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How to Be a Vegan Teenager

Three Parts:Transitioning to a Vegan DietPreparing Vegan MealsAccounting for Lifestyle Factors

Veganism is a diet and lifestyle that about 1 million Americans follow.[1] Vegans use and consume no animal products. They avoid all poultry, red meat, pork, seafood, dairy and eggs. In addition they do not consume honey and do not purchase or wear clothing made from leather, wool, silk or fur.[2] Transitioning to a vegan diet can be challenging for any age, but even more so for teenagers. Ensuring you eat a variety of foods in the right amounts and being aware of how to maintain a balanced vegan diet will be important to your success.

Part 1
Transitioning to a Vegan Diet

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    Talk to your parents and family. It's important to speak to your parents or family members about your desire to adopt a vegan diet and lifestyle. They might be interested in why you want to become a vegan in addition to possibly being worried about your overall health and wellness.
    • Your parents or family might be somewhat unfamiliar with a vegan diet. It's commonly thought that it's difficult to eat enough protein or enough nutrients when following a vegan diet. You can see how this may worry your parents.
    • Prior to bringing up the subject with your parents, spend some time researching veganism, the restrictions involved, foods you'll be able to eat, and how you think you'll be able to incorporate this eating pattern and lifestyle into your life.
    • Present your argument for becoming a vegan to your parents in a calm, considerate tone. Share with them the reasons you feel its important for you to become a vegan. Present any research or resources you've found to share with them.
    • It's also very important to listen to your parent's or family's concerns. Be open minded and truly consider what they have to say. They have your best interests at heart.
    • Show your parents a vegan cookbook or offer to cook everyone dinner one night.
    • You can also show them a mock meal plan you've developed so that can see that you're eating a healthy and complete diet.
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    Read all labels. Become familiar with all food labels, especially in regards to processed or pre-made foods. Some items may look vegan, when in all reality they're not. For example, a vinaigrette that contains honey. Read over the ingredient label to make sure there are no animal products in your foods.
    • For example, many baked goods are made with eggs and milk which are not included on a vegan diet. Other foods that may not be vegan are salad dressings or sauces.
    • Choose pre-made foods that specifically say "vegan" on their label. This will help make it easier to choose different items.
    • Also pay attention to labels for cosmetics, soaps, and other toiletries. Some companies still test their products on animals - vegans will not use these types of products.
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    Build a support group. Transitioning to a vegan diet as a teenager can be difficult. This is especially true if your friends and family are not following a vegan diet. If this is something that's very important to you, building a support group can help keep you on track and motivate or encourage you through your transition.
    • Try finding vegan forums or groups online that you can join. Chat with these members and see if there are other teenagers close to your age.
    • Many times, people who have followed a vegan diet for long periods of time are well-versed in the vegan lifestyle and may be able to give you helpful tips, hints or good recipes to try.
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    Purchase vitamin and mineral supplements. Vegan diets can be a very healthy way of eating. However, vegan diets are not necessarily 100% complete in terms of the necessary vitamins and minerals you need. This is especially important with teenagers as you're still growing and developing. However, with adequate planning and a few vitamin or mineral supplements veganism for teens is an appropriate and healthy way of eating.
    • One nutrient in particular is Vitamin B12. Without supplementation, a vegan diet contains little to no vitamin B12. Typically, this vitamin is typically found in animal foods (like poultry, red meat or dairy products).[3] A vegan diet completely removes all animal products and therefore have a high risk of not consuming adequate amounts of vitamin B12 which can lead to a deficiency. Choose to take a B12 supplement or choose foods like fortified vegan milks, meat analogues or cereals that have adequate B12.[4]
    • Other nutrients to be aware of are calcium and Vitamin D. Both of these nutrients are essential for healthy bones and bone growth (much of which is occurring during adolescence.)[5] Choose items like fortified juices or vegan milks, dark leafy greens, almonds and tofu.
    • Vitamin and mineral supplements are not meant to replace foods. Consume a balanced, nutritious diet and aim to meet 100% of your daily nutrient needs through foods. Supplements are just a "back up" to your diet.

