11-18 year olds

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Fuelling growth and development

During this stage of your life, your body is growing and developing fast. It gets the fuel and building blocks it needs from your diet, which means that eating well is really important. Making good choices can help you to feel great, achieve your goals, and protect your current and future health. A well-planned vegan diet can provide you with all the nutrients that your body needs.

So, how can you make sure that you are eating a high quality vegan diet? As a starting point, take a look at the general information about plant-based nutrition on our website. Your nutritional needs are different to those of people in other age groups, and some nutrients deserve special attention. Carry on reading to find out more.

Strong bones

Your body needs extra calcium from your diet in order to develop strong bones. It is recommended that your daily diet includes plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as calcium-set tofu, calcium-fortified alternatives to milk or yoghurt, and bread fortified with extra calcium. This will help you to hit your daily calcium target.

Vitamin D is also needed to help your body absorb calcium from your diet. As a minimum, take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms during autumn and winter. Year-round supplementation is recommended for people with darker skin and those who do not expose their skin to sunlight. Vitamin D3 from lichen and vitamin D2 are vegan-friendly.

Vegan iron

Your body will need more iron, and those who menstruate need the most. Make sure that your meals contain good sources, such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots and figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal. You can increase the amount of iron absorbed from your meals by including good sources of vitamin C, such as pepper, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruits, oranges, strawberries, pineapple, grapefruit and orange juice.

What is omega-3 fat?

Omega-3 fat is an essential nutrient. This means that you need it in your daily diet because your body cannot make it. Good sources include ground linseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. Using vegetable (rapeseed) oil as your main cooking oil will also help you to get enough omega-3 fat. You might want to think about taking a supplement containing long-chain omega-3 fats (called EPA and DHA) from microalgae because they are not found in plant foods. However, there is a need for research into the health benefits of omega-3 fat supplementation for vegans.

What else do I need to know?

Fortified foods and supplements will help you to meet your nutritional needs, and some of them have already been mentioned. Here are some more tips for vegans:

  • Vitamin B12 options:
    • Eat food fortified with vitamin B12 at least twice a day providing at least 3mcg (micrograms) in total…
    • …or take a daily supplement containing at least 10mcg or a weekly supplement containing at least 2000mcg
  • Make sure that your diet contains a reliable source of iodine – a supplement is arguably the best option

Need more information? Read our detailed PDF.

These are general guidelines about nutrition. If you have concerns about your diet, please talk to your doctor about seeing a dietitian. Discussing the use of supplements with a health professional will help to ensure that they are suitable for you.

Thanks to Children’s Dietitian Angharad Banner for her expertise and support.

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