Nutritionist shares tips for teens who want to explore vegan diet

Don't fall for vegan junk food

DETROIT – Many teens are trying out a vegan diet, but are they going about it the right way?

Even kids in elementary school have said they want to go vegan. If your child wants to explore a plant-based diet, you should ask them why.

"So, going vegan because Beyonce is doing it, or somebody else is doing it, is not necessarily the best option. Especially for a teen," nutritionist Stacy Goldberg said.

Goldberg, a CEO of Savorfull, said there's a right and wrong way to go vegan.

"There are many conversations that I am having with kids. You want to be vegan, but I see no color in your diet to begin with, so how do we start making sure that you are eating all the different colored fruits and veggies," she said.

"There are a lot of traps in going vegan. Vegan can be a really helpful diet, it can be great for preventing heart disease, it can be great for weight, diabetes, there are so many benefits to it," she said.

"There are a lot of traps, also, there is a huge amount of people that go vegan and the tendency is to go towards a higher carbohydrate, lower protein diet."

"They start taking out the protein, the animal protein, and they start replacing it with carbs. Typically empty carbs, it could be they are swapping their steak for pasta or swapping their fish for potatoes," she said. "And I think there is a tendency to try and pick what is easy and convenient, rather than focusing on the macro nutrients and the micro nutrients in the food they are actually selecting."

Goldberg said a lot of people rely on what she calls vegan junk food, which she said is a big pitfall.

"They start replacing their chicken nugget with just a soy nugget and really and truly it is not a healthier option so I think that is something people do for convenience and they think it's going to be a healthier choice."

Another challenge is making sure your teen is getting enough protein.

"So, we can use things like pea protein and hemp and chia and all these different wonderful seeds and nut-based cheeses and there are so many amazing options to give you enough protein," she said. "But it takes work and it takes research and it takes doing a diet very carefully."

If your child suddenly wants to convert to a completely plant-based diet you should try to convince them to do it in baby steps, according to Goldberg. She also suggests to go to an expert.

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