Q My teenage daughter wants to become vegan. How can I support her and still ensure she gets what she needs nutritionally?
Annabelle, via email
A Being vegan means eating no animal products, including dairy and honey, so make sure your daughter is getting enough vitamins B12 and D, iron, calcium and omega-3s from other food sources. As she is still growing, iron should be a priority. She can get this from wholegrain cereals and breads, paired with a vitamin C-rich food such as tomatoes or oranges.
Encourage her to drink vitamin B12-fortified plant milk, otherwise she should take a B12 supplement. Soy and almond milk are also fortified with calcium, which will benefit her bones. At around 300mg calcium in a 250ml glass, this is on a par with regular milk. Almonds, sesame seeds, broccoli, spinach and dried figs also provide small amounts of calcium, but not enough on their own to meet the 1300mg daily intake suggested for this age. Some plant-based milks are also fortified with vitamin D, for healthy bone growth.
Omega-3s are especially important for children’s brain health. Non-animal sources include linseed, hemp seeds, walnuts, pecans, soy beans and leafy green veggies. She needs to eat a good amount of these to reach her omega-3 targets, as vegan sources are not as efficiently processed in the body. Good luck!