Can a 14 Year-Old Go Vegan?

In today’s world, vegan and vegetarian menu options are almost everywhere. However, information on health risks or benefits doesn’t seem to be as straightforward when it comes to our kids. Can a 14 year old go vegan? Should teenagers be going vegetarian or vegan? A main goal of vegan eating is health, but there are a lot of unhealthy vegan diets out there!

The easiest and healthiest way for a 14 year-old teenager to go plant-based is to follow a vegetarian eating plan, but still allow milk and eggs. This ensures essential nutrients are still consumed in the diet for appropriate growth and nourishment during puberty and growth changes. Your teen can follow a vegan diet as long as they are getting enough protein, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin D, omega 3s, and vitamin B12.

Teenagers can be healthy and thrive on a vegan or vegetarian diet. Eating a plant-based diet is actually one of the healthiest diets out there according to research. If your 14 year-old is considering going vegan, it can be wise to seek out a dietitian to make sure he or she is getting adequate nutrition from the diet. The goal of a teen’s diet is to make sure they are getting adequate nutrients for essential growth and development.

Read on to learn the difference between being a vegan/vegetarian and being a healthy vegan/vegetarian and how your teen can thrive on this diet.

Should a Teenager Go Vegan?

There are many reasons why a teenager would want to start a vegan eating plan. It’s a food trend and health-focused way of eating. A well-planned vegan or vegetarian diet can be healthy for a teenager. The goal for feeding children and teens is to support good growth and well-nourished kids. When looking at benefits and risks of a vegan or vegetarian diet for children and teens, there can be many concerns and questions as parents.

Health Effects of Vegan/Vegetarians

Even meat-eaters are trying “meatless Monday” and enjoying vegan meals. When properly planned, vegetarian and vegan diets are healthful, nutritious, and can even provide health benefits. 

Potential Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet for Teens

With less of a focus on animal products, vegan meals can improve health from an increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and other whole foods. Vegan and vegetarian eating patterns have consistently been linked to disease prevention in research. These diets have been associated with: 

  • Improved health outcomes
  • Reduced levels of obesity
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer calories from fat 
  • Lower level of overall calories

Vegans and vegetarians also consume more fiber, potassium, and vitamin C on average than their meat-eating counterparts.

Plant-based protein provides benefits as well. Plant proteins may be harder to digest, but whole grains and legumes often provide more fiber and less saturated fat. 

Health Risks of Vegan/Vegetarian Teens

Eating animal products provides important nutrients that can often be difficult to consume with a vegan or vegetarian eating plan. Vegan diets can be very restrictive and put teens at risk for nutrient deficiencies.

If the dietary pattern for vegans or vegetarians is not well planned, there are certain risks attached to insufficient nutrient intake. Nutrients of concern in a vegan/vegetarian diet include iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, zinc, iodine, and others. Here’s the details vegans need to know:

Low Iron Levels

Plant foods contain non-heme iron. This type of iron is less available for the body than the heme iron available from animal foods. Fortunately, vitamin C can help to increase iron absorption from plant foods. Click here to learn more about giving teen’s iron a boost

Iron is so important for healthy body function. All vegan and vegetarian teens should regularly check in with a doctor for bloodwork and other health assessments to see if iron levels are adequate.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 comes from animal foods, so vegans and vegetarians are at increased risk for deficiency. 14 year olds should be getting about 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day. 

It’s important to discuss potential supplementation or identify fortified sources with your dietitian. A multivitamin with vitamin B12 (cobalamin) may help teenagers receive adequate levels of the nutrient, as well as other vitamins and minerals. Instead of taking costly amounts of supplements, a multivitamin can be a great way to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need. 

Vitamin D

Even for meat-eaters, few foods provide vitamin D naturally. Milk is generally fortified with vitamin D, and eggs come with natural amounts of vitamin D. However, these sources are off-limits for vegan diets. 

