Since it arrived like a veritable firestorm, the “vegan” scene has transformed the lives – and some say the restaurant industry itself – of health-conscious eaters across the globe. Beyond the animal protection aspect this demographic is so passionate about, the vegetarian approach has yielded more positive results with regard to body health as compared to copious intakes of red meat-based diets. In response to this ever-growing dietary style, vegan-esque restaurants have sprung up worldwide, offering impressive menus and creative spins on what were once considered “boring, leaf-based dishes.”

In Woodland Hills, the vegan scene has been revolutionized by such locales as the aptly-named Vegan Joint, located at 20855 Ventura Boulevard #3 on the corner of Ventura Boulevard and Desoto Avenue. Established in 2006, The Vegan Joint has grown to encompass four locations in the Los Angeles County area, offering organic and non-GMO products in addition to Thai vegan-based foods, breakfast burritos, pancakes and hash browns. Dinner items The Vegan Joint’s fans return for include vegan dishes with rice, noodles and curries; fresh spring rolls; dumplings; chicken nachos and more.

Follow Your Heart Market & Café, situated at 21825 Sherman Way in Canoga Park, has become one of southern California’s oldest and most beloved natural food eateries since 1970. The atmosphere here is both comfortable and casual, with some guests describing it as a “trip back into the ‘70s;” the café’s staff, however, likes to call the dining spot a “place that will start to feel like home after no time at all.” This restaurant is comfortably tucked away in the back corner of the Follow Your Heart market, and patrons may dine at the counter or at a table inside or out on the relaxing patio. Home-style comfort food served in generous portions define the Follow Your Heart menu, which features lacto-vegetarian dishes that use no meat, poultry, fish or eggs and which also boast seasonal and organic ingredients whenever possible.

The Hummus Republic, situated at 21801 Oxnard Street #4, is one of the more unique venues on this list, with representatives referring to it as a “start-up food company” that offers “assembly-line” Mediterranean cuisine outside of a restaurant setting. Here, a broad variety of salads come without dressings so each customer can choose from a myriad of dressing selections to match their personal taste and mood, while vegan and/or gluten-free dishes complement three kinds of gourmet Hummus made fresh daily, as well as Falafel. The Hummus Republic has become known for using Seitan, a low-fat/high-protein meat substitute concocted by Tibetan Buddhists, while adding no preservatives of any kind into its dishes.

The Health Nut, at 23373 Mulholland Drive, offers fresh and healthy food, drinks and supplements to the Woodland Hills community, with all of its produce locally-sourced to ensure freshness and quality. This quaint little spot has become a favorite amongst celebrities, fitness experts, casual diners and longtime fans alike, and has been family owned and operated for over 40 years. The restaurant’s extensive menu includes salads, sandwiches, melts and Paninis, specialties, smoothies and more.

If your tastes lean toward authentic Indian cuisine, look no further than Woodland Heights’ Great India Café, situated at 21926 Ventura Boulevard, where a menu chock-full of delectable Indian dishes are sure to satisfy any level of appetite. While the café offers a host of non-vegetarian dishes, it’s the vegan-oriented menu that has had Woodland Hills diners all abuzz since its opening, including a vegetarian lunch served seven days a week from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm as well as a full vegetarian specialty lineup with entrees such as Paneer Tikka, Vegetarian Lamb Curry, Began Bhartha, Aloo Gobi, Saag Paneer, Shahi Paneer, Broccoli Curry and many more.

It remains clear that the vegan lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but while the world awaits a successful attempt at creating synthetic, non-animal-based meats that don’t destroy our bodies (while consequently saving the lives of all the animals bred for human consumption), vegetarian-oriented spots such as those highlighted here continue to offer a viable option for the health-conscious amongst us.