Can Children and Adolescents Follow a Vegan Diet?

The vegan diet for children and adolescents is a subject that merits good planning and rigorous control at each stage of growth. Nutritional deficiency is possible if taken lightly. Here, we'll bring you everything you need to know about it.
Can Children and Adolescents Follow a Vegan Diet?

Last update: 21 May, 2024

Feeding our children is a task of great responsibility. So, choosing the feeding style that’s best for them is a decision that requires a lot of thought. For example, are we sure that it’s good for the health of children and adolescents to follow a vegan diet? Well, for adults, it has proven to be beneficial for health. However, for younger children, there are some critical nutrients to consider that impact their well-being.

In this article, we’ll bring you everything you need to know about the vegan diet for children and adolescents. The benefits or dangers for their growth, the long-term consequences, and tips for proper nutrition. For sure, after reading it, you’ll make the best decision!

Is vegan the same as vegetarian?

In general, the vegetarian diet is characterized by the exclusion of meat and meat products, such as chicken, pork, fish, and game. But, some types, such as ovo-vegetarians, lacto-vegetarians, or lacto-ovo-vegetarians, include eggs, dairy, or both, as the case may be.

Although this group of vegetarian diets is more flexible with animal foods, those who follow a vegan diet are much stricter and go a step further. They completely eliminate the consumption of all animal foods, including eggs, dairy, and honey.

Can children and adolescents follow a vegan diet?

Several international organizations endorse the vegan diet in pediatrics. For example, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Spanish Association of Dietitians and Nutritionists state that a well-planned vegan diet is appropriate and healthy for all stages of life. However, another group of experts doesn’t recommend it, unless it’s done under strict supervision.

The pros and cons of vegan diets in children and adolescents

One of the decisions that lead some to follow a vegan diet as a lifestyle is the health benefits it produces. However, it also has certain disadvantages. We’ll tell you about them below.

A woman eating a salad.
The vegan diet must guarantee a daily protein quota that allows for the good growth and development of adolescents and children.


  • Healthy changes: Vegan diets are accompanied by the elimination of eating habits that are considered harmful. For example, the consumption of ultra-processed foods, fast food, junk food, and sugary drinks is reduced. In addition, young people incorporate regular physical activities while tobacco, alcohol, and drugs are eliminated.
  • Helps to maintain an adequate weight: Because they’re rich in fiber and low in calories, vegan diets contribute to preventing excess weight and obesity. This is expressed by a group of researchers in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology.
  • It contributes to regulating BMI: In the particular case of children and adolescents, a study published in the journal The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that young vegetarians have a normal body mass index for their age. That is, they’re thinner and less overweight and obese than others who practice omnivorous diets.
  • Allows normal growth: According to a publication in the journal Nutrients, normal growth was maintained in early infancy by ensuring optimal intake of energy and macronutrients from the diet.
  • Promotes cardiovascular health: Monica Dinu‘s team, in a comprehensive analysis, found that a vegetarian diet is also associated with a significant reduction in the risk of cancer.


Critical nutrients in veganism

The Argentine Society of Pediatrics makes some considerations about key nutrients to watch out for in children and adolescents who follow a vegan diet:

  • Vitamin B12: This is considered a critical nutrient in the vegan diet, as its usable source is foods of animal origin. When a child stops consuming B12, neurological and blood disorders, such as megaloblastic anemia, may occur.
  • Minerals: They’re considered key issue in vegans. For example, the main absorbable source of calcium is dairy products, which are absent in this diet.
  • Iron: It’s not that vegetables don’t provide it, but it’s not fully absorbed, as it’s trapped in natural plant molecules called anti-nutritional factors.
  • Fats: Omega-3s are also critical nutrients in vegans. These fatty acids, such as DHA and EPA, are anti-inflammatory and are involved in a child’s neurological and visual development during growth.

Tips to ensure proper nutrition

A well-balanced vegan diet consists of 4 food groups, as outlined by the International Vegan Organization.

  1. Legumes, nuts, and seeds (4 servings or more)
  2. Grains or cereals (4 to 6 servings per day)
  3. Vegetables (4 servings or more)
  4. Fruits (2 servings or more)

Parents who implement a vegan diet in children and adolescents should ensure that each meal is made up of the 4 groups and in the indicated portions. A panel of experts from the Scientific Society for Vegetarian Nutrition presents its recommendations in the journal Nutrients:

  • Vegetable proteins should be increased by 10 to 15% in infants.
  • In preschoolers, between 20 to 30%.
  • In school children and adolescents, between 15 to 20%.
A young girl eating a bowl of cereal with plant-based milk.
The best digestible proteins are soy and its derivatives. But other legumes, cereals, nuts, and seeds also contain them in good proportion.

What do we do with the critical nutrients?

The first thing is to seek advice from a professional nutritionist and pediatrician. If possible they should be experts in vegan diets. The magazine Andes Pediatrics, in 2021, suggests the following:

  • Use vitamin B12 supplements.
  • Make better use of calcium of vegetable origin. Select those foods that provide the most calcium and that are low in oxalates. For example, broccoli, kale, almond milk, tofu, tempeh, soybeans, walnuts, and almonds.
  • Use calcium supplements.
  • Improve iron absorption. This is achieved by combining legumes, whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables with foods rich in vitamin C.
  • In relation to omega-3s, balance the omega-3/omega-6 ratio by reducing the intake of seed oils and increasing the intake of canola, flaxseed, and extra virgin olive oil.

In the end, what’s the knowledge to be implemented in vegan children and adolescents?

Vegan diets can be applied as a feeding style in children and adolescents. However, it’s a fundamental task of parents to do it responsibly and with good planning by health professionals. Therefore, they must supervise and control exhaustively each step of the diet. Also, pay special attention to critical nutrients, supplements, and appropriate doses indicated at each stage of growth.

The key to a vegan diet will always be in the balance, variety, and sufficiency of nutrients that allow the proper growth and development of our children.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.