Luckily, there are alternate ways to increase vitamin D in the diet, including: 

  • Fortified soymilk
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Fortified cereals
  • Exposure to sunlight on a regular basis (sunlight helps the body convert vitamin D into an available form for it to use)

All vegan and vegetarian teens should check in with their healthcare team to see if a vitamin D supplement is needed.


Dairy is well-known to provide calcium. It’s a good idea for teens to consume dairy even if they are following a mostly vegan diet. Fortified foods are also available and dairy-alternatives.

Teens should consume 3 servings per day of dairy foods or 3-5 servings per day of plant sources of calcium, including:

  • Green leafy vegetables like kale, bok choy, and collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Soybeans
  • Pinto beans
  • Tofu

See also: Is it OK for Teens to be Dairy-Free?

Essential Fatty Acids

Omega-3s and other essential fatty acids are commonly found in fish or fish sources. On a vegan or vegetarian diet, plant foods high in omega-3s can help lessen the risk of deficiency, such as: 

  • Flax oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Walnuts
  • Hemp seeds
  • Canola oil 
  • Soy oil

The best and healthiest way for a teenager to go plant-based is to follow a vegetarian eating plan, but still allow milk and eggs. This ensures appropriate nutrients are still consumed in the diet for appropriate growth and nourishment during puberty and growth changes.

Is it Safe for a Teen to be Vegan?

When properly planned, a vegan or vegetarian diet can meet nutrient needs for teens. It promotes growth in a healthy way as long as risks are accounted for. Vegan and vegetarian diets can have sufficient calories and diversity to keep teens healthy. 

Especially for athletes, it is important to understand how to build muscle safely on a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Don’t worry if your teen is 100% committed to a vegan diet even when you might not be. It can seem intimidating, but there are still lots of great food options available to make it easy and do-able.

Just be sure to check in with your teen’s healthcare team regularly to make sure any nutrient gaps are being covered. Some supplements may be necessary.

Is it Hard for a Teen to be Vegan?

A vegan diet requires some skills, but just like any healthy eating pattern, it is worth investing the time and energy. As long as you aim to meet the recommended dietary pattern, you should find that healthy vegan and vegetarian foods provide sufficient energy and optimal nutrition. 

The dietary pattern recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is included here for reference. Using your teen’s calorie needs, you can check the recommended servings from the food groups and subgroups:

Table A3-4 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 | Appendix 3 | page 148

You can also access this chart by scanning the following QR code: 

Check out my calorie recommendations here if you don’t know your teen’s calorie level.

See also:

Tips for Parents to Get Their Kids to Eat Vegan/Vegetarian

If you follow a plant-based diet but it’s hard getting your teen on board, there are some habits you can start to get your teen more interested and excited about a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Start by having your teen help out with preparing vegan or vegetarian meals. This practice can provide them with the valuable skills needed to produce plant-based meals. They can also learn for themselves that vegan and vegetarian meals are anything but boring. Plant-based meals can be just as delicious and your teen might begin to realize they don’t even miss the animal products.

It can be fun to experiment with new products with your teen taste-testing in the kitchen. Let them help in the kitchen and they’ll be pleasantly surprised as they experience the delicious alternatives for animal products such as shredded jack fruit tacos, roasted tofu, veggie burgers, chickpea ‘meat’balls, eggplant bacon, and more!

Tips for Parents of Plant-Based Teens

It can be intimidating to make sure your teen is getting the nutrients he or she needs on a restrictive vegan diet. Simple tips can help you make the process a smooth one.

Ask for Your Teen’s Help

Creating one family meal a week or allowing your adolescent to make the menu or shopping list can help foster healthy habits. Recipe searching, meal planning, cooking, baking, or grocery shopping with your teen can also help them to determine which vegan and vegetarian foods are actually healthy and which foods just claim to be healthy on the label. 

Encourage Teens to Eat Protein

Plant-based protein typically has a lower digestibility than animal protein. It’s important to encourage vegan children and youth to eat more protein than their meat-eating friends. 

