Veganism, the diet (eating-kind, not weight loss kind) that excludes all animal products has been on the rise since 2014. According to Live Kindly’s recap of Veganism in the past year, there are huge increases in demands for animal-product free foods.
One quick search on YouTube for veganism shows recent uploads of what I eat in a day, suggestion videos, ‘why I went vegan’ videos, and vegan vlogs.
Why the increase? I think that in the digital age, where information can be transferred quicker than we can blink, we’re seeing a lot of other vegans blogging, vlogging, podcasting, and just tweeting about their ideas and beliefs. As with all discussions, people are seeing other’s point of view and changing.
We also see more vegan celebrities and athletes paving the way and spreading the message of the benefits of eating a plant-heavy diet.
I personally went vegan because of Beagle Freedom Project, a nonprofit that rescues animals from animal testing. After a while I realized that if I’m against animals being tested on, why do I eat them?
Of course, there are people against animal testing but might feel differently about eating them. And that’s okay!
But what if your teen wants to be vegan?
The common definition of veganism, the one I shared earlier, can be a red flag. It focuses on the exclusion of things rather than the inclusion- so let’s change our focus!
What do we add when someone goes vegan?
Since vegans don’t eat cheese, meat, milk, or eggs, they include more legumes, beans, plant milks, whole grains and other forms of protein like nuts, seeds, and tofu.
Veganism can be focused on junk food (there’s a whole list of accidentally vegan junk food), but ultimately a balanced vegan diet includes lots of colors of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources.
It’s totally okay if your teen wants to be vegan
Puberty and adolescence is the time where teens are going to experiment with their independence, which can look like a bunch of different things: eating more fast food than normal, not wanting to go to religious services with you, cutting their hair/growing it out, and going vegan.
There are a lot of different ways you can support your teen if they decide they want to go plant-based. I wrote an article for Athlegan on how to transition to a vegan diet that will be helpful for you to read. I break down a typical transition into four steps.
- Decide the reason
- Accept that mistakes happen
- Start small
- Find Vegan friends
Ask your teen why they want to be vegan. If it’s because they saw videos of factory farms, or because they just don’t like meat, then you have a way to discuss with them about their meal options.
Have them help cook dinner and decide their lunches. This is a big shift if you and your family normally eat animal products- especially if your teen is using this as an excuse to be extra picky. Help your teen figure out what they like and don’t like by having them pick out recipes with you.
Even if it’s just a new spin on beans and rice, your teen getting a say in recipes and learning to cook them not only helps you but helps them learn an important skill: cooking!
One of the things that I wish I had learned before I left for school was different cooking skills. I could do the basics and even now I’m not too bad, but I wish I would have had a couple handful of recipes before I went away for college.
Vegan diets can be extremely healthy. Vegan Health.org goes over some things to keep track of for your teen, and here are some things to consider:
- Vegan diets emphasize a lot of fruits and vegetables
- The main protein sources are whole foods: beans, legumes, etc
- They’re high in fiber which help keep you regular
- They’re extremely versatile when it comes to dishes (look at my Pinterest for inspo!)
- For burgers, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets, there are meat substitutes you can buy for cookouts with your teen (yes, I know it’s March, but I’m just optimistic for those warmer days!)
Other tips and tricks are available through One Green Planet’s article on Feeding Vegan Teens.
Some key takeaways from that article are:
Eat or drink something high in Vitamin C to help your body absorb iron (this can look like a glass of calcium fortified orange juice and some cereal, or oatmeal).
Remember: A vegan diet isn’t a deprivation diet. You can be extremely healthy on a vegan diet. You can even veganize some of your teens favorite recipes, like pizza, smoothies, and desserts.
We’ll go into how to spot if your teen’s veganism is covering an eating disorder in a later post!