There are so many different people with different beliefs — be it across the world, in one neighborhood or within a family. We all have different views, understandings, and lifestyles. In this fast-paced world today, people who find themselves concerned about their health and wellbeing are tilting towards a different lifestyle. They are going plant based — Vegetarian, or even vegan (often just called the ‘veg’ family!)

Luckily, we have freedom of choice, which means different understanding of things and different reasons for the choices they make. Most vegetarians and vegans make this choice because they either feel strongly about animal cruelty or want to avoid health issues caused by the consumption of meat. Some even go veg to decrease their environmental impact, as the commercial farming of cows and pigs is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

However, understand that there is a big different between vegetarian and vegan, despite the words sometimes being used interchangeably by those who don’t know any better. While vegetarians avoid the consumption of meat, fish and poultry, Vegans not only avoid animal products but also anything derived from an animal (like cheese, milk, butter, etc…).

Despite that difference, what vegetarians and vegans share is effort in avoiding a primary source of food most people consume for almost every meal. That may seem like a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as many folks expect it to be! Vegetables come in all of the flavors, textures, and colors of the culinary rainbow, and it seems like more and more meat, milk and cheese substitutes are being introduced every day. Instead of animal meats, you can choose seitan, tofu, tempeh, and even vegan faux-meats. If you are a lover of dairy, check out all of the non-dairy options that exist to help you change up your yogurt, cheese, ice-cream, or milk consumption. Coconut, almond, cashew, rice, soy, and even flax milks and milk-products exist to help you crush your dairy cravings. There are so many more options for vegans and vegetarians now and even more for non-vegetarians to try out. If you are someone who eats out regularly – Fear not! There are so many vegetarian and vegan restaurants now, and other restaurants that haven’t traditionally included a vegan menu are starting to realize how diverse the culinary choices of their customers are, and provide veg-friendly options.

Financially, going veg can be a great benefit, too. I’ve been vegetarian for 4 months now, and I can definitely say I have spent less money on fast food, simply because not many heavy grease-chains include options appropriate for my lifestyle. Saving money on junk, I instead opt to buy fresh food from the grocer and end up cooking my own healthy meals. It’s a little bit of self care at the end of a long school day… Because, really, there’s no better self-care than feeding yourself nutritious food customized to your exact tastes.

Hey, 2018 is a new year. New year, new you, right? Challenge yourself to go vegan or vegetarian for a week, or even just to incorporate more plant-based options in your diet. I think you’ll be surprised at the multitude of positivity it can bring to your life.