Q: My daughter plays several sports and burns a lot of calories during her training. I worry because she is a vegetarian and may not be getting enough protein in her diet to sustain such high amounts of activity. Is a vegetarian diet sufficient for an active female athlete and should I worry about the Female Athlete Triad?
A: A vegetarian diet can sufficiently meet the protein requirements of an active female athlete (0.8-1.4 grams of protein per kg body weight). Plenty of protein options are available to vegetarians like legumes, tofu, and soy products like soymilk. Even whey protein supplements like powders or bars can provide plenty of protein (anywhere from 5-30+ grams of protein per serving) to active athletes, especially when other activities like school and homework may not always allow time for sit-down meals. Her main focus as an athlete should be eating enough calories to support her active lifestyle and maintain a healthy body weight. If you notice weight loss and/or the loss of her period you may approach your daughter about consulting a physician concerning her bone health and a dietician to discuss options for a healthy vegetarian diet and strategies to get enough energy through her diet to support a regular and healthy monthly period.