Recently I had the pleasure of cooking with a teenager who had recently decided to eat a vegan diet.
When teenagers make such decisions it can cause us (parent’s, carers and sometimes even teachers) a bit of worry.
We worry about their nutrition… How will they get enough or the right mix of proteins, iron, vitamin B12?
Will it cost loads more to buy substitutes?
Am I going to have to cook several different dishes.
I spent some time putting together some reading materials for this young lady which I know she will dip into when she’s alone later. It covers matters such as protein complementation, plant sources of iron and how-to get B12 on a plant based diet. I will share some of the nutritional information with you below.
We chatted informally while we cooked and I managed to drop in some useful nuggets of info.
We looked through s few cookbooks, some vegan, some not and discussed how we might cook certain dishes.
Many teenagers experiment with their ethical beliefs and dietary preferences. It’s a natural way of finding out who they are. Our job is to support them as best we can.
I’m not a dietitian, but I do have an understanding of nutrition. It was not hard at all to find some reading materials that would suit her.
Turn it around
Showing an interest in food, ethics and diet in this way is a great way to get our young people into cooking and to start them taking an active role in their own nutrition.
Don’t fight it…. Go with it, support them on their journey!
Pictured is the dish we made. It’s Romamesco sauce with pasta. Adapted from Joe Wicks recipe for Romamesco Gnocchi. Romanesco sauce if often made using peppers, for my recipe I have just used sundreied tomatoes from a jar. We added yeast flakes (excellent sauce of B12) instead of parmesan.
You can use my adapted recipe here if you’d like to try it. My (non-vegan) children love this sauce either on Gnocchi or stirred through noodles and it freezes really well in an ice cube tray for future use.
For other recipes – vegan and non vegan, check out my recipes page here
Some nutritional information to help
What about protein?
One of the important things to remember when following a vegan diet is that plant sources of protein do not contain a complete set of the Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) needed by the body.
Most plant based proteins are of Low biological value (LBV) proteins – an incomplete set of the EAAs.
A vegan diet can provide all of the essential amino acids necessary for good health by combining a variety of sources of protein across the meals in a day. This is called protein complementation.
This means that the amino acids in one LBV source of protein may work together with the amino acids in another source of LBV protein to form a complete set.
Some examples are below: Beans on toast, rice and bean salad, lentil soup with toast, nut butter sandwich, cereal with almond milk. There are many more.
Protein complementation does not have to make use of food that is eaten in the same meal, but could be spread across a day or so for example.
There are some exceptions which do contain the full set of amino acids and are known as high biological protein sources. These are quinoa and soya. Soya comes in many forms to be used in cooking such as tofu, soya beans, soya milk, tvp (textured vegetable protein).
The other nutrient which you should be mindful of is vitamin B12.
B12 is not found in plant food sources. For a vegan, this could be found in fortified foods such as cereals which state that they are fortified with vitamin B12. Or they could consider taking a supplement.
There is a good product called Energevita yeast flakes which contain B12 which can be sprinkled on top of foods such as salads or pasta dishes instead of cheese.
Marmite is also a good source of B12 a spoonful of which can be used in all sorts of cooking to add flavour and nutrition. I have even been know to drink a spoonful in a cup of boiling water!
Iron and Vitamin C
Vegans and vegetarians should also ensure that they eat a variety of foods rich in iron and combine them with a good rich in vitamin c.
Vitamin c helps the body to absorb iron which is more difficult to absorb when taken in plant based sources than animal based sources.
Try not to worry
I hope this has helped you not to worry. Try to see this as a new adventure, an education and a way of expanding yours and their culinary repertoire. Vegan cooking does not have to be expensive, or include lots of unknown fussy, hard to find ingredients.