Vegetarian diets can be some of the healthiest diets in the world. However, everyone needs to make sure they have a balanced diet with adequate nutrients. The pitfalls of a vegetarian diet are mainly vitamin B12 and iron deficiency causing anaemia. Vegan diets are far less healthy as they restrict your body of the calcium it needs for you to get strong bones (peak bone mass). Adequate nutrition is essential for all body functions and overall health – including development during puberty. Being underweight or overweight can affect the time of the first period and the other developments during puberty such as breast development. Underweight girls can start their periods later and overweight girls a little earlier. The research suggests that diets rich in animal proteins tends to lead to earlier menarche (age at first period). There is weak evidence to suggest that a diet high in vegetable protein leads to a later onset of menarche.
In any case, it is important to remember that it is completely normal to not start your periods up to the age of 16. The important thing is that you are eating enough to get all of your essential nutrients. I regularly check all of my vegetarians for iron and B12 deficiency-if you are concerned about this or need some advice on your nutrition, see your GP.
To work out your Body Mass Index and for other nutritional advice see: www.heartfoundation.org.au