There is more awareness of vegetarian (and vegan) diets and more children are following these diets.

The evidence of benefit for these diets in children is sparse (that doesn’t mean they aren’t beneficial, just that we don’t have much evidence that they are!).

Vegan diets may reduce obesity risk, and cardiac risk.[1]

These diets also carry potential risks to child/teen health and growth.


Data on vegetarian children suggest a trend of lower bone mineral content and density.[2]

The more restrictive the diet and the younger the child, the greater the risk of nutritional deficiency[3].

Nutrients at risk include; protein quantity and quality, iron, zinc, selenium, calcium, riboflavin, vitamins A, D, B12 and essential fatty acids.[4]

International guidance about these diets, and supplementation, is inconsistent.

So, What to focus on?

·      Low intake and levels of vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D and calcium are common.

·      Iron needs vitamin C to be absorbed effectively.

·      Vegans and lacto-ovo-vegetarians (eating dairy and eggs) require 1.8 times the iron intake of nonvegetarians (because of how we digest different forms of iron).[5]

·      Protein intake should be increased by 10% to 15% compared with nonvegetarians (because plant proteins are less digestible).

In summary

Supplementation of these is crucial;

·      Iron (plus Vit C for absorption) – girls need more

·      Calcium – girls may need more

·      protein

·      vitamin D

·      vitamin B12

This article for teens has some great suggestions for sources of each of these!

*Shop around for a teen specific multivitamin with iron e.g. TeenVital, or Wellteen, and add extra protein to their diet.*

Further Resources

Worcester Hospitals have created a good parent/teen advice nutrition leaflet here.

[1] DOI: 10.3390/nu16050723


[3] doi:10.1017/S002966512100001X