Grandma may be upset that her
teen-age son will not eat her chicken casserole, but U.S.
researchers say vegetarian teen-agers have a healthier diet
than their meat-eating counterparts.
What many parents may fear is youthful rebellion or even an
unhealthy way of keeping off weight is actually a good way to
get the recommended vitamins and minerals -- and avoid fatty
junk food in the process, a team at the University of Minnesota
"It seems that rather than viewing adolescent vegetarianism
as a difficult phase or fad, the dietary pattern could be
viewed as a healthy alternative to the traditional American
meat-based diet," epidemiologist Cheryl Perry and colleagues
wrote in Sunday's issue of the journal Archives of Pediatric
They studied more than 4,500 teen-agers, with an average
age of about 15, from 31 middle schools and high schools in
Minnesota. Of them, about 262, or nearly 6 percent, said they
They compared the diets of these boys and girls to the
Healthy People 2010 recommendations, which are dietary targets
issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
They include goals of getting less than 30 percent of one's
daily calories from fat and less than 10 percent from saturated
fat, eating more than two servings of fruit and three servings
of vegetables daily.
"Overall, adolescent vegetarians were significantly more
likely to meet the dietary recommendations of Healthy People
2010," Perry's group wrote.
"Vegetarian adolescents were more than twice as likely to
eat less than 30 percent of their calories from fat and nearly
three times more likely to eat less than 10 percent of their
calories from saturated fat," they added.
"They were also 1.4 to two times more likely to eat two or
more servings of fruit, three or more servings of vegetables
... and five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily."
Both the vegetarians and the meat-eaters failed to get
enough calcium every day, the researchers found, but the
vegetarians got significantly more iron, vitamin A, folate and
They also drank more diet soda and caffeine, which the
researchers said reflected the desire of most of the teen-agers
to keep weight off.
"Vegetarian adolescents, similar to their adult
counterparts, have dietary patterns that, if maintained, could
significantly lower their risk of the leading causes of death
as adults," the researchers said.
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