Teen Needs Diet Plan for Becoming Vegetarian

Step-dad says teen must have daily vegetarian diet plan - is it worth it?

I am 13 years old and I want to become vegetarian for two reasons: 1) I feel bad about the animals, and 2) I need to lose weight.

My Step Dad says its fine as long as I have a daily diet plan. Everyday I have to have in writing what I am eating.

Will it really be worth all the work? I'm not sure about it. HELP!- K. M.

Savvy Vegetarian Advice

Your step dad is partly right. Your parents are responsible for you, and want to make sure you don't run into trouble, which is why he's asking you have a daily diet plan. And you should be in charge of what you eat - you can't expect your parents to plan out the whole thing for you, when they have a different diet.

On the other hand, even an adult, who knows all about cooking and at least a bit about nutrition, can't jump right into being vegetarian overnight. You need to go veg gradually, for several reasons:

1) You may not know yet how to plan and cook nutritious meals. You need to learn gradually about vegetarian diet and nutrition, not jump in over your head, and set yourself up to fail. I'm sure your step dad wouldn't expect you to become a violinist overnight, and for the same reason, you can't become vegetarian overnight. There's too much to learn.

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2) It takes time to get used to a vegetarian diet. You need to explore different vegetarian foods, learn how to prepare them (e.g. beans, veggies, whole grains), find out what you like, and what agrees with you. In your case, you also need to learn what foods will help you to lose weight, and which won't. Again, there's a big learning curve. Hint: ditch the cheese, get more active, and unplug the TV.

3) Because you're still growing, you need to take care that you're getting proper nutrition. It doesn't work to just cut out the meat, and other wise eat just the same as you have been. If your parents allow you to become vegetarian, they're still responsible for your nutrition, which means they'll also have to learn about vegetarian diet. Are they willing to support you that way?

So, here's my advice: First learn all that you can about vegetarian diet. I've attached two vegetarian reports to help you get started. And here are a few other resources for you:

Get a copy of The New Becoming Vegetarian, by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis - it's an easy to read vegetarian nutrition guide, available online or at bookstores.

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Get one or two good vegetarian cookbooks, and practice making some simple dishes for yourself, and to share with your family. There's a list of recommended cookbooks on Savvy Vegetarian.

Plus there are lots of recipes and cooking tips on Savvy Veg.

Gradually introduce vegetarian foods into your diet, and start easing back on the animal foods, with no deadlines. For instance, start out with a vegetarian breakfast, once you've got that down, start figuring out a few lunches a week, and so on.

Becoming vegetarian is definitely worth it, and it's not hard, even with having to make a daily diet plan. That could actually help you go veg!

Just take it one step at a time, and don't mind a few setbacks here and there. If you stick with it, by the time you're ready to leave home, you'll be pretty good at being vegetarian.

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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