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?


3 Answers 3


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
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 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
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 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
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 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
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 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_
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 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
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 14:12
  • 3
    @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
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 14:14
  • As can be seen in the plots, the children are in the range of "normal" but on the lower end.
    – Christian
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 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
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 15:14

There Is not only physical health. It is also important to take into account the mental health of childrens: vegans are the object of aggression and contempt with a ferocity that a non-vegan cannot understand. An adult can manage this stress (by ignoring these things, or even by isolating himself by not associating with harmful people, when possible): for a childrens it is not so simple, especially because of bullying.

For this reason I believe that children should eat what man of the street eats. Probably, they should be kindly encouraged to do so even if they themselves realize that eating meat it is wrong. They should postpone the choice to a more mature age. (all this until the world is hostile towards vegans, I do not exclude that sooner or later things will change)

  • I don't agree with your conclusion, but fair point. I'd imagine how hostile people are towards vegans varies a lot depending where you live. From your username I'm guessing you're in Italy?
    – A. B.
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 9:17
  • Yes, I'm in Italy, a country where a famous chef (Vissani) can say in tv "I would kill them all vegans" without being IMMEDIATELY kicked out by the mass media and on the contrary being invited often in TV (for example I saw him last week at a quiz at 9pm on rai1) as if he were a sane person. Equally serious phrases such as "I would kill all blacks, homosexuals, Jews, etc." are obviously not tolerated. But violence against vegans (because, be careful, violence is) is accepted. If this is what happens between adults in a mass media, I have no idea of what can happen in a classroom. Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 18:04
  • You will find a very incomplete description of what I mean by stress caused by others in my answer in philosophy.stackexchange. Personally I have a hard time hanging out with relatives (with rare exceptions) and friends because (on a good day: WHEN they don't make fun of me) they want to show me I'm wrong and convert me, without my asking for an opinion. People experience your food choices as an affront to their ego. I often regret being vegan, certainly not because I miss animal food (vegan cuisine is delicious) but just to not feel judged. The same does not happen to you? Where do you live? Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 18:07
  • Good grief, that is bad, I hope these people in your country learn a little more sense and manners about this soon. No, I would say it's nothing like that bad here in the UK these days (though you still get the occasional annoying person who on finding out will immediately want to argue with you about why you're wrong). I'm not sure though, I'm vegetarian rather than vegan and also don't get out and talk to people much at the moment, so might not know.
    – A. B.
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 12:46
  • If you are vegetarian you are pardoned by Vissani's purges, he explicitly said not to hate vegetarians, only vegans deserve to be killed ;-) Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 18:50

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