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Healthy To Be A Vegetarian At 12

Published: April 22, 2003
Dear TeenHealthFX,
Is it healthy to be a vegetarian at the age of 12 or 13? The kind of vegetarian that I want to be is one that doesn't eat meat but I can eat milk, and dairy products, even beef and fish. I am not sure if it is healthy though. My dad's girlfriend said it might not be but she wasn't sure. Is it?
Signed: Healthy To Be A Vegetarian At 12

Dear Healthy To Be A Vegetarian At 12,

 

Following a vegetarian diet can be healthful for people of all ages if they learn how to ensure that they will get the proper amount of vitamins and minerals from the foods that they do choose to eat. There are varying degrees of vegetarianism, from those people who eat everything except for beef, pork, or chicken, to Vegans who will not eat anything that has animal product or by-product in it. For more information, you may want to make an appointment with your healthcare provider, speak with your school nurse, or visit a nutritionist. It is important that when a teenager makes a significant change in their diet, that it is approved and supervised by a health professional so that proper nutrition can continue.

 

Below we have provided some helpful hints regarding substitution of foods that you may stop eating and some common concerns of vegetarians and their families.

  • When you eliminate sources of protein like eggs, dairy products, and poultry from your diet it should be substituted with items such as tofu, nuts, or protein meal supplement shakes or bars. Soy products have become popular and can be found in many local stores in the form of desserts, drinks, and main courses.
  • Eliminating or reducing your red meat intake can affect your iron level. Make sure to eat green leafy vegetables and take an iron supplement if necessary.
  • Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables can help you to obtain the vitamins and minerals necessary to stay healthy. Make sure to eat items that are different colors such as green, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables.
  • Taking a multi-vitamin can help to make sure that you are getting the correct daily allowances of important vitamins.
  • Get your family involved in your new eating regimen by cooking and shopping together.
  • Watch your intake of sugars and carbohydrates, they can fill you up so you are less likely to enjoy other healthful choices.

Good luck and do not forget to talk to your doctor about this before making any major changes in your diet.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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