When teenagers choose different dietary paths than their parents—and they often do—it can trigger awkward family dynamics. Don’t take it personally, says vegan author and chef Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. “They’re making a decision using the skills you gave them,” she says. “It’s not about you.” Look for resources and information together, and employ the following tips, says Ginny Messina, MPH, RD.
Stock snacks. Because teenagers often grab snacks in place of sit-down meals, stock the pantry and fridge with healthy vegan foods that don’t require much preparation: trail mix, vegan pizza, hummus wraps, fortified plant milks and juices, bagels with peanut or almond butter, instant soups, soy or coconut yogurt, granola bars, and seasoned baked tofu.
Tweak favorite meals to accommodate all family members. Serve bean burritos with a variety of toppings, including vegan cheese and guacamole. Reserve a portion of spaghetti sauce before adding meat. Keep the freezer stocked with veggie burgers, and keep canned vegetarian baked beans and meatless chili in the pantry for quick mealtime substitutions.
Focus on C. Pack the fridge with vitamin C–rich foods: citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, washed and cut-up bell peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower. Vitamin C improves iron absorption, especially important for teenage girls.
Suggest supplements. Although teens can meet calcium needs on vegan diets, especially if they drink calcium-fortified beverages, those who aren’t getting enough from food may need a supplement. All vegan teenagers need a vitamin B12 supplement, and those who aren’t getting enough sunlight need vitamin D, says Messina. Many teens, vegan or not, fall short of meeting needs for iron, too, so consider supplements.