More and more, kids are going veggie. According to a 2010 poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group, a full seven percent of teens (age 8-18) are vegetarian, up from one percent in 1997. Of the vegetarians, one-third (approximately 1% of the US youth population) also abstain from eating eggs, dairy, and honey and fall under the classification of vegan.
Teens decide to go vegetarian for reasons ranging from animal rights concerns to desire for a better diet and health—but often, non-veggie parents are the ones with heightened anxiety in the wake of a teen swearing off meat. Before the Food Pyramid debuted in 1992, the United States Department of Agriculture recommend the Basic Four: meat, dairy, grains, and fruits/veggies. Parents of young veggies struggle with the idea of their children giving up one or even two of the Basic Four—how could it possibly be healthy for a still-growing young adult? It can be! Check out this vegan food pyramid:
Veggie kids are also making efforts to mold a meat-eating world to their needs. For example, 17-year-old New Yorker Jay Astafovic decided to become vegetarian and then vegan while working at his family’s pizzeria. The New York Times quotes Jay as saying, “I would look at all those pizzas” topped with cheese, “and wish there was a vegan option.”Jay has helped his family pioneer a veg-friendly menu, including vegan versions of meat-eater Italian staples such as chicken parmesan. Check out a CBS Health and Wellness three-minute feature on Jay and his vegan pizza here.
Vegan kids like Jay are demanding tofurkey at Thanksgiving and veggie burgers during summer barbecues, and opting for veggie wraps for lunch. As long as parents are careful to help their veggie teens maintain a nutritional diet, going vegetarian be beneficial in terms of not only health but also carbon footprint. Vegetarian high school students can even win college scholarships of $5000 from the Vegetarian Resource Group.
Some easy vegetarian recipes to get you (and your teens!) cooking: