It can be scary for some parents when their teen decides to go vegan. For many parents a vegan diet is quite foreign, and lots of parents worry their teen isn’t going to get enough nutrients. Here’s how to make sure your vegan teen gets all the nutrients they need.
Far from being a restrictive diet, going vegan can actually be very good for you. As you probably know, it means restricting your nutrition to only plants and plant-based products.
Meat and any other products from an animal origin become a no-go zone. This includes cheese and dairy products, and for some vegans also includes animal products such as leather and wool.
If your family is on a standard diet your teen will not eat a lot of foods they used to eat before. And their meals will look quite different to the rest of the family. The good news, however, is that the human body can get all the nutrients it needs from a vegan diet! Not many people know this. In fact vegan diets can be very healthy, as long as you’re getting all the nutrients the body needs.
Of course everyone’s body is different, and the human body requires a vast array of nutrients to keep functioning optimally, and covering them all would probably require a whole book! Assuming you already know how to eat the rainbow: a wide range of plant sources for healthy fats, carbs, and vitamins; this article will largely focus on proteins and some essential minerals.
In the pointers below, let’s look at how to ensure your teen is getting all the nutrients they need on a vegan diet.
How to Make Sure Your Vegan Teen Gets all the Nutrients They Need
When you hear the word protein, what comes to your mind?
Could it be eggs, meat, or anything animal products. You are correct, but when you go vegan, you never go back! You have to ditch the pleasure of sucking on bones, or finger licking good meals, and switch to feeding on Mother Nature’s plate.
The plant kingdom has an abundance of edible plants highly rich in protein. Legumes and soy foods are the best examples. Many veggies also contain a significant amount of protein, not to forget whole grains and seeds.
If making vegan meals sounds like a daunting proposition, using a vegan meal delivery subscription service can be a great idea. The best ones will have many high-protein meal options, including vegan burgers that look, smell and even taste of meat. You can’t possibly exhaust the plant sources of proteins. After all, it is plants that support all life.
Let’s talk about bone health. Truth is, there are so many calcium-rich plant foods out there. However, the level of calcium is not as high as what you find in dairy foods. And calcium is an essential nutrient for growing kids.
That doesn’t make the calcium found in plant foods less of what is needed for strong bones and osteoporosis prevention (a disease that weakens the bones.) Broccoli, kales, and figs hold a substantial amount of calcium in them. To boost your teen’s intake of this essential mineral nutrient, calcium supplements can be a great way to complement what your teen gets from their vegan diet.
Salt is the most common source of dietary iodine. In fact, half a teaspoon of salt contains just the amount of iodine your body needs in a day. This is enough to support optimal thyroid health, which is an essential part of overall wellness. If you don’t use iodised salt then iodine can also be found in most sea vegetables such as the following:
Iron is a major nutrient in the body, and another really important nutrient for growing teens. It helps in the production of red blood cells. These cells help in circulating oxygen in the body.
There are good vegan sources of iron that include cashew nuts, sea vegetables, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, white beans, spinach, and lentils. If your teen does not eat iron-rich foods, they may suffer from anemia. Since the Iron found in non-meat products is more difficult to digest than meat iron, it’s advised to take iron supplements as a vegan.
5. Omega 3 fatty Acids
If you remember biology class, DHA and EPA’s long linked chains are a structural presentation of the omega fatty acids. These are vital nutrients for brain growth, and a lack of omega fatty acids has been linked to child development issues.
Fish, of course, are a great source of omega. But have you ever wondered where the fish get it from? The algae!
Humans can also get their omega intake from algae in the form of supplements. Why supplements? It’s because most people have low conversion rates. Because of the slow conversion, it’s advised your teens take omega supplements, along with chia seeds, flaxseed, and walnuts.
Zinc is another essential nutrient you get from your diet. It’s found in protein-rich foods and is essential for growth, development, and cellular metabolism.
Some plant-based zinc sources include cereal, cashews, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, baked beans, tofu, and oatmeal. Zinc also comes from foods like lentils, beans, nuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, quinoa, and wholemeal bread.
Just like omega three fatty acids, our bodies don’t absorb zinc as well from plant-based sources as they do from animal-based food. This means supplements can be a great way for your teen to get their zinc intake on a vegan diet.
Being vegan certainly doesn’t have to mean being malnourished. Eating the diverse foods outlined above, and adding in supplements to ‘beef up’ the nutrition, would make for a very healthy diet. You’ll also rest assured your teen is getting all the nutrients their body needs, without violating their new vegan principles.