Your teen has told you they’ve decided to become vegetarian. Or vegan. And you’ve turned to the internet for guidance. The good news is the change doesn’t have to be difficult or onerous for you, your teen or your family. Here are my top 5 tips for making your teens transition to the veg*an lifestyle easier.
It’s not about you
This sounds obvious, but when your teen starts explaining how the poor treatment of farm animals has led to their decision to become veg*an, it can feel like a challenge to your belief or even a quiet attack on your ethics. It’s not. In fact, it’s a great opportunity to talk to your child and open a line of communication that goes beyond the usual teenage language of grunts and single syllables!
Part of respecting your teens beliefs is understanding exactly what lifestyle they’re choosing for themselves. There are lacto-ovo vegetarians who avoid all animal flesh but consume dairy and egg products. Lacto vegetarians avoid eggs, but consume dairy. Ovo vegetarians avoid all animal products except eggs. And vegans avoid everything. (Jokes). Vegans avoid all animal and animal-derived products. It’s quite common to start off lacto-ovo vegetarians and move to vegan over time.
There’s no need to get hung up on the label. The term veg*an nicely encompasses vegans and vegetarians. But it is important to know where your teen draws their line, so you can find recipes that support their new lifestyle.
Don’t assume it’s a phase
It’s a common perception that teenagers, especially girls, become veg*an to lose weight. While that may true in a minority of cases, there’s actually evidence that veg*anism is on the rise amongst teenagers and young people all around the world. Documentaries like Cowspiracy are opening their minds and inspiring teens to change their diet. Reliable data on the number of veg*an teenagers is hard to find but Australia is now the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world, after the United Arab Emirates and China. That’s a lot of veg*ans.
Meat-free doesn’t mean malnourished
There’s a perception that because veg*ns don’t consume meat and meat products, their diet must be lacking. And it’s simply not true. It’s possible to get almost all the vital nutrients your teen needs from a veg*n diet, it just requires some clever substitution. Look for foods and recipes high in B12, calcium, iron and be sure to include a source of protein in main meals. For total vegans, its recommended to take a B12 supplement in the form of vitamins or liquid.
Take a chance
We all get stuck in a bit of food rut; cooking the same meals over and over, ordering the same takeaway or going to the same restaurant. This is an opportunity to try something new. Google will be your best friend when it comes to finding tasty veg*n meals. Search #whatveganseat on Instagram or check out veg*an recipes pages on Facebook.
It’s also your chance to outsource some of the family dinners to your teen (if you don’t already). Tell them to showcase their passion while you enjoy a night off kitchen duty!
The veg*an lifestyle is increasingly mainstream so there’s really nothing to fear from the teens' decision to not consume meat. With a few small changes to your weekly shopping list, you’ll be able to support your child’s new diet. You might even find a new meat-free family dinner that everyone loves to eat!