teenage vegans
The average age of a vegan is 42, but thanks to social media and a rising awareness of environmental concern among the youth, an increasing number of young people are growing interested in adopting a vegan lifestyle. This can be a concern for parents to whom the idea is unfamiliar, and who may be worried that their child will not get the right nutrients by following a vegan diet, but the good news is that this way of eating comes with benefits to both physical and mental health. It is simply a case of ensuring that your child knows what vegan foods to eat to stay healthy. 
The significance of being a teenager
Between the ages of 13 and 19, young people are going through a period of rapid growth, and their nutritional needs are high. A teenage vegan does not need to follow any different dietary advice to that given to an adult vegan, but it is important that they eat a varied diet that includes nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and fruits and vegetables to ensure that they grow and change in a healthy way. 
It may be that puberty has meant that your child has hormone-related problems like acne, or is undergoing orthodontic treatment to correct misaligned teeth before adulthood. For problems like acne, a vegan diet may actually be beneficial, as some studies have linked dairy products to acne. For a child who wears braces, a natural whole foods diet that is low in sugar is important to prevent staining around the brackets, and a healthy vegan diet can promote this. The important thing is that your child knows what a healthy diet looks like, and doesn’t fall into the trap of eating heavily processed vegan products.
Achieving a balance 
The protein recommendation for teenagers between 11 and 13 is 0.43g per pound of body weight, and for 14-18 year olds, 0.4g. If your child is particularly active, their protein requirements may be a little higher. To put this in context, a 16 year old weighing 120 pounds will need roughly 48g of protein a day. Good protein sources for a vegan include beans, tofu, soy milk, nut butters and whole grains.
Carbohydrates and fats are also important, but a teenager eating only these foods would struggle to get enough protein. A varied diet should include grains, pulses, and nuts and seeds, as well as fruits, vegetables and healthy fats like olive oil and avocado. Unless your teen is under-eating, this diet should provide enough calories and protein to support growth and good health.
Key vitamins and minerals to incorporate
A varied diet should mean that your child does not miss out on any of the vital nutrients they were receiving when they were eating animal products. However, if their primary source of some nutrients came from animal sources in the past, it may be necessary to make sure they are consuming certain foods to replace them.
Calcium is particularly important for building bone density in adolescents. If your child has primarily been getting this from dairy products, make sure they eat plenty of leafy green vegetables and fortified products like soy milk and tofu. If their iron intake came primarily from meat, make sure they include high-iron foods such as broccoli, spinach, chickpeas and black-eyed peas in their diet. Eating foods rich in Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, will aid the absorption of iron.
All vegans are advised to take Vitamin B12 supplements, or eat cereals and soy products fortified with it. Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin that cannot be obtained from a plant-based diet, and it’s important to healthy growth in teenagers. 
There’s no need to worry about a teenager opting for a vegan lifestyle. Ensure that they are properly educated about nutrition, and make sure they understand the importance of a varied and balanced diet, and they will continue to grow up to be healthy and strong: indeed, arguably, they will be healthier than they would have been with their previous diet.
Author:  Jane Sandwood