Are there any health concerns when it comes to raising babies and young children on a vegan diet? Are there any nutrients that their diet could be deficient in? Does breast feeding vs. formula make a difference?


This question is similar to this one, except that the referenced one is about vegetarianism and this one about veganism.

The answer provided there, also applies to this one, as the referenced source clearly includes vegan diet (my emphasis):

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.

However, vegan life-style is not all unicorns and rainbows, especially in the early stages of life. This medical article deals with common pitfalls when adopting a vegetarian/vegan life-style, by explaining possible issues and solutions to them. E.g. protein, B12, Iron intake etc:

General information

Well-planned vegetarian diets can satisfy the nutritional needs and promote normal growth of infants and children. Research has highlighted nutritional advantages to vegetarian diets and has indicated that this style of eating can lead to lifelong healthy eating habits when adopted at a young age. Several vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients may be deficient within a vegetarian diet. Careful nutrition assessment and counseling will allow nurse practitioners to play a key role in encouraging families to adopt healthy eating habits to assist in disease prevention.

Protein related information

Vegetarians who have completely eliminated meat from their diet need to be educated about alternative sources of protein.

Other elements information

Vitamin B12 is necessary for cell division and blood formation. Vegetarians can meet their needs for this vitamin by eating fortified foods, eggs, dairy products, or taking a supplement

Iron is necessary for optimal oxygen transport in red blood cells. Meat (red meat, in particular) offers the most easily absorbed type of iron, called heme iron; however, the iron that occurs naturally in plant products (non-heme) can be consumed along with a vitamin C source to enhance absorption

Zinc absorption also is affected by the phytates that occur naturally in whole grains and legumes. Some vegetarians may require a higher intake of zinc than the dietary reference intake.

Dairy foods are a natural source of calcium for vegetarians and nonvegetarians. Vegans can consume fortified soy formulas, soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, and various other calcium-fortified foods.

Vitamin D is found naturally in milk and dairy products. The body also can make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.

  • "medical article" - it's asking me to login, could you blockquote relevant stuff here? Thanks.
    – user38
    Feb 1 '17 at 14:23
  • @sv. - I have checked the link and it works fine. Are accessing it behind a proxy? Anyway, I have extracted some information from the source and put it in the answer.
    – Alexei
    Feb 1 '17 at 14:29
  • Ok, thanks, I tried from both home & work, it's asking me to login. Maybe you created a free account with them?
    – user38
    Feb 1 '17 at 17:11
  • Can a vegan eat eggs or dairy products to intake B12 Vitamin or they will strictly have to rely on supplements? The question is about vegans yet the answer is about vegetarians?
    – VMMF
    Mar 8 '18 at 19:59

Children on a vegan diet tend to turn out smaller and lighter than non-vegan children. They tend to not get enough calcium, engery, vitamin D, riboflavin and vitamin B12.

Children need more energy dense foods to support growth. While a lower energy intake is healthy for most adults, it is not for children. It is not impossible to raise a healthy child on a vegan diet, but one needs more knowledge about nutrition to do so, than on a diet including animal products. Reference

  • 2
    The source you provided specifically said the children "grew and developed normally"
    – C_Z_
    Feb 1 '17 at 14:09
  • 3
    The source I provided specifically said "The majority of children grew and developed normally but they did tend to be smaller in stature and lighter in weight than standards for the general population"
    – Christian
    Feb 1 '17 at 14:12
  • 2
    @Christian That's an odd sentence you're citing. If they are smaller and lighter then that means they do not develop normally. That's a contradiction.
    – gerrit
    Feb 1 '17 at 14:14
  • As can be seen in the plots, the children are in the range of "normal" but on the lower end.
    – Christian
    Feb 1 '17 at 14:17
  • 2
    It is still safe even if the child grew to be smaller than the general population. Additionally, it seems likely that this difference could be reduced or eliminated by adjusting the diet to include more energy dense foods.
    – nloewen
    Feb 22 '17 at 15:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.