Popular plant-based protein options include: 

  • Legumes – beans, lentils, peas, peanuts
  • Soy products– tempeh, edamame, tofu
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts & Seeds– including nut butters
  • For lacto-ovo vegetarians – low-fat or fat-free dairy and eggs

Spread Calcium Sources Throughout the Day

Most people know calcium supports bone health, but can’t name another source besides milk. Did you know that calcium is found in the following plant-based foods?

  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Bok choy
  • Calcium-set tofu
  • Fortified soymilk and other non-dairy milks
  • Fortified foods (i.e. cereal, orange juice)

Spreading green veggie intake across the span of the day can help keep you energized and fueled all day long. 

Don’t Be Afraid of Soy 

Soy has gotten a bad rap over the years and was rumored to have links with cancer. However, there is no solid research to support this association. In fact, girls who consume soy in childhood and during the teen years have less of a chance of developing breast cancer during their life. 

Soy is a great way to meet both protein and calcium requirements in the diet. According to the most recent national nutrition guidelines, “Compared with the Healthy U.S.-Style Dietary Pattern, the Healthy Vegetarian Dietary Pattern is higher in soy products (particularly tofu and other processed soy products).”

That being said, you don’t have to eat soy to have a nutritionally complete diet– especially if you have soy allergy. Soy is simply another option for incorporating high-protein alternatives to animal foods into the diet. 

Get Accustomed to Using Alternatives

Vegan cooking can be a lot easier than you think! While it may seem foreign at first, using alternatives to common ingredients like eggs and dairy can become easier with each recipe. The following articles contain helpful hints and hacks when it comes to using vegan alternatives: 

Work With an Expert

Many expert dietitians specialize in vegan nutrition. Dietitians can help you to design a balanced eating plan that aligns with your beliefs, standards, and preferences. They can also make switching to a meatless diet easier as well as offer ethical guidance on how to become vegan. 

Working with a dietitian can be a crucial part of the puzzle when going plant-based. Diet changes require resilience, and experts can help you to find balanced teen nutrition, integrate healthy exercise, and increase time and energy while eating vegan or vegetarian. 

Tips for Decreasing Meat/Animal Product Intake

Switching to a meatless diet can seem daunting at first, but expanding your eating pattern to include more vegetarian and vegan dishes may mean more health benefits. Try the following tips for more plants and less animal products:

Get Global

There are many global cuisines that are ideal for vegetarian and vegan meals. Try foods and meatless recipes from the following cuisines for something new: 

  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Thai 
  • Vietnamese
  • Indian 
  • Sri Lankan
  • Burmese
  • Pakistani
  • Nepali
  • Italian 
  • Greek
  • Middle Eastern
  • Mexican

Put a Vegan Twist on Popular Favorites

You don’t have to eat tofu with everything and love it right away. Try easing yourself into a diet with less animal based protein by making your favorite dishes vegan. For example, excellent options include:

  • Bean burritos
  • Grilled tofu
  • Veggie stir-fry
  • Lentil chili 
  • Veggie burgers

Luckily, plant-based eating is a trend so today it’s even easier than ever to find vegan cheese, dairy alternatives, and a wide variety of meat alternatives.

Learn More about Moving Towards Meatless Diets

Knowledge is power! Read up on veganism from registered dietitians. Some of my favorite sources for evidence-based information include: 

Swap Animal-Based Protein for Soy

Swapping your typical meat choice for soy products can keep protein levels high and increase the variety of your meal. Try adding tofu, edamame, or tempeh in place of animal products. 

Put Plants on the Plate

Increasing intake of healthy vegan foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins is a great way to eat plant-based. 

I’m not a strict vegetarian, but I like to eat many vegan and vegetarian meals (I like to consider myself flexitarian). My favorite part of vegan/vegetarian meals is the focus around delicious-tasting vegetables instead of a meat-focus. It’s a lot of fun to experiment with new vegetables and cooking styles.

Make a Vegan/Vegetarian Recipe Book

Having resources handy to empower you on your healthy eating journey are always helpful. Create a vegan or vegetarian cookbook full of recipes you might like. 

