Nutrition Made Easy for Vegan Teen Athletes

Being a vegan teen athlete is not complicated. It is easy for teens to receive proper nutrition for sporting events by eating a variety of foods. In general, teen athletes should receive the majority of their calories from complex carbohydrates, a moderate amount from protein, and a moderate to low amount from fat.

The bulk of these calories should be nutritionally dense, meaning they provide substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals. For example, nutritionally dense carbohydrates include whole grain breads and pastas, brown rice, quinoa, and whole grain flour. Most fruits and vegetables are nutritionally dense as are vegetarian proteins.

Protein is a key macro-nutrient that many athletes focus on. Athletes should receive 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound (for instance, a 140-pound person should consume 70 to 112 grams of protein). It is easy to meet these requirements on a vegan diet. A good tip is to include a protein food with every meal. This can be as simple as:

  • putting peanut butter on your morning bagel
  • adding nuts to your salad
  • cooking with beans
  • drinking a high-protein milk alternative, like soymilk.

Vegetable proteins like tofu, tempeh, seitan, and meat analogs are protein packed. Read labels to find the meat analogs also fortified with vitamins and minerals. Vitamin B12 and iron, are two nutrients that vegans need to monitor. Vitamin B12 can be found in fortified foods, including soymilk, cereals, and nutritional yeast. Check the label to verify that the choice you make contains B12. Foods high in iron include: dark green leafy vegetables, soybeans, tofu, lentils and other dried beans, quinoa, fortified cereal, and raisins. To maximize absorption include a food high in vitamin C — such as orange juice, tomato sauce or broccoli — when consuming foods high in iron.

Increased exercise means increased calorie needs to maintain body weight. Because a lot of vegan foods are low in calories, it may be important to increase calorie intake especially if you are participating in a strenuous sport. One way to add calories is to eat extra snacks throughout the day and increase the calories in your meals. The table below provides a list of quick and easy 200-400 calorie snacks to add to your diet.
 

200-Calorie Snacks* 400-Calorie Snacks*
1 crunchy granola bar 1/2 cup guacamole dip with 1 cup corn chips
1 banana with 1 tablespon peanut butter 8 whole wheat crackers with 1/4 cup hummus
6 ounces soy yogurt with fruit 1 bagel and 2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 cup mixed nuts 1/2 cup trail mix
1 ounce hard pretzels with 1/2 cup fruit juice 2 cups calcium-fortified orange juice and a granola bar

Add calories to your meals using these easy ideas!

  • Use oils or margarine on vegetables, rice, and pasta, add vegan cheese.
  • Add a commercial vegan sandwich spread like Veganaise® to your sandwiches.
  • Put slices of avocado on your salad.
  • Bulk up your breakfast-cereal with fruit, nuts, and raisins.
Julia Driggers

Julia Driggers, RD, LDN, is a pediatric dietitian at the Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia and blogger for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Vegetarian Nutrition DPG.