Are you thinking about going plant-based in Nigeria? Maybe you've heard about the health benefits, are concerned about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, or just want to eat little or no animal meat (includes chicken, turkey, snail etc), fish, and egg. Whatever your reasons, you're not alone.
“A plant-based diet" centers on eating whole plant foods, namely fresh fruits, vegetables, root vegetables, seeds, whole grains, legumes, nuts, herbs, and spices.
Eating a plant-based diet is one of the most fundamental things you can do to enhance your overall health and lifestyle. Up to 80% of unexpected heart disease and stroke can be averted through your life choices and habits, such as eating a healthy plant-based diet and being physically active.
The question now is how to begin… and how to make it last a lifetime. Some can go plant-based with the “cold turkey” method, while others take small steps and begin slowly by scrapping out meat, milk, fish, and egg from their diet. This small step allows you time to find the answers to the bugging questions you likely have about going plant-based.
As a beginner, it is very important to build solid plant-based eating habits, so as not to snap back into your old eating ways. To build these habits, you have to stay on track, and take steps that are easier to measure and track weekly or monthly so that you can see your progress and feel encouraged to keep on going.
Here are 6 ways to go plant-based in Nigeria:
1. Take your time, start slow.
First and foremost, you have to take your time and start slow. Hurrying into a new diet might make you rush out soon. Removing meat, fish, milk, sausage, egg, or other animal products from your diet each week, will do you good. Choose a few plant-based meals and rotate them throughout the week.
Learning how to properly build your meals by replacing your regular meat with Casa Vegan plant-based alternative protein, and animal milk with plant milk like oat, almond, coconut, soy, or tiger nut milk. Not forgetting to include fruits, vegetables, healthy fats (avocado and coconuts), whole grains, or beans will leave you nourished, happy, and healthy.
“Start with meals you have always enjoyed that just happen to be plant-based, such as oatmeal, pap, pasta, jollof rice, akara, pounded yam, eba, semovita, moi-moi, agonyi beans, yam, potato, and plantain porridge, soups, stews, eforiro, fried yam, plantain, and potatoes, and noddles. Then build on those meals”. Remember to exclude of forms of animals; including crayfish 🙃
So, start slow and take your time to enjoy your food and recognize its ability to nourish you, without any pressure to be perfect. This approach will reduce binge eating as a new plant-based dieter in Nigeria.
2. Reduce your meat and artificial food intake.
Instead of using the cold turkey method, start by increasing the portion of plant food and reducing animal-based foods on your plate. This will give your body, mind, and digestive system time to adapt to the new diet. Make simple changes like adding a large portion of fresh fruits, peanut butter, and plant milk to your smoothie or a fresh bowl of vegetables to your daily meals.
Secondly, get rid of meat and dairy products, and deliberately work on swapping animal-based ingredients with plant-based alternatives in your favorite recipes. For instance, if you love beef burgers try swapping them for Casa Vegan plant-based burgers.
3. Watch your protein intake
Where do you get your protein? Be prepared to answer this question countless times as you begin your plant-based journey in Nigeria. As a beginner, if you let this question get into your head, you will start thinking too much about your protein intake, to the extent that no amount of plant protein will be enough for you at each meal. You will just keep eating more and more, and this can lead to what I call "Protein Obsession". Protein from plant foods supports health and longevity better than protein from animal foods.
One thing to keep in mind is that protein intake is per kilogram of body weight. So try not to overeat it. When you know your body weight and the right kind/amount you need to be eating every day, you won't have to worry about the question; "where do you get your protein"?.
“All plant foods contain amino acids in different proportions and there is plenty of protein in plants to meet our body requirements.” As long as you are eating enough calories to sustain yourself and are concentrating on whole plant foods instead of processed foods, it would be impossible to become deficient in protein.
4. Be a Smart Shopper and Read Food Labels
As a new plant-based dieter in Nigeria, you should always be smart when shopping at the mall. Read food labels carefully before buying them, so as not to purchase any food item that contains animal ingredients and other common sources of animal products.
Some common sources of animal protein you should look out for when shopping include:
Honey: This is a sweet fluid produced from plant nectar by bees. Often used in beauty products, flavored teas, and baked foods. If being plant-based is your aim, then you want to avoid any food that contains honey.
Gelatin: A protein derived through partial hydrolysis of the collagen extracted from animal skin, bones, cartilage, ligaments, etc. It can be found in processed foods like fruit snacks.
Whey: It is a byproduct of making cheese and can be found in some workout supplements and candies.
Hence, being a smart shopper will help you choose wisely when shopping/switching your meals from animal-based foods to plant-based foods. Always shop for whole grains, plant-based alternative protein, beans, tubers, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables/root vegetables, and plant milk.
5. Find Support
Going plant-based in Nigeria can get lonely sometimes and support is necessary to scale through this new lifestyle. That's why it is mandatory to find a plant-based support group!
Support groups can be one of the most helpful things to assist you in starting your plant-based journey in Nigeria. Being around and talking to like-minded plant-based dieters will help you stay on track and not fall off the wagon. Bonding over plant-based food and having discussions on the subject of food choices, challenges, and how to defeat them is a great talking point when you all follow the same lifestyle.
Connecting with other plant-based dieters in Nigeria and on social media can help improve your cooking skills, support, and meet your needs: health, cultural values, animal welfare, ethics, and environment.
Wanting help and seeking advice is not a weakness, it is a strength as you are increasing your understanding, compassion, and awareness of the world. Therefore, be excited to ask for tips and seek support/advice from other plant-based dieters in Nigeria and on social media.
6. Don't forget to Supplement
As a new plant-based dieter in Nigeria, it is very important to supplement especially if you feel you need to increase your intake of certain vitamins or minerals. The most common deficiency for plant-based dieters is vitamin B12, as well as iodine, Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and vitamin D. The good news is that it is easy to avoid these nutrient risks!
Firstly, eat an abundant source of plant-based foods and try to consume more fortified foods like breakfast cereals and plant milk. Secondly, take a daily dose of vegan-friendly multivitamins, or supplement with individual nutrients if you feel okay taking it that way.
Lastly, going plant-based in Nigeria shouldn't be a do-or-die affair. Keep in mind that any transition takes time. Finding out what works for you and what doesn’t is crucial when going plant-based. So be gentle with yourself as you find your pace to incorporate plant-based foods.
Credit: Daniella Obuwan Oshiame - Vegan, Health & Nutrition Writer