We as Nigerians always feel the need to be extra and that also applies to our meals. An extra shaki and kpomo or just three fried eggs in a plate of noodles – anything remotely close to extra food is amazing news to the average Nigerian. That’s why when you hear about becoming vegan, you squeak in disbelief and go: “in Nigeria? Ha!”
Yes, being vegan is not an impossible lifestyle but on the contrary, very easy to adopt in this part of the world. According to Bolanile Olatunji, founder of Vegan In Nigeria, and owner of Eat Tu Live, “most of our traditional Nigerian dishes are vegan-friendly with large amounts of plant-based ingredients like rice, beans, yam, sweet potato, Irish potato, pasta, plantain and vegetables. Just remove the meat, fish, chicken, prawns, etc. and it becomes vegan.”
Before we go further, let’s quickly differentiate between a vegan and being a vegetarian as many people mix up the two. A vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat or consume any kind of animal product, whereas vegans avoid meat, poultry and seafood and go further by not consuming milk, eggs, honey or any product/by-product made from animals or animal skin.
Every year, more people around the world are making the decision to go vegan and for good reasons: think weight loss, lowering blood sugar, improving kidney function and more.
Vegan or not, a diet high in fruit and vegetables is a good starting point for a healthy lifestyle. Also, seeing that meat contains a high amount of calories which is related to hypertension, stroke and various cardiovascular diseases common in this part of the world, it is understandable that vegans who consume fewer calories have less risk of heart diseases. So if you’re not vegan yet, check your heart, it might be beating for the wrong reasons.
If you’re ready for a healthier lifestyle, we have put together simple ways to make your vegan journey smoother…
1. Let’s start with reorientation
A redefinition of what is healthy should be done as this will help us value our health and evade sickness. We need a reorientation on what healthy living truly is and the understanding that our food is our medicine.
In Nigeria, it is considered “evidence of good living” when you fill your plate up with animal protein and due to this misconception, it’s almost degrading to walk into a restaurant and order a rich plant-based meal without requesting for chicken, beef or fish because the waiters won’t take you seriously. You may even be told that you need to “chop life before life chop you.” Nevertheless, you must eat smart and don’t let this enjoyment kill you, literally.
2. The transitioning process
There are no hard and fast rules; for some, it is a cold turkey approach while others choose to take it gradually. It is advisable to take it one step at a time by incorporating more plant-based foods and gradually doing away with animal protein. Sometimes going the abrupt route, our bodies start to rebel in every-typa-way, so begin by incorporating more whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and tofu into your diet then start collecting and experimenting with vegan recipes that appeal to you.
3. Plan against a busy schedule
We would be sounding like a broken record if we decide to go over how crazy the Lagos hustle and bustle is. When the desirable (something healthy) is unavailable, the available becomes desirable and in this situation, we throw everything into our system to appease our stomach gods. But with just a little forethought and proper planning, this problem can be controlled.
Research then plan your meals ahead. Start with a few different quick and easy vegan meals that you enjoy and get comfortable preparing them. Pack yourself some healthy lunch for work so you don’t end up joining others for some Iya Basira’s special. Also, create a food time table and stay committed to this course.
4. Get to know the vegan restaurants near you
Say no more! We already know it’s hard to find a vegan restaurant in Nigeria so jot this one down; Veggie Victory, Nigeria’s first vegan and vegetarian restaurant, located at Freedom Park, Lagos. The Resto is owned by Mr Hakeem Jimo, who has been vegetarian for a whopping 26 years. The restaurant uses unusual meat alternatives like tofu, wheat protein, mushrooms and even cashew.
They have amazing Nigerian foods like vegan suya, vegan pizza, vegan asun and even vegan nkwobi among the more traditional meals like Jollof rice, ewa goyin and yam pottage. Trust us, you won’t be missing or mincing meat anytime soon.
5. Join a community of vegans and vegetarians
Now that you’re getting chummy with the idea of becoming vegan, it is advisable to join a vegan community. The vegan community in Lagos is growing especially through the Lagos Veg Fest organized by Veggie Victory. Through communities like this, vegans and non-vegans get together to share healthier vegan alternatives to their everyday diet.
Also, Vegan In Nigeria holds monthly meet-ups, an open house event open to meat-eaters, plant eaters and the in-betweens who bond over shared values, provide and accept support when necessary. Also, Vegan documentaries/movies and group discussions on lifestyle are held alongside yummy vegan meals and even ice cream. By surrounding yourself with people who share your beliefs and values, you’ll find becoming vegan undemanding and pleasant.
Being Vegan is not a diet but a lifestyle and looking at it that way takes the enormous burden of trying to reach a target and getting overwhelmed off you.
See below more mouth-watering Nigerian vegan dishes that would make you reconsider your feeding choices…
Photo Credit | As Captioned
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