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Trouble Deciding Eating Habits

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,


I am having trouble deciding what to do regarding my eating habits. I have been overweight for a long time, and I just recently was able to start losing a little weight. I have been thinking that maybe if I become a vegetarian, I would be able to lose more weight. This is a big dilemma for me because I absolutely LOVE meat/seafood. My favorite food is lobster, and I have it every year for my birthday. But everyone I know who is a vegetarian is thin and healthy. I just don't even know where to begin if I were to actually become a vegetarian. 90% of my regular diet involves meat of some kind. Even with "vegetarian" dishes (like salad or pasta) there tends to be meat mixed in with them. How does one even go about living as a vegetarian? At home, every night we have some kind of meat dish for dinner. What would I be able to eat? Would I actually lose more weight by becoming a vegetarian?



Signed: Trouble Deciding Eating Habits

Dear Trouble Deciding Eating Habits,


Being a vegetarian has can have many health benefits and can also be a way to maintain a healthy weight. But as you probably realize it would involve you making a lot of changes in your diet and a commitment on your part. If this is something that you want to do, TeenHealthFX thinks that is great but we also would like to point out that you can also lose weight by eating healthy by following the recommendations of the food pyramid and exercising on a regular basis. By following the food pyramid you would not have to give up some of the foods you love, you would just need to eat them in proper amounts. Your diets choices are up to you, the only thing we would empathize is that no matter what you choose make sure it is healthy. Something to think about; there are all types of vegetarians, underweight, overweight and healthy weight. The important issue is the balance between the amounts of foods (energy) consumed, energy expenditure and energy needs for growth and development that determine weight or weight loss. 


There are several types of vegetarian lifestyles:


·         Semi-Vegetarians – Eats dairy products, poultry fish and eggs and excludes all other meat.

·         Pesco-Vegetarian – Vegetarians who eat fish.

·         Lacto-ovo Vegetarian – Eats dairy products and eggs but no other meat. This is the most popular form of vegetarianism.

·         Lacto-Vegetarian – Eats only dairy products

·         Ovo-Vegetarian – Eats only eggs, and excludes dairy products and all other meat.

·         Vegan – Eats no animal products of any kind. This is the strictest of vegetarianism.


Some of the health benefits for vegetarians who eat responsibly include decreased risk of heart disease as you grow older, lower blood pressure, decreased risk for some types of cancer, lower chance of adult onset diabetes and a lower likelihood of being overweight. The years between 13 and 19 are times of especially rapid growth and change. Nutritional needs are high during these years and it is important that you find new sources so that you meet your dietary needs. Here are some of the vitamin and nutrients that you should pay close attention to:


·         Protein has many important functions in the body and is essential for growth and maintenance. Protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods. Combining different protein sources in the same meal is not necessary. Sources of protein for vegetarians include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers). Milk products and eggs are also good protein sources for lacto-ovo vegetarians.

·         Iron functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the blood. Iron sources for vegetarians include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole wheat breads, peas, and some dried fruits (dried apricots, prunes, raisins).

·         Calcium is used for building bones and teeth and in maintaining bone strength. Sources of calcium for vegetarians include fortified breakfast cereals, soy products (tofu, soy-based beverages), calcium-fortified orange juice, and some dark green leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, mustard greens). Milk products are excellent calcium sources for lacto vegetarians.

·         Zinc is necessary for many biochemical reactions and also helps the immune system function properly. Sources of zinc for vegetarians include many types of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds. Milk products are a zinc source for lacto vegetarians.

·       Vitamin B12 is found in animal products and some fortified foods. Sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians include milk products, eggs, and foods that have been fortified with vitamin B12. These include breakfast cereals, soy-based beverages, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast.


United States Department of Agriculture – Tip and Resources


You mentioned that you recently were able to start losing a little weight and that is a positive step to a healthier life style. TeenHealthFX would encourage you not to choose a diet because you believe it would produce rapid weight loss. The most important thing to losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight it is by developing healthy eating habits and exercising regularly.


If you decide to go the vegetarian route it would be a good idea to visit your doctor and get some input from him/her. In fact your doctor may want to assess whether you need to lose weight or not. You may also want to consult with a Nutritionist who would be able to help advise you on how to be a healthy vegetarian and make sure you are meeting all your dietary needs.








Signed: TeenHealthFX