Adolescent Vegetarianism on the Rise

Filed under: Opinions

teen eatingWhen my daughter was a teenager, she went though a six-month period of vegetarianism. This change of diet occurred immediately after seeing the film Solyent Green. I've never seen that movie, but I understand it is a science fiction film that explores the consequences of overpopulation and involves cannibalism. Somehow this movie convinced her that meat was disgusting and she swore it off. While I supported her efforts to not eat anything with a face, she eventually came across a pepperoni pizza she couldn't resist and that was the end of that.

Her vegetarian experience happened over ten years ago, but according to a recent study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it seems that more and more children are turning their backs on meat. The study found that about 1 in every 200 children avoid eating meat - a number some believe is even higher among older kids who have more control over what they eat.

Many of these kids who drop meat from their diets attribute their decision not to health concerns but to animal welfare issues. "Compassion for animals is the major, major reason," said Richard Schwartz, president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America. "When kids find out the things they are eating are living animals - and if they have a pet...." It's not just the fact that they are eating formerly live animals that turns some kids off. It's the way these animals come to be on their plates. You Tube and other sites are chock full of videos showing the slaughter of animals for food and viewing these can be shocking for kids and adults alike.

But for a parent of an adolescent who goes vegetarian, the question must be one of health. Can growing kids gets the nutrition they need without eating meat? Experts say yes, as long as they are replacing meat with the proper foods. To avoid unhealthy weight gain and nutrition loss when giving up meat, kids should skip the junk food and soda and instead add foods that contain the protein, vitamins B12 and D, iron, and calcium that they would usually get from meat, eggs and dairy. For more information on nutrition basics, visit the CDC Website.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.