods can ensure your teen is meeting their calcium needs. 

Vegan calcium sources include fortified non dairy milks, greens like kale, collards, bok choy, and broccoli, beans, blackstrap molasses, and figs. 

Weight-bearing exercise and regular physical activity also helps build strong bones to carry through to adulthood. 

Skin health on the vegan diet for teenagers

Skin health is of major interest to many teens. Whether a vegan diet for teens can help clear the skin and reduce acne is all dependent on the type of foods eaten.

 

An unhealthy vegan diet could still be high in processed foods. French fries, for example, are vegan, but they’re also deep-fried which can trigger breakouts. 


Feeding a vegan teenager whole, plant-based foods might help them in their journey to clearer skin

Teen-vegan-diet

Feeding a vegan teenager 101

Every teen is different and goes through their own phases. As a vegan pediatric nutritionist, I want to reassure you and help you determine which aspects of your vegan teenager’s diet are important. 

 

The vegan diet is appropriate for teenagers. The key is to know what food groups, servings and supplements they need.


If you want a vegan dietitian on your side, I can help you make sure your teen is eating what they need to thrive on the vegan diet.