My 16-Year-Old Wants to Be a Vegetarian

Hi Sue,

I have a 16-year-old daughter who has decided to be a vegetarian. The problem is I don't think she gets enough protein ... she eats all the junk foods. I don't agree with vegetarian eating but if it was because she was trying to eat healthy that would be one thing but she is not. Should I try to accommodate her or try to encourage her to eat a regular diet. She was a little chunky in her pre-teens and now is very thin ... I have been worried that she doesn't eat enough and could have an eating disorder. She also smokes.

Thank you for your input on this ... I would appreciate any help you may be able to give us.


Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Vicki,
Done properly, there are significant health benefits associated with a vegetarian diet. Regardless of her motivation for becoming a vegetarian, you can certainly encourage the proper reasons for becoming one. Of course, with teenagers, how you approach something is critical to its success.

As you are, for some reason, opposed to a vegetarian diet, it will take some effort on your part to remain objective about her decision to switch to that form of eating. Perhaps you can do some reading on the subject yourself, so that you can converse knowledgeably with her about it. Perhaps you can make a trip to the bookstore together and find a couple of books/cookbooks on the subject. If you can get your daughter to embrace the healthful aspects of the diet you may also, without directly trying, get her to switch away from the "junk" foods you are worried she is eating.

A couple of books to look for that your daughter may enjoy are: The Teens Guide to Going Vegetarian by Judy Krizmanic, and The Vegetarian Teen by Charles Salter. The latter includes a section for teens on how to get your parents to go along with the idea ... sounds like your daughter may benefit from reading that!

Try visiting for a wealth of information on becoming a vegetarian.

Many teens do switch to vegetarian eating, and that alone is not an indication of an eating disorder. Also, going from chunky to thin is a normal developmental progression for many kids. However, I do not want to downplay the potentially very harmful effects that an eating disorder may have. If you notice her becoming obsessed with food and exercise, if she becomes thinner and thinner, and if her eating habits become worse, you should speak to your pediatrician about your fears.

Best of luck to your and your daughter. I hope the switch to vegetarian eating is positive and healthful.

Best Regards,

Sue Gilbert

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