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Vegan Diet

British Columbia Specific Information

Every day, we make choices about the food we eat and our lifestyles. We can make choices for ourselves and our families that make a real difference to our ability to remain healthy and active now, and enjoy life to its fullest in the future. To learn more about healthy eating, including managing a condition, food safety, and food security, visit the Healthy Eating section of our website.

You may also call 8-1-1 to speak to a registered dietitian, Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or you can Email a HealthLinkBC Dietitian.

For additional information about healthy living visit Canada's Food Guide and Physical Activity web page.

Topic Contents


What is a vegan diet?

A vegan (say "VEE-gun" or "VAY-gun") diet is a type of vegetarian diet. Besides not eating meat, vegans don't eat food that comes from animals in any way. That includes milk products, eggs, honey, and gelatin (which comes from bones and other animal tissue).

There are many reasons why some people choose a vegan diet.

  • It can be healthier than other diets.
  • Some people think it's wrong to use animals for food.
  • Not eating meat is an important part of some religions.
  • A vegan diet can cost less than a diet that includes meat.
  • Eating less meat can be better for the environment.

What are the benefits?

In general, people who don't eat meat:

  • Weigh less than people who eat meat.
  • Are less likely to die of heart disease.
  • Have lower cholesterol levels.
  • Are less likely to get:
    • High blood pressure.
    • Type 2 diabetes.
    • Prostate cancer.
    • Colon cancer.

The health benefits may be related to a diet of mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

How do you get protein?

Protein is made of building blocks called amino acids. The human body can make some of these amino acids. But you must get the nine essential amino acids from food.

Protein isn't just found in meat. It is found in many other foods. If you are looking for vegan sources of protein, try:

  • Tempeh.
  • Tofu.
  • Cooked beans, peas, or lentils.
  • Quinoa.
  • Nuts or seeds.
  • Peanut butter or other nut or seed butter.

You can get more protein in your food by adding high-protein ingredients. For example, you can:

  • Add powdered protein to fruit smoothies and cooked cereal.
  • Add beans to soup and chili.
  • Add nuts, seeds, or wheat germ to vegan yogurt.
  • Spread peanut butter onto a banana.

You can also buy protein bars, drinks, and powders. Check the nutrition label for the amount of protein in each serving.

How do you eat a healthy vegan diet?

A healthy vegan diet includes mostly whole foods and less-processed foods in each meal. A vegan diet can give you most of the nutrients you need.

As long as you eat a variety of foods, there are only a few things you need to pay special attention to.


Foods that have calcium include certain legumes, certain leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and tofu. Calcium-fortified nut milks and orange juice are also good choices.

Vitamin D.

Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is important to keep bones strong. Vegans can have nut milks and other foods with added vitamin D.


Getting enough iron isn't a problem if you eat a wide variety of food. Vegan iron sources include cooked dried beans, peas, and lentils; leafy green vegetables; and iron-fortified grain products. Eating foods rich in vitamin C will help your body absorb iron.

Vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is found only in foods that come from animal sources. Vegans need to eat foods that are fortified with this vitamin (such as nut milks) or take a supplement that contains it.


Vegan sources of zinc include whole grain breads, beans and lentils, soy foods, and vegetables.

Omega-3 fatty acids.

Vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids include hemp seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, certain leafy green vegetables, soybean oil, and canola oil.

Is a vegetarian or vegan diet safe for children and teens?

A well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet can be healthy for children and teens. In fact, it can be a great way to get them into a lifelong habit of healthy eating.

Here are some things to think about at different stages of a child's life.


Supplements may be important.

  • Starting around age 6 months, offer your baby iron-rich foods first, such as iron-fortified infant cereal, finely mashed cooked egg yolk, mashed beans, or tofu.footnote 1 Talk with your doctor about whether or not your child needs an iron supplement.
  • Breastfed babies of vegan mothers need vitamin B12 supplements if the mother's diet isn't fortified.footnote 2
  • Breastfed babies need 400 IU of vitamin D each day from a supplement.footnote 3  Babies who are only fed formula do not need a vitamin D supplement. When your baby is no longer breastfeeding or taking formula, your doctor may recommend a vitamin D supplement. Talk with your doctor about how much and what sources of vitamin D are right for your baby.footnote 1

Young children

Children ages 1 to 2 years need extra fat for brain and nerve development.

  • If you use milk, use whole milk. Don't use low-fat or skim milk. (Children younger than 9 months of age should not drink cow's milk.)footnote 3, footnote 1
  • If you use a soy beverage, make sure that it's a full-fat fortified soy beverage.
  • Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to make sure that your child is getting enough fat.


Vegan and vegetarian diets can contain a lot of fibre. Fibre fills you up without adding a lot of calories. But children have small stomachs. The fibre they eat can fill them up before they get enough calories. Frequent meals and snacks with plenty of whole grains, beans, and nuts will help children get the energy and nutrients they need for healthy growth.

Young children who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet tend to be slightly smaller but still within normal growth ranges. And they tend to catch up to other children in size as they get older.


Teens need plenty of calcium and vitamin D. And iron is especially important for teen girls who are menstruating. If your teen decides to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet:

  • Teach your teen how to plan meals to get all the right nutrients every day. You may want your teen to talk to a registered dietitian to learn how to plan a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet.
  • Talk with your doctor or dietitian about the vitamins and minerals your child needs. Ask if your teen needs to take a daily supplement.
  • Find out why your teen wants to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Some teens adopt this diet as a way to lose weight, and it can hide an eating disorder like anorexia.



  1. Health Canada, et al. (2014). Nutrition for healthy term infants: Recommendations from six to 24 months. Health Canada. Accessed April 28, 2014.
  2. Amit M (2010). Vegetarian diets in children and adolescents. Paediatrics and Child Health, 15(5): 303–314. Accessed November 17, 2020.
  3. Health Canada, et al. (2012). Nutrition for healthy term infants: Recommendations from birth to six months. A joint statement of Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada. Available online:


Adaptation Date: 9/18/2023

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC