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Going Vegan as a Teenager

by Bree

Right now I'm 16 and still living with my family, and I really want to have veganism as my lifestyle. The only problem is that my dad probably won't approve of the change, and that the food that we have in the house isn't vegan. How do you think I could get my dad to understand that it's more healthy than a meat-based diet?

Vegan Nutritionista's Answer:

I decided to go vegetarian when I was 12 years old, so I know exactly how you’re feeling. I had just learned about what happens to animals that we use for food and did not want any part of hurting them. What’s admirable about you wanting to go vegan is that you understand what it took me years to grasp; continuing to eat milk and cheese and eggs is still contributing to hurting animals. Going vegan is the only real way not to take part in the process.

What you need to remember about your parents is that because they love you, they have a fierce need to protect you and keep you safe. They are worried that by dropping a part of your diet that they believe is fundamental to human health, that you’re not going to be getting all the nutrients you need to grow your body and brain.

For anyone who is used to eating a regular diet, the concept of veganism seems extreme and unhealthy. Where will you get protein? How will your bones be strong without drinking milk? What exactly will you eat for dinner? These are questions that my site and dozens of other vegan sites discuss at length because changing your diet in such a large way causes plenty of questions.

So, my first piece of advice is to start a conversation with your parents. I recommend that you use this format:

1. Listen to what they’re saying so you can understand what they are worried about
2. Clarify/Review the concern
3. Restate the concern
4. Respond with a solution

So something like this…
You: "Mom, I just watched this documentary called Earthlings about what animals raised for food go through and I don’t want to eat meat or dairy products anymore. I want to be a vegan."

Parent: "Absolutely not. When you leave this house you can eat any way you want."

You: "Why would you not want me to be a vegan?"

Parent: "Because I’m not cooking a different meal for you."/"Because you need to drink milk to have strong bones."/"Because you’re 15 and I make the rules."/"Because meat is good for you."/"I don’t care what the animals go through." (At this point simply listen and understand what they are saying. Don’t freak out. Remember that they are worried about you and fundamentally want to protect you.)

You: "Okay, so you’re worried that you’ll have to think of something to make just for me in addition to what you’re already cooking?"/"Okay, so you’re worried that I won’t get enough calcium if I stop drinking milk?"/"Okay, so you’re worried that I’m too young to decide this on my own?"/"Okay so you’re worried that if I stop eating meat I’ll be unhealthy?"/"Okay, so you don’t want me to be a vegan because it doesn’t matter to you that the animals are hurt?"

Then you can move on to finding a solution.

"I totally get it, Mom. I wondered about how I’d get calcium without drinking milk too, so I looked it up. It turns out that although milk has a lot of calcium, it’s actually hard for our bodies to digest it so we don’t absorb as much. Do you want to look at this site where I found that info?"

Then show them a variety of different websites that explain the health benefits of a vegan diet. I’m including some from my site throughout my response, but I recommend using others as well. PCRM.org is a really comprehensive website with tons of information on healthy vegan diets. I like the food pyramid translated to vegan diets too, as a start for how it works for us.

As for getting more vegan-friendly food in the house, everyone can eat vegan food! Just ask for more fruits and vegetables and avoid eating the processed things. I bet if you search around you can find things that are vegan that everyone will enjoy.

I recommend keeping your main goal as you wanting to convince your parent that you will do it in a healthy way because, in my experience, that’s what most parents object to. Try to stay away from arguing about it and maintain respect for them. It’s a positive and joyful decision to decide you aren’t partaking in cruelty anymore and you should keep that spirit when talking to your parents about why you want to be a vegan and going forward to anyone who asks why you are vegan.

What happened with me was that I just stopped eating the meat portion of our meals. I ate more of the vegetables and whatever else was served. As I got older I would make my own main entrees. It took about 10 years before I investigated vegetarianism and I found that for all the reasons I had been a vegetarian (ethical belief against hurting animals, protection of the environment, health), it was even better to be a vegan.

I hope that you choose to do it differently. I’d love for your generation of teenagers to decide to be vegan and to be shining examples of how healthy the lifestyle can be. Make sure you’re eating tons of different kinds of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, a variety of beans, and add in nuts and seeds. As a teen you’re probably going to need to eat a lot of this stuff, and that’s great. It’s all nourishing and healthy and cruelty-free.

Congratulations to you for making such a life-altering choice!

Comments for Going Vegan as a Teenager

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this was great!
by: Anonymous

i'm 14 and have been a vegan for a year now and my parents said exactly the same things that were put in this page, i wish i would have seen this when i was first starting out but i'm glad that new teens starting out have this great info.

addressing the concerns above...
by: Emily J.

