I'm drawn towards a vegan diet, but keep hearing that it's not really good for people. With no outstanding health or nutrition issues, how much meat/dairy can we safely eliminate?

Hello!  A vegan diet can be healthy if it is well planned.  The most important thing is to be well informed and very aware of which vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you are eliminating.  You may need to take supplements if you are unable to get them in your diet.  A vegan diet eliminates meat and all meat products, putting you at risk for deficiency of vitamin B12, calcium, iron and vitamin D.  Without careful consideration to be sure you are getting adequate intake of these nutrients you can become deficient.  

It is important to remember that we don't need any special kind of diet to eat healthy.  Some diets actually become unhealthy because they eliminate important food groups and nutrients.  A vegan diet can be very unhealthy if a person adds in a lot of packaged foods and doesn't eat enough fruits and vegetables.  

I would also caution against a vegan diet for children (if you have any).  Children are growing and developing and their nutrition requirements (especially for the nutrients listed above - vitamin B12, calcium, iron and vitamin D) are very different than adults.  Becoming deficient in the listed vitamins and minerals can impair their brain development, decrease their bone density and put them at risk for other deficiencies and growth abnormalities.  Visit our feeding children page for topics and ideas about related questions you may have.

I would highly recommend meeting with your primary care doctor and asking for a referral to a registered dietitian in your area who can help address your specific concerns and ensure you have a balanced diet!