As parents, sometimes when our offspring announce their intentions we can barely contain our horror, fear, or, perhaps less flatteringly, our unwillingness to accommodate phases that make extra work for us.
But if your teenager has decided to stop eating meat, don’t worry. According to the American Dietetic Association, a vegetarian diet can be safe for everyone. And there are documented health benefits like a reduced chance for high blood pressure and cancer. A vegetarian diet may even help your teen control his weight!
Wait up! It’s safe?
The unfortunate part of a vegetarian diet is how difficult it is to get foods rich enough in calcium and vitamin D to keep your teeth and gums strong and healthy. So if your teen is thinking about it, check in with your Columbia dentist next time you come by for a visit.
It might be a good idea to make sure your teen understands the various types of vegetarian eating. Here are a few definitions:
Vegetarians who only eat fish. These are called pescetarians--people who avoid all meat-based proteins except for fish. Most pescetarians also eat cheese and eggs.
The most common vegetarian diet is called the lacto-ovo diet. These vegetarians consume animal products like cheese, eggs, and yogurt.
Some vegetarians also avoid all animal-derived food sources including eggs, cheese, and milk. This diet is called a vegan diet. Some vegans even avoid honey!
For all types of vegetarians getting enough calcium and vitamin D might be tricky!
Here are a few things to help your teen with (if he’ll let you):
Take him to a dietician. Many dieticians offer inexpensive exploratory consultations.
Provide or encourage a diet rich in broccoli and dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, turnip greens, and collards to get enough calcium. A variety of vitamin calcium-fortified products are available at the supermarket: some brands of orange juice, tofu, soy milk, and cereal are calcium-enriched.
Vitamin D is especially tricky for vegetarians because it naturally occurs primarily in fish. Make sure your teen understands that calcium is useless without vitamin D to help the body absorb it! Many of the products listed above that are fortified with calcium are also fortified with vitamin D.
Offer a vitamin D supplement, especially if your teen isn’t big on soy milk, orange juice, or cereal.
Need more tips?
Come see us next time you’re near by and talk to us about how to help your teen protect his oral health while maintaining a vegetarian diet. Remind him that, while web research is an important starting place, it’s best to work in concert with his health professionals including us: his Columbia dentist, his general practitioner, and any specialists he sees to ensure a balanced vegetarian diet.
Accepting patients from Columbia, Elgin, and Lugoff.