Is vegetarianism healthy for teens?

A vegetarian diet can be exceptionally healthy, but it requires planning and thought. For example, if you eat potato chips and coca-cola, that’s vegetarian, but not healthy! The term “vegetarian” can mean a number of different things from someone who eats no animal products at all (vegan) to someone who eats dairy and eggs (lacto-ovo vegetarian) to someone that includes fish as the only animal product in their diet (pescatarian), and other types as well. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, "well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.” They key words here are “well planned.” People that do not eat animal products must get certain nutrients in which animal products are rich (i.e. protein, iron, zinc, B12, and calcium) from other sources.
Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics

Yes, vegetarianism can be healthy for people of all stages of life including teenagers. The key is to ensure that it is a well-planned, nutritionally varied and balanced diet. A registered dietitian specializing in vegetarian diets would be a valuable resource.

Although a vegetarian diet lacks in some necessary nutrients found in meat, poultry, and fish, it is still healthy for teens because there are other means of acquiring those substances essential for proper growth and body functions. Teens often choose to become vegetarians because of religious/cultural beliefs, personal decisions, diet/health concerns, animal rights, food likes/dislikes, etc.

There are many health benefits for vegetarians (if they eat responsibly). These include decreased risk for heart disease and some types of cancer, lower blood pressure, lower chance of diabetes, and a lower likelihood of being overweight.

Vegetarians have to eat enough foods containing protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Vegetarian foods that have protein are beans, nuts, lentils, tofu, and soy products. Foods high in iron are dried beans, spinach, beet greens, prunes, and iron-containing cereals and bread. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus juices and fruit. Milk, leafy greens, broccoli, tofu, beans, and soy products are important calcium-containing vegetarian foods. Vitamin B12 can be procured in egg and milk products, as well as in multivitamin supplements. Vitamin D in multivitamins and some brands of milk help the body use calcium.

If teens make the right decisions in what they eat, vegetarianism can be healthy. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.