To those teens whose parents are concerned about vegan-wannabes getting the right nutrition, have your parents read the book "Vegan For Life" by Jack Cooper and Virginia Messina. The authors are both Registered Dietitians, both vegan. They detail the proper diet to ensure that children, teens, and adults get the calories and nutrition they need on a vegan diet.

To those whose mothers don't want to cook separate meals: would this really be necessary? For example, if Mom cooks chicken, potatoes, and green beans for supper, you can eat the potatoes and green beans and fix your own chickpea-greens salad to go with it. I can see how this would be difficult if Mom fixes a casserole or potpie or something, but what if you agree to heat up a half can of beans and cook some rice yourself?

Another idea is to offer to cook for the entire family. By the time I was a teen, my mom was more than tired of preparing meals for six people and was thrilled when my sister and I volunteered to start making supper for the family a couple of times a week. (We were sick of her cooking, lol.) What about finding some super-tasty vegan main dishes to fix for your family? Who knows, you may even convince them that eating vegan is tastier than eating meat-based meals! (Never hurts to dream.;))

My mom wants me to drink milk
by: Joanna

hi, i'm a 15 year old girl and i decided to become vegan. i told my mom and she took me to a nutritionist.
he said that he didn't want me to take any supplements and that the only way he would approve my diet would be if i drink 0,5 to 0,75 liters of milk and an egg a day. so i agreed to that because my mother would only let me be a vegan if the nutritionist approved my diet.
my question is, if i eat the egg and the milk should/can i also eat food that contains milk and eggs, like cheese, yogurt, some cookies, etc...?
i don't think i should since i'm only eating the milk and the egg out of duty but i'm not sure. please help!
ps: sorry if my english isn't correct, it's not my main language

More of a concern
by: Kimberly

I started being vegan a month ago and its going okay since eveything i basically eat is the basic food of a vegan diet but it always the same and i wish i could make other delicious vegan foodi see in picture but im just a teen with no job and money to buy all ingredient every time i would like try somwthing different my mom buys fruits and veggies beans for me but my family isn't supportive and don't seem to care that much about what i choose to be and belief in their always eating meat in front of me and sometimes I have to cook it for my sisters while my mom works and I feel bad cooking it but I have to make them what they want for dinner or buy go and buy fast food that smells good and the smell also gets to me but I wouldnt brake my vegan diet I just feel like meat and dairy is always in my face at home I don't want to give up my vegan diet but I feel like I'm not going to go long in this diet with my family acting like this I don't know what to do and i feel alone on this and their always bothering me about how why am I going so extreme on my vegan diet when I feel it's normal their just always in my face about it like I tell them this what I chose to do and i can't eat what you all eat but try always bother me like a lot about being vegan it's really bothers me when they try talk me into eating "normal" like them

Worries about becoming Vegan again!
by: GN

Um hi I'm 15 years old girl who has been vegan once at 12 for 2 weeks and another last year at 14 for 3 mths. What made me turn vegan both times was after watching a video on animal abuse and how it's a healthier lifestyle! The first time I stopped being vegan was because my mom said it wasn't healthy since my family meals consisted heavily of meat. The second time was because I lost weight drastically I went from 98 to 91 in those 3 months. I felt nausea and tired all the time, and couldn't eat much around the house because it was filled with animal ingredients. My family wouldn't budge on compensating for my veganism so I had to eat animal several times.Also my other reason was everyone I knew from family and friends to complete strangers looked at me bewildered and questioned me about it. I was getting picked on constantly,and everyone kept telling me that what I was standing up for was stupid. I want to be vegan again but secretly until I can fully support myself since I'm goign to be getting a job soon. Also I would like to know vegan makeup brands,recipes for making my own vegan makeup,vegan haircare for curly hair,tips for taking care of curly hair using vegan products,vegan personal and clothing brands,etc.

I am thinking about becoming vegan
by: Tessa

I was on facebook and I saw a video on farming, I was IMMEDIATLY sent into tears and now I am contemplating becoming vegan. Only problem is I am 13 and my mum hates cooking seperate meals. I have considered that I could get the instant vegetables and soups but I was wondering for some easy cooking meals. I have looked through your site and all the recipes seem easy for a family or an adult but I'd like one easy enough for me to cook after school.

The good thing is that I want to start NOW. I hate meat now, and I have come to the realisation that McDonalds chips are POTATOES so i can still eat their chips (Haha!) thanks.

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