Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

The question

My teenage daughter wants to become a vegan. Is it safe?

The answer

Story continues below advertisement

It's only natural to worry if your vegetarian daughter will get the nutrients she needs. Depending on the type of vegetarian diet she follows, there may be cause for concern. A number of studies show that vegetarian teens don't meet daily targets for calories, protein, calcium, iron and zinc.

A vegan diet is the strictest form of vegetarian as it avoids all animal foods: meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. Lacto-vegetarians do eat dairy products. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians include dairy and eggs in their diets. And pesco-vegetarians will eat fish, dairy products and eggs.

Here's the good news. A vegetarian diet – vegan diets included – can provide growing teenagers with all the nutrients their bodies need if it's properly planned.

Even so, it's important to keep a watchful eye. Research has shown that some girls use a vegetarian diet as a way to hide an eating disorder.

The keys to a nutritionally complete vegan diet are planning and variety. Encourage your daughter to learn more about vegetarianism. If possible, I recommend she consult with a dietitian to learn how to balance a vegan diet. Here are a few tips to get her started.

Protein. Vegans get protein from lentils, beans (e.g. chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, soy beans), tofu, tempeh, seitan (a protein made from wheat), soy beverages, nuts and seeds. Whole grains and vegetables also supply some protein. Rice, almond and oat beverages are low in protein.

Vitamin B12. Naturally occurring only in animal foods, vegans need to include three servings of B12 in their daily diet. One serving equals: fortified plant beverages (1/2 cup), nutritional yeast (1 tablespoon), fortified breakfast cereal (30 grams) or fortified soy products (42 grams).

Story continues below advertisement

To ensure B12 needs are met, take a B12 supplement or multivitamin with 5 to 10 micrograms of B12.

Calcium. This mineral is vital for building strong bones and teeth. Because most peak bone mass is achieved by age 18, teenagers have high daily calcium requirements (1,300 milligrams). Getting too little calcium during the teen years can increase the risk for osteoporosis later in life.

Good food sources in a vegan include fortified plant beverages and juice, tofu made with calcium sulphate, beans, cooked green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, Swiss chard, spinach), cooked broccoli, almonds, tahini, and blackstrap molasses.

To meet daily calcium requirements, a supplement may be required.

Iron. This nutrient is especially important for teenage girls who need more of the mineral than boys because of menstruation. Since vegetarian iron sources are not as easily absorbed as animal sources, vegetarians have higher daily iron requirements than meat-eaters.

Food sources include beans, lentils, nuts, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, breakfast cereals and dried fruit. Iron absorption can be increased by eating plant foods with vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruit, strawberries, red pepper and tomato juice.

Story continues below advertisement

Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian, is based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto. She can be seen every Thursday at noon on CTV News Channel's Direct (www.lesliebeck.com).

Click here to submit your questions. Our Health Experts will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies