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Going Vegetarian

More and more teenagers are choosing not to eat meat. Vegetarians represent about two percent of Canada's population and teenagers are the fastest growing segment. Religious beliefs, environmental issues, personal ethics and food safety concerns are some of the main reasons cited for making the choice. Whatever the reason, it's important to make healthy vegetarian food choices.

So what do you do if your teen decides to become vegetarian? How can you support their decision while ensuring all of their nutritional needs are met? First, make sure they understand what foods to choose to meet their energy and nutrient needs to account for the lack of nutrient-rich foods in their diet. For many parents, showing encouragement can be difficult. "My husband and I had concerns about whether our daughter Natalie was getting the things she needed in her daily diet," says Lydia Falcomer, whose 17 year old announced her decision to become vegetarian last year. "We adjusted by having her go shopping with us regularly and by having her show us that she's being healthy, which she is,"explains Lydia.

Another major challenge is finding a way to satisfy everyone at mealtime. This can be an opportunity to cook creatively and add foods to your family's diet that you wouldn't normally serve.

Do all vegetarians eat the same thing?

Semi-vegetarians - limit their intake of animal products.
Lacto-vegetarians - avoid all animal products except dairy.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians - avoid all animal products except dairy and eggs.
Vegans - avoid all animal products.

For vegans, which foods are a good source of calcium?
The most well-known providers of calcium are vegetables and nuts such as almonds, baked beans, broccoli, fortified soy products and red and white kidney beans.

How do I ensure my teenager gets enough protein?
The recommended daily intake of protein is between 35-50 g. A combination of raw plant foods, grains, beans, legumes, cheese, eggs, milk, tofu, soy products and Kraft Peanut Butter can help meet their protein needs.

Should I worry about anemia?
Anemia results from a short supply of red blood cells. These cells are produced mainly by iron, folic acid and vitamin B12. Dried fruits, nuts, leafy veggies, beans, enriched breakfast cereals, and whole grain breads, are all sources of iron and folic acid.