Tina recently decided that eating “anything with a face” — including poultry, red meat and fish — is inhumane. Her omnivorous family is unsure how they can make sure the 13-year-old is getting the nutrients she needs, and her preferences often make mealtime a source of family conflict.

This scenario is not uncommon. A 2000 Vegetarian Resource Group Roper Poll found that 2% of American youths ages 6 to 17 never eat fish, meat or poultry, while 6% in this age group don’t eat meat (flesh that is not fish or fowl). Around 0.5% are vegan, which means they do not consume dairy products or eggs, along with meat, poultry or fish.

Vegetarians who eat a well-balanced diet take in fewer calories, less fat, and more calcium, folate and other nutrients than their meat-eating counterparts.

Children and teens cite various reasons for “going veggie,” from health concerns to environmental or...

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