NBC News Story: Vegan Teens

This is a perfect example of the simple-minded news stories delivered by mainstream media. While veganism could be an interesting topic for a news story (due to its recent popularity, broad human interest, and surrounding controversy), this NBC story about vegan teens is poorly researched and disturbingly one sided.

This story is introduced as a “special report, taking a look at what’s best for our children.” It continues by saying, “When it comes to nutrition, parents often worry their kids aren’t eating enough of the right foods.” Based on this report, you never really learn what “the right foods” are, but you certainly learn what they aren’t. According to NBC, a vegan diet does not meet the necessary criteria.

As the newsreader announces, “Tonight we meet teenagers who shun all animal products and call themselves vegans,” a picture of troubled-looking youths appears. The most prominent girl in the photo looks either sad or sickly. Without the desciptive label on the top that says “Teen Vegans,” one would probably guess this is a story about depression or teenage angst.

The newsreader continues by saying “their way of life is raising eyebrows.”

Next we get to see what the Kramer family is fixing for dinner. What are these unhealthy vegans eating? Well, it looks like they are eating “Tofu patties, broccoli, rice, and corn muffins.”

Broccoli, as indicated by it’s dark green color, is extremely nutritious. It is cholesterol free, low in fat, and one of the richest vegetable sources of calcium. Broccoli is also rich in the vitamins A, C, and B and the minerals magnesium, iron, potassium, and zinc. It is also a good source of folic acid, which may prevent heart disease, strokes and some cancers.

Tofu is cholesterol free, low in sodium, and high in protein. It is also a good source of calcium, iron, and vitamin B.

According to NBC, this meal “looks healthy, but experts say vegans can lack necessary protein and vitamin B in their diet.”

And who is this expert that NBC chooses to interview? A psychiatrist!

And what does this psychiatrist/vegan expert say? She says that a vegan diet can lead to eating disorders or malnutrition. She also says that vegans can be “hypersensitive” and “more easily depressed.”

(If vegans are more easily depressed than other people, I would guess that it isn’t because of their diet. It is because of the way they are portrayed by stupid news like this!)

And aren’t people vegan for reasons aside from animal cruelty and finding a “spiritual connection with the earth”? Sure they are. But these other issues (such as nutritional benefits, lactose intolerance, environmental destruction), which are more tangible issues among the general public, aren’t presented at all in this news story. The message here is that vegans don’t have the same concerns as normal people. They are outsiders.

Another question that should be asked is why did NBC choose to interview teens? Aren’t many grownups adopting a vegan diet as well? Sure they are. And they also might be a little more articulate when explaining why they made this choice. But hearing the voices of the many doctors, athletes, teachers, chefs, and nutritionists who manage a healthy vegan diet every day may switch the focus from the true story here: Vegans are immature, irrational, inexperienced teenagers, who are “teased as freaks.”

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8 responses to “NBC News Story: Vegan Teens

  1. I didn’t see the documentary, but it sounds as if alarms are going off about the wrong things and for the wrong reasons. There are teen trends in every generation that raise concerns —but this isn’t one that sets my teeth on edge. The main reason is that veganism (or a diet close to it) was pretty familiar to me as a kid growing up during the WWII years of 41-44.

    I was 11 years old in 1941, and our diet at that time consisted mostly of beans, grains and vegetables. Meat, milk and gas were rationed during the war. While I loved milk, there was a baby sister who had priority, so most of our weekly allotment was reserved for her.

    There was meat on our table once or twice a week (cheaper cuts like flank steak, tri-tip steak and seven steak —most of which are highly-prized these days) and everyone had a small portion; but the emphasis was always on vegetables. We ate a lot of beans and garden vegetables like carrots, beets and green beans. Canned vegetables filled in when fresh weren’t available (this was before frozen foods, if you can imagine that!) My brother and I cleaned our plates and rarely asked for seconds — but if we wanted more, we could help ourselves to the vegetables. Kids were active then, but overeating wasn’t a problem and we didn’t snack between meals. Class pictures showed slender, healthy, smiling kids (no depressives — and one overweight kid — in the class of 250).

    I don’t know enough about veganism per se, to judge whether a vegan diet is nutritionally sound. But it seems reasonable to expect every individual, vegan or not, to take responsibility for evaluating his/her own dietary customs and add nutitritional supplements if something’s lacking.

    A far greater problem than veganism is the prevalence of processed food as a staple in the diet of children, teens and young people. All you have to do is look around an airport or shopping mall to see that obesity is far more common than emaciation…even among the most undernourished in our society. Fast and convenience foods are replacing wholesome food as today’s staples. This, in my opinion, is the most serious dietary trend confronting us today.

    When I board a plane, I always pray that my assigned seat will be next to one occupied by a vegan.

  2. Ah hah! Now I know why you’re so sensitive, because you’re a vegan! Haha, j/k. The sensationalism on news programs is out of hand. People die in Iraq and the top story that night is on Anna Nicole’s drug related death. Who cares if these celebrities keep killing themselves!? That doesn’t affect my reality..

  3. Pingback: jugalbandi » Shut up and eat your burger

  4. I’ve been a vegetarian for years – Vegan for months – have never felt better, had more energy, slimmer waistline, etc. Plus – I’m eating more variety of delicious foods than ever – my family is vegetarian/vegan as well…. Neighbors and kids are constantly sick – we’re not. It’s obvious a meat based diet is unhealthy. Bad for the human body – horribly cruel (and unnecessary) to the animals.
    For health & heart…. Go VEGAN!

  5. im changin form a vegertarian into vegan
    and im trying to get my meat eating friends to change

  6. im thinkin of changin

  7. You really want to make a difference this week (“Green Week” as NBC puts it)? Go vegan. You’re health will benefit, the animals will benefit, and the ozone layer will benefit – MUCH more than if you started driving a hybrid! Get real people- it’s not as hard as you think.

  8. This news bit was a very poor representation of veganism. And of course a man selling meat is going to tell you how humane the animals were treated; he’s in it for the money; like all nonhuman animal slave-owners. Wake up to the truth; the vegan truth. I’ve been vegan for 31 years and it has benefited my life in every way, including health.

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