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Ask the experts: Vegetarian teenagers

Q: "My daughter prefers to eat vegetarian but I feel she is not eating enough of the right foods. I'm concerned she may not be getting enough iron and protein for growth through the teenage years. I find it either expensive to buy specific foods or time-consuming preparing vegetarian meals to ensure she eats a satisfactory meal."  

Helen

A: Nutritionist Claire Turnbull explains:

"Making sure teenagers have adequate protein, calcium and iron in the diet is essential to help their bones and muscles grow and to keep energy levels up for times of change.

Adding some protein-rich foods to meals and snacks will help get the nutrition your daughter needs. You can also look at including vegetarian meals for the family a few times a week to ease the pressure. Lentils, chickpeas and other pulses are a source of protein and iron, are inexpensive and with a good recipe, this is food the whole family can enjoy!

Nuts and seeds are also a valuable addition to a vegetarian diet as they contain protein as well as essential fats.

Here is how you could work her day (and not destroy yours!)

Breakfast: Muesli with low-fat milk and fruit

Mid-morning: Handful of nuts and dried fruit or sliced edam cheese and grainy crackers

Lunch ideas:

  • Salad with canned chickpeas and chopped boiled egg
  • Sandwich with hummus and salad
  • Mashed egg and salad with a piece of fruit
  • Mixed bean salad with a citrus dressing

Mid afternoon: Low-fat yoghurt and fruit

Dinner ideas:

  • Vegetarian sausages, roasted veges and greens (you could have steak)
  • Omelette and salad with new potatoes
  • Falafels with pita bread, salad and natural yoghurt (you could have lean meat balls)
  • Couscous with butter beans and roasted vegetables (you could add shredded chicken at the end)
  • Stir fry with tofu. Cook your meat and tofu separately and serve with stir fry veges and rice
  • Make a spaghetti Bolognese with lentils for everyone (tasty and cheap!)

Supper: Glass of low-fat milk or hot chocolate made with milk

First published: Aug 2009



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