TeenHealthFX thinks that you do have the right to become a vegan if that is in accordance with your values and beliefs. However, we think your main focus in this particular situation should be your relationship with your mother and how the two of you can come to an understanding about this issue. In working this out with your mother, FX suggests you consider the following:
- FX wonders how clear you are about why your being a vegetarian or vegan makes you a “pain” to your mother. We also wonder if your mother is clear about why this lifestyle choice is important to you. FX thinks one of the first things that would be helpful in this situation is for you and your mother to discuss this issue in a way that allows each of you to get a better perspective on where the other person is coming from. In getting a better sense of where your mother is coming from, consider the following: Does she feel your decision to be a vegan will mean that she has to buy extra groceries or prepare additional meals to the ones she is already preparing for the family? Is she worried you might judge her or other family members if they do not eat a vegetarian or vegan diet? Is she having trouble identifying with the values and beliefs you hold that influence your decision about being vegan? Is there some underlying relationship issue between you and your mother that is coming out over the vegan issue? By communicating with one another in a way that allows each of you to have a better understanding of why the other person thinks and feels the way she does, it will help you to more easily find solutions to this problem.
- FX also thinks that it would be helpful for you to educate yourself about being a vegan. This includes considering what foods you will be eliminating from your diet in becoming a vegan and how to ensure that you are getting all of the vitamins and nutrients you need. You could speak with your doctor, your school nurse, or health teacher at school about it, and you could also ask your school librarian to help you find some reading materials on healthy vegan diets. By educating yourself, and then passing the information onto your mother in terms of what it means to be vegan and how you can get the vitamins and nutrients you need on a vegan diet, it will help your mother to take you more seriously in terms of seeing the time, thought, and effort you are putting into this decision.
- Another consideration is for you and your mother to meet together with your primary care physician to talk about this issue. Since your doctor is aware of your medical history, he/she would be able to easily advise you on how to safely make these changes in your diet, including advising you on how to get enough protein on a daily basis. Both you and your mother could raise any questions or concerns with your doctor – and each of you might feel more comfortable with your being a vegan once you have some guidance from a trained medical professional.
If being a vegan is truly important to you, FX thinks that it is fine for you to pursue this lifestyle. But we do think an important part of that pursuit is finding a way to communicate with your mother about it so the two of you can work out your differences so this issue does not continue to be an ongoing source of contention in your relationship.
To answer your question about getting enough protein and calcium into a vegan diet, vegans can get protein from the following sources: beans, soy products, whole grains, nuts and nut butters. You can incorporate calcium into a vegan diet through foods such as fortified soy or rice milk, leafy green vegetables (such as kale and collard greens), broccoli, beans, calcium fortified juice, calcium-set tofu, almonds and almond butter, sesame seeds and sesame butter, soynuts, and figs. To learn more about how to ensure you get an adequate amount of various vitamins and nutrients into your diet, visit the Mayo Clinic webpage Vegetarian Diet: How To Get The Best Nutrition, the American Dietetic Association’s webpage Food Sources of Important Nutrients, and Vegan Action webpage on Vegan FAQ’s. And please remember to discuss any diet changes, questions and concerns with your doctor.
If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-6475 for an appointment or contact your local teen health center. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network medical health providers.