Teenagers and the Vegetarian Choice

Teenagers and the Vegetarian Choice

Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The teen years are filled with many changes and challenges. This is a popular time for choosing to be vegetarian. Teenagers are becoming aware of their body’s and of their environment because of the many avenues of exploration and information open to teens through family, school and the community. They are old enough now to be aware of the connection between values and actions. Many decide that killing animals and using them for their skin or meat is cruel and the choice to become a vegetarian is made. This choice can sometimes be difficult for family or friends to understand and to respect. Often times when information is made available to both the teen, their family and their friends concerning the dietary needs of the vegetarian it becomes easier to understand and accept their decision.

Teenagers and the Vegetarian Choice

Teens often choose to follow a vegetarian diet because they believe in striving for a cleaner more compassionate world and see following the vegetarian diet as something that they can do to forward those goals. They feel that the food choices they make is within their control in a world that otherwise seems out of control to them.

There are many benefits to being vegetarian, that teens find comforting. They learn about how animal they can reduce their risk for certain diseases like cancer, obesity, heart disease and hypertension by following a vegetarian diet and they then desire to learn all they can about how to substitute other foods for red meat. Some teens become sensitized to the plight of animals raised for slaughter and the often times inhumane conditions the animals are raised in. Teens have an amazing capacity for compassion. Teens are also becoming more aware of the risk to our tropical rainforests, one of which is the negative impact meat production has on the rainforests. They are taught about the rainforests during school programs and conservation studies conducted in communities and zoos.

Teens have special needs when they are following a vegetarian lifestyle. One of these needs is to have enough calcium in their diet for their growing bones. They need to have three or more good sources of calcium in their food intake each day. They can get calcium by eating green leafy vegetables like collard greens, kale and mustard greens. Most grocery stores today stock calcium-fortified orange juice and soymilk. Another dietary need that teens have is for iron. They can get iron from the following foods: black-eyed peas, broccoli, chickpeas, pinto beans, spinach and raisins.

Teens lead busy lives between school, after-school jobs and extra-curricular activities that often times they need to grab food quickly. Finding vegetarian food that is easy to make and can be carried and eaten on the run can be challenging. Some favorites of teens are: apples, bananas, bagels, carrots or celery sticks with peanut butter, pretzels, bean tacos, frozen juice bars.

Teens are often times concerned about their weight or body image and can even be pressured to weigh a certain amount when participating in sports or are involved in school activities where they are in the public eye. A good diet is balanced between eating and exercising.

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