by Jack Norris, RD
Because the information on VeganHealth.org can be long and complicated, this page is devoted to making things as simple as possible for vegan teens. Here are the most important things to know for most teenage vegans.
Drinking one cup of soymilk fortified with vitamin B12, calcium, and vitamin D each day can go a long way towards giving you the nutrition that might otherwise be lacking in a vegan diet. And if you were to drink two cups, you would really be covered.
A daily supplement with vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, iron, and zinc is also a good idea. There are many available—you can get one at any grocery store. Some might not be completely vegan and if you don’t have the time or money to worry about that, then you shouldn’t. But if you do want to have a completely vegan multivitamin, Deva Nutrition has a good one.
You should get some omega-3s in your daily diet. A tablespoon of canola oil or a teaspoon of flaxseed oil on some bread is a good way, and walnuts are also a good source.
Eat orange and yellow vegetables daily for vitamin A—carrot juice, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and butternut squash are great sources. Dark green vegetables will provide iron and calcium—turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, bok choy, and collard greens are good sources. Eat legumes for protein, zinc, and folate—these include beans, peas, and lentils.
It’s a good idea for vegetarian teens, and especially teenage girls, to make sure they eat a food that has a large amount of vitamin C with at least two meals per day. This is because vitamin C greatly increases iron absorption of plant foods. Some foods that are high in vitamin C per typical serving are orange juice and grapefruit juice (80 mg per cup), oranges (50 mg per small orange), broccoli (50 mg per 1/2 cup cooked and chopped), strawberries (85 mg per 1 cup of whole berries), grapefruit (40-50 mg per 1/2 fruit), yellow peppers (70 mg per 1/4 cup chopped), and red peppers (50 mg per 1/4 cup chopped).
More information on all these topics can be found in the Daily Needs article.
Also see the booklet Vegan Nutrition for Teenagers, by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD (PDF) from the Vegetarian Resource Group.