Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Is My Vegetarian Teen Getting Enough Protein?

My 16-year-old daughter has decided to stop eating animal protein, including fish. I worry about her protein intake. I have been buying tofu, protein drinks, etc., but she seems to just want to eat pasta and veggies.

Answer (Published 4/4/2002)

Updated on 6/30/2005

Vegetarian eating is surprisingly popular among teenagers these days - the American Dietetic Association reports that one-third think that being a vegetarian is "in." And, like you, many parents worry that their youngsters aren't getting enough protein. Even though the teen years are a period of rapid growth with high nutritional needs, it is easy to get adequate protein from beans, soy nuts, seeds and soy foods. Most people in our society eat far much too much protein, and you don't really have to worry that your daughter isn't getting enough as long as her hair and nails are growing and her wounds heal.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Energy - If you are a parent or grandparent, you know that energy is vital to keeping up with the kids. Find out what foods and supplements can keep you energized - naturally! Join the Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online plan today and get 14 days free!

However, if she won't try protein drinks or tofu, you might suggest that she eat (in moderation) something that might be more appealing to her - peanut butter (a natural brand that isn't crammed with hydrogenated fat) or, better yet, almond butter which has a better kind of fat. Encourage her to try some of the many available soy foods on the market - some of the soy burgers are quite tasty. I would suggest a daily supplement of 100 mcg of vitamin B12 if her diet continues to exclude soy foods and other sources of protein.

Teens also have relatively high iron requirements which can be easily met by eating a varied diet - good sources include apricots, raisins, spinach, all types of beans, breads and cereals. The iron in these foods will be better absorbed when combined with foods containing vitamin C such as citrus fruits and juices, broccoli and tomatoes. Getting adequate calcium is another concern during the teen years - but your daughter should be able to get plenty from green vegetables including collard greens, mustard greens and kale, calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice and tofu processed with calcium sulfate.

If you can make your daughter understand the importance of eating a varied diet, you will have little to worry about. A varied vegetarian diet is much healthier than the average American diet and will provide your daughter with more than enough protein.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here