Don’t know where to start? Start with the following scrumptious recipes and menu ideas: 

Is All Vegan Food Healthy?

A big myth about the vegan diet is that everything is healthy. Oreos and potato chips are technically vegan, but they don’t necessarily qualify as “healthy” foods. Vegan isn’t always healthier- you can still be totally vegan but have a crappy diet.

Many cookies, chips, and cereals are marketed as vegan or vegetarian but aren’t very nutrient-rich. Processed convenience foods such as veggie burgers might sound appetizing — but just like meat-eaters, often the better option is to prepare your food at home so you know exactly what is going into it. 

Look at the Label

The easiest and best way to clarify if food is a good choice is to look over the label. Identify levels of saturated fat, added sugar, sodium, and overall calorie counts. These components can indicate the health of the food as a whole. 

Label reading is also essential to identify the amount of nutrients available from a food item. As mentioned above, it’s important to clue in on iron, calcium, and vitamin B12 specifically. 

Come to Terms with Vegan (or Vegetarian) Diets

Understanding the glossary of vegetarian terms and vegan terminology can help you to navigate the world of vegan dining. Did you know there are four different types of tofu? Digging into this information during vegan dining can help expand your knowledge and your eating options. 

Whether or not your teen is vegan or vegetarian, it’s helpful to plan more plant-based meals into your diets. Start by following meatless Monday traditions and you’ll find a lot of healthy recipes

Related Questions

Is it Healthy to Become Vegan for a 14 Year Old Girl? A vegan diet can be healthy for a 14 year old girl as long as nutrient needs are met. It can be difficult for vegan teenagers to get enough calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin D, omega 3s, and vitamin B12 while on a vegan diet. Check with a doctor regularly if a supplement is needed. Adding fortified foods is helpful.

What is a Good Age to Go Vegan? Anyone at any age can be vegan as long as special focus and consideration is taken for adequate nutrient intake. Children and teens especially need a well-planned vegan diet to ensure essential growth and development during puberty and growth changes. Regularly check in with a doctor or dietitian to see if any changes or supplements are needed.

Is it Unhealthy for a Child to Go Vegan? It can be really challenging for a child to get enough nutrients on a vegan diet since it is fairly restrictive. A well-planned vegan diet with enough protein, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin D, omega 3s, vitamin B12 is essential for a child’s growth, development, and overall health. While a vegan diet is possible for a child, adding just milk and eggs to the diet may be helpful to boost intake of the nutrients of concern.

How Do I Get My Kid to Eat Vegan? It’s not necessarily a good idea to force a restrictive diet on your child. If you’d like your child to follow a vegan diet, it starts with example! The best things you can do to encourage your child to eat vegan foods is to educate them on the importance of healthy eating, let them help in the kitchen and with meal prep as much as possible, and expose them to a wide variety of foods. There are lots of kid-favorite foods that are vegan.

See Also


Caspero A. Building a Healthy Vegetarian Meal Myths and Facts. Published October 30, 2019. 

Ellis E. Dining Out for Vegetarians. Published October 1, 2019. 

Ellis E. Vegging Out: Tips on Switching to a Meatless Diet. Published February 24, 2020.

Hermann M. Menu Ideas for Vegetarian Teens. Published October 9, 2019. 

Klemm S. Tips to Keep Your Vegetarian Child Healthy. Published December 14, 2020. 

United States Department of Agriculture.  Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. Published December 2020. 

Weeks A. Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin). Published January 26, 2021. 

Wolfram. Food Sources of 5 Important Nutrients for Vegetarians. Published April 9, 2018. 

Wolfram T. How to Get Omega-3s Without Fish or Fish Oil. Published September 4, 2019. 

Wolfram T. Protein Foods for Your Vegetarian Child. Published February 14, 2018.

Wolfram T. Vegetarianism: The Basic Facts. Published October 1, 2018. 

Katherine Harmer, RDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a love for coaching others to success in their health goals, especially teenage athletes. Tennis was my sport of choice in high school. Now I'm a little bit older, a little bit smarter, and a little bit worse at tennis.

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