Part 2
Preparing Vegan Meals

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    Write up a meal plan. Writing out a weekly meal plan can help you make sure you're consuming a well-balanced diet. Again, vegan diets are more restrictive compared to a non-vegan diet and a little more thought needs to go into your weekly meals and snacks.
    • Take an hour or two of your free time and write up your ideas for all meals and snacks. Share your ideas with your family, especially if you're not the one going grocery shopping or preparing the meals at home.
    • Write up a list of your favorite vegan meals (or mostly vegan meals) that you or your family already consume. This might not only help your family, but can make the transition easier if you're already familiar with a few tasty meals that are vegan. You can rely on these as you learn new recipes and tips.
    • If you're busy or on the go, plan for meals that are quick, or keep a shelf-stable vegan snack with you.
    • Review your meal plan. Are you accounting for all 3 meals plus snacks? Are you consuming enough calories at each meal? Is your diet nutritionally adequate?
    • Take it slowly! This is the most important thing to remember. Very few people can make the change from omnivore (or even vegetarian) to vegan overnight. Try eating vegan for one meal out of the day, and then two, and finally three.
    • Quick and easy-to-prepare meals include: 100% whole wheat spaghetti with tomato sauce, broccoli and vegan meatballs; vegan quesadillas with vegan cheese, grilled vegetables and black beans or a spinach salad with pan-fried tofu, vegetables and your favorite salad dressing.
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    Go grocery shopping. Going to the market and stocking up on some essential vegan items will be important. Having items that will fit into your diet on hand will make it much easier to prepare and eat vegan meals.
    • Talk to your parents - especially if they are the ones that are going to the grocery store and paying for the majority of the food in your household. Ask to tag along and add a few vegan items to the cart.
    • Remember, you don't need a whole bunch of new or specialty items. You and your family might already have a fair amount of vegan items on hand at home. Items like: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts are all items that will fit well into a vegan diet.
    • If you or your family has a fairly well stocked kitchen, focus on purchasing alternate protein sources instead. Items like vegan cheese, tofu, tempeh, or meat analogues are great sources of protein.
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    Consume adequate protein. One concern many people have with vegetarian or vegan diets is the ability to consume adequate protein. With a well planned and well balanced diet, vegans (even teenagers) should have no problem consuming adequate protein.
    • Teenage boys generally need to consume around 52 g of protein daily and teenage girls need to consume around 46 g of protein daily.[6]
    • Choose a variety of protein sources throughout the day. Each different protein will offer different valuable nutrients.
    • Vegan proteins to try or to incorporate into your diet include: include tofu, tempeh, sietan, beans, lentils, nuts, vegan cheese/yogurt, and nut-based or soy milks.
    • Also give meat analogues a try. These are items that are generally 100% vegan and are made to taste somewhat and look like typical meat products. For example, there are "deli meat" and "bacon" that are 100% vegan.
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    Eat 100% whole grains each day. Whole grains contain all 3 parts of the grain: the germ, endosperm and bran. All 3 parts offer various nutrients to your body. Fiber, nutrients and even protein are key nutrients found in 100% whole grains.[7] For vegans, whole grains can offer a valuable source of protein.
    • Whole grain foods include: oats, brown rice, quinoa, 100% whole wheat pasta, corn, farro, millet, or barley.
    • Try to minimize refined or processed grains. These types of grains have been stripped of all their nutritional value. Items like these are considered refined grains: white bread, white rice and plain pasta.
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    Fill up your meals with fruits and vegetables. These naturally vegan foods are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. It's recommended to make 50% of all your meals a fruit or a vegetable.[8]
    • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day and week. Having a large variety of these foods will help you consume a wider ranger of nutrients.
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    Eat plant sources of healthy fats. Omega-3 fats are healthy fats that are commonly found in some animal products. They should be included in a vegan diet from other sources.
    • Vegan sources of healthy fats include: avocado, flaxseed, walnuts, tofu, soy beans, and walnuts.[9]
    • Try to incorporate a healthy fat at least 1-2 times per day.

Part 3
Accounting for Lifestyle Factors

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    Pack your lunch and snacks. When transitioning to a vegan diet as a teenager, you have to take your lifestyle into consideration. Think about your school schedule, extracurricular activities, sports and other events.
    • Packing your lunch might be a necessary option. Many school cafeterias don't offer vegetarian or vegan meals. Packing your lunch each day may help make sure you have a good, nutritious meal that you'll enjoy and that fits your vegan lifestyle.
    • Vegan packed lunch options could include: Sliced veggies, hummus and avocado on vegan pita bread; whole wheat pasta tossed with broccoli, black olives, vegan meatballs and tomato sauce; or vegan whole wheat bread with vegan cheese and vegan deli meat and 1 cup raw carrots.
    • Packing vegan snacks can also make life a little easier - especially if you have after school activities. Vegan snacks can include: soy yogurt and fruit; apple with peanut butter; or 1/3 cup of trail mix.
    • It might also be smart to carry around dried or fresh fruit for a quick snack. They're great for a quick needed meal or snack.
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    Eat enough carbs for active lifestyles or sports. Teenage athletes need a little more protein than teens that are not participating in sports or other athletics. Consuming protein at every meal and snack can help make sure you consume you're required daily amount.
    • Athletes participating in endurance sports require 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram per day of protein. To find your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.
    • It might also be a good idea to have a snack before and after a sports game, practice or athletic event so you can fuel and recover better.[10]
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    Consume adequate iron daily. Teenage girls need to ensure they're consuming adequate iron daily. This is especially true if they are menstruating.
    • Ideally, aim for at least 15 mg iron daily for teenage girls.[11] Teenage boys need around 11 mg of Iron daily.[12]
    • Vegan foods that are high in iron include: beans, dark greens, tofu and some nuts. Consuming iron rich foods with a vitamin C rich food (like citrus fruit or OJ) can help increase the absorption of iron. [13]
    • Taking a daily multivitamin/multimineral can also help you meet the daily recommendations for iron in addition to a variety of other nutrients.
    • If you are feeling fatigued all the time, it is likely that you are deficient in iron or another vitamin. Iron pills and multivitamins can help with this.


  • While some believe there is no such thing as a "flexible" vegan if you are going to be a pure vegan, others choose to eliminate some to most of the animal products in their diet. You should not keep a narrow mindset on the definition of veganism. Some vegans follow a vegan diet but may use animal products, some accept refined sugar and others do not, and some even consume amounts of certified humane products.
  • When going over a friend's house, they may not realize they have vegan food around. You can usually find a piece of fruit or a salad or sandwich with fresh vegetables on it. It also helps to carry vegan snacks with you or search the PETA website and find out which fast foods are vegan.
  • Educate yourself and learning about this new diet and lifestyle pattern may make the transition easier. Get some books from your school library, and search around on the Internet. There are a variety of great resources available.
  • Consider asking help from teachers. Your health or home economics teacher may be able to provide you with additional guidance.


  • Always consult with your physician prior to making any large changes to your diet.
  • Make sure you are getting all of your vitamins! If you need to, take a multivitamin or supplements such as B-12 or iron.

Article Info

Categories: Vegetarian Health | Youth Diets and Nutrition