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Parents, don't panic over teens' vegan diets

January 10, 2008 12:36 am

Parents, don't panic over teens' vegan diets

As a dietitian, I want to assure youth correspondent Sarah Keith and other teenagers--as well as their parents--that following a healthy vegan diet is safe ["Veganism may be difficult to stomach," Jan. 1].

In fact, leading nutrition experts, including the American Dietetic Association, support a well-planned, plant-based diet as completely healthy for all stages of life, including childhood and adolescence.

Researchers have found that vegetarian adolescents consume more fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich foods, like beans and whole grains, and have lower intakes of cholesterol and artery-clogging saturated fat than their meat-eating peers.

This healthy diet can help teens maintain a healthy weight and ward off diabetes and other diet-related illnesses. Of course, all young people--whether they follow a vegan diet or not--should avoid french fries, fried foods, and other junk foods.

Parents don't need to panic over their teens' vegetarian or vegan diet. A wide variety of plant foods--including a fortified source or supplement of vitamin B12--can provide all the necessary nutrients without the fat and cholesterol found in animal products.

Susan Levin Washington The writer is a staff dietitian with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

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