Firsthand Tips for Teenage Vegetarians

By November 12, 2013Lifestyle
going veg

Going vegetarian or vegan can be difficult no matter who you are.  But it is particularly difficult for teenagers.  Many teens don’t have their own income and have to rely on others to buy their groceries.  Without a car, it can be difficult to get to the local health food store – assuming there is even one in the area.  You can pretty much forget about healthy veg-friendly options at school.  And going vegetarian as a teen can be a nightmare if the parents aren’t supportive of the decision.

I know how tough it can be because I went vegetarian at the age of 12 and then vegan at 15, all while living in a suburban Midwestern town.

Even with my firsthand experience, I’m hesitant about giving generalized tips for going vegetarian as a teenager because every situation is different: Are your parents on board? Do you live near a health food store? Does your school have vegetarian lunch options…? 

But, there are some tips which will likely apply to all teens going vegetarian.

 

#1 Get Your Parents On Board

Your parents don’t have to agree with your reasons for going vegetarian, but you should make an effort to get their support.  It will make life a lot easier when it comes to everyday things like grocery shopping, meals, and family events.

How do you get your parents on board?  Try buying your mom a vegetarian cookbook.  Start going grocery shopping with your parents.  Or maybe you can do the whole family bonding thing by planning meals with your parents and then cooking together…

 

#2 Do Your Own Grocery Shopping

If you rely on your parents to pick out veg-friendly foods at the supermarket, you might end up with nothing but carrot sticks and corn flakes.  Start doing your own grocery shopping or go with your parents on their trips.  Stock up on staples like brown rice, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, oats, and fresh fruits and veggies.

 

#3 Lay Off the Mock Meats

Fake meats make the transition to vegetarianism easier because you can substitute them into pretty much any recipe which calls for meat.  However, those mock meats are often really unhealthy.   For starters, they are severely lacking in nutrients.  With few exceptions (Tofurky is a good brand), they contain GMOs and toxic chemicals like hexane.  So, avoid all those processed vegetarian foods and learn to cook instead.

#4 Check for Nutrient Deficiencies

When going veg, you will read a lot of advice telling you to take supplements for iron, zinc, B12, and other nutrients.  In some cases, these supplements really are necessary.  But not always.   Luckily, it is generally pretty easy to tell whether you need supplements: Just go get a blood test for nutrient deficiencies.

 

#5 Talk to a Nutritionist

There is a lot of advice online about how to be a healthy teen vegetarian.  But a lot of this information is outright wrong or misleading.  Even the legit nutritional advice may not apply to your unique situation.  So, go get personalized advice from a nutritionist.

 

#6 Learn to Love Your Freezer

I used to eat French fries for lunch every day at school because I didn’t have time to pack a lunch.  Obviously, this wasn’t the healthiest route.  Instead, I should have done what I do for my lunches now: utilize my freezer.  When I cook, I make TONS of food and then pack it into individual-sized freezer bags.  When I  don’t have time to cook, I just pop one of the bags from the freezer and I’ve got a healthy meal ready to go.

#7 Cook with Friends

As a vegetarian or vegan, food is going to be a big part of your life.  Going veg will be easier if you’ve got friends to share this part of your life with.  So, start cooking with your friends (even if they aren’t veg).

 

#8 Be Careful About Sounding Preachy

Yes, you are excited about your new lifestyle and may want to tell others about it.  That’s okay – just be cautious about how you talk about it.  Always keep the discussion about you (for example: I don’t feel comfortable eating foods in which animals had to be harmed as opposed to By eating meat, you are directly supporting the harm and killing of animals).   Otherwise, people will get on the defensive because they will feel like you are trying to force them to change.  You could end up isolating people around you – and this is a time when you want them in your corner for support.

 

#9 Try Foods More than Once

I never tried tofu before I went vegetarian.  Then my mom insisted on making it for me because she’d heard that vegetarians have to eat tofu (not true).  The problem was that we only had silken tofu available.  It does NOT work well in a stir fry!  I went the next 2 years thinking I hated tofu until I tried firm tofu at a vegan potluck.  It was fantastic.  The moral of the story is that, just because you don’t like something at first, it doesn’t mean you won’t like it later.  Be prepared to try various brands of gross soy milk before you find a delicious one, or 20 different kale recipes before you find one which makes the veggie taste good.

 

#10 Bring a Dish to Every Party

It really sucks to go to a party and find out that you can’t eat any of the food because even the potato chips are flavored with beef fat.  Take preemptive action by always bringing some dish with you, like a good veggie dip.  Then you won’t go hungry or feel like an outcast.  Plus, sharing yummy vegetarian food is a good way to open your friends’ and family’s eyes to your new lifestyle.  

 

Image Credits:
This is what a *real* vegan freezer looks like. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
go vegetarian i guess by karla kaminski Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
2009-05-16 – Freezer – 0004 by Kelly Garbato Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

 

About Diane Vukovic

Diane Vukovic is a vegan mom, health nut, and kitchen diva. When she's not deducing veggie nutritional facts, she's probably dancing crazily with her daughter or traveling somewhere in Europe.

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