you have health concerns, religious beliefs, or if you care about
animal rights; you might be thinking about a vegetarian
Or maybe you already are a vegetarian. The good news is that being
a vegetarian can have lots of benefits for you, animals and the
planet. The catch: You need to do it right. If
you are considering a vegetarian diet, it’s really important
that you seek professional advice. Your doctor or a registered
dietitian will be able to advise you on vegetarian choices, and
tell you if vegetarianism is right for you right now in your life.
Not everyone who calls themselves a “vegetarian” eats
the same foods. Some girls may simply avoid red meat, but eat some
poultry or fish. This is called a semi-vegetarian. There are
the pescatarians, who only eat fish, and no meat. Then there
are the lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who don't eat meat but still enjoy
eggs and dairy products. Or the lacto-vegetarians (no eggs) or the
ovo-vegetarians (no dairy products). Maybe you have heard of the
term vegan? Vegans don't eat any animal products at all—no
meat, no eggs and no dairy products. Vegans need to be extra careful
to get all of the right nutrients out of their diet.
The most important thing to remember as a vegetarian is to balance
your diet. Many teen vegetarians eat tons of pasta and breads to
substitute for meats, because these are convenient and veggie-friendly
alternatives. Remember that by cutting out meat and the proteins
that come along with meat, you are going to have to compensate
with other protein sources.
Be sure to get your fair share of beans, legumes
(a specific kind of bean that includes peas), soy, nuts, tofu
and meat alternatives.
It's easy to find meat alternatives in grocery stores. Most stores
have everything from veggie burgers to veggie corndogs to veggie
no-chicken nuggets and veggie meat-less meatballs! This can be
a fun way to get certain proteins and missing nutrients. Many companies
that make meat alternatives specialize in vegetarian foods, so
usually know exactly what nutrients to include.
Nutrients you need
Protein is the number one nutrient you need to compensate for
if you are a vegetarian. Protein keeps your hair and skin healthy,
bones strong and your muscles in top shape. You can get protein
from eggs and dairy products, or from soy products, meat substitutes,
legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Calcium is a major
mineral to help you while you are growing. If you decide to cut
out dairy products from your diet, you should eat
enough dark-green vegetables such as kale, broccoli and collard
greens and talk with your doctor to see if you need to take calcium
You can also find calcium in fortified soy milk and fruit juices
and even tofu enriched with calcium.
Vitamin B-12 is a major vitamin in your body that produces red
blood cells and prevents anemia. For strict vegetarians/vegans,
going to need to take a B-12 supplement, because it is found in animal products, including milk, eggs and cheese.
another nutrient you need to supplement when you cut out meat from
your diet. You can find iron in enriched cereals, whole-grain
products, dark green vegetables and legumes. Did you know that
vitamin C helps your body absorb iron? So, you should also try
citrus fruits and other sources of C to help absorb the iron in
your body. If you keep your diet balanced, get help from a registered
and remember to eat the nutrients mentioned above, you will be
able to feel healthy and active as a vegetarian.