There are three main types of vegetarians:
- eat only plant-based foods. They do not eat any meat or animal products, including dairy products or eggs.
- eat dairy products along with plant-based foods. They do not eat eggs.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians
- eat eggs and dairy products, in addition to plant-based foods.
You can get all the nutrients you need from a vegetarian eating plan. But dairy products are good sources of calcium, vitamin D, and complete protein. And eggs are a good source of vitamin B12 and complete protein. So if you don't eat milk or eggs, you need to look elsewhere for these nutrients. Vegetarians also need to make sure that they get enough iron and zinc.
A registered dietitian can help you come up with a vegetarian eating plan that provides you with the nutrients you need for growth and development during your teen years. Here are some nonanimal sources of nutrients that vegetarians may not get enough of:
- Vitamin B12 - fortified soy beverages and cereals, brewer's yeast, seaweed
- Vitamin D - fortified soy beverages and sunshine (vitamin D is made in your skin with the help of sunlight)
- Calcium - tofu (if made with calcium sulfate); soy-based beverages with added calcium; breakfast cereals with added calcium; fruit juice with added calcium; dark-green leafy vegetables, such as Chinese cabbage, bok choy, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, and mustard greens. (Keep in mind that veggies are not as good a source of calcium as milk. You will have to eat many more veggies than you would have to drink milk to get enough calcium.)
- Iron - breakfast cereals with added iron; green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and turnip greens; cooked dry beans, such as kidney beans and pinto beans; peas, such as black-eyed peas; lentils; dried fruit, like apricots, prunes, and raisins; enriched and whole-grain breads
- Zinc - whole grain bread, legumes, nuts, oatmeal, and tofu.
- Protein - tofu and other soy-based products, beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, seeds, nuts, and grains. (Keep in mind that plants provide incomplete protein. In order to get all the amino acids your body needs, you have to eat a variety of plant foods. So, for instance, eating beans with brown rice will give you complete protein because each food contains the amino acids that the other food lacks.)