No matter it’s for a diet or a cleanse, you can have your own reason to become a vegetarian. The problem is, it is not easy. Many may have tried, failed and back out from it during their journey of becoming a vegetarian.
Choosing to maintain a vegetarian diet in Nigeria is really not as hard as you think. Here are some tips to help you survive.
Ever met a Nigerian who was vegetarian? Well they do exist.
For some people, they adopt this diet because of health-related reasons or religion, while for some others, it’s a lifestyle choice.(for me personally is a lifestyle choice).
The vegetarian diet involves abstaining from eating meat, poultry and seafood. (Some vegetarians eat eggs though).
In Nigeria, a lot of our diet is packed with proteins like chicken, meat, turkey fish and eggs. Some of our dishes including (jollof rice, beans, stews and soups) are cooked with meat.
What Kind Of Vegetarian Are You?
Have you ever considered becoming a vegetarian? Yes, giving up all meat and choosing nuts, seeds and legumes instead. As preposterous as it may seem to the average meat-loving Nigerian, there is a growing number of people in Nigeria and beyond, that are giving up meat to pursue the vegetarian lifestyle.
Types of Vegetarian Diets
While most vegetarians generally avoid red meat, there are varying degrees of the lifestyle. It is common to find vegetarians that enjoy fish, eggs and/or dairy on a regular basis. In fact, the classifications of vegetarianism are so wide that even people who occasionally eat meat can be included. If you are seriously considering becoming vegetarian, you must first pick the classification that fits into your lifestyle.
1. Vegan– Avoids all animal flesh (beef, pork, goat, lamb, chicken, fish, seafood, insects, etc.) and animal products such as eggs, honey, milk and dairy products. Extremely strict vegans avoid the usage of all animal products such as fur, leather and wool in their daily lives.
2. Lacto Vegetarian– Most likely the most common form of vegetarianism. From the Latin root “Lacto”
Meaning milk.Lacto-vegetarians (include milk and dairy but not eggs). They avoid all forms of animal flesh (beef, pork, goat, lamb, poultry, fish, seafood, insects, etc.) but include milk.
3. Ovo vegetarian- From the Latin root “Ovo” meaning egg. Ovo vegetarians avoid all forms of animal flesh (beef, pork, goat, lamb, poultry, fish, seafood, insects, etc.) but include eggs.
Health Benefits of Vegetarianism
In addition to being supportive of animal rights and having a low carbon foot print, vegetarian diets have numerous documented benefits. From a health standpoint, they are low in saturated fat and cholesterol but high in phytochemicals and fibre. These protective qualities make them the perfect prescription for the prevention and/or treatment of chronic disease. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegetarian diets promote:
- Lower rates of heart disease
- Decreased low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol levels
- Lower rates of high blood pressure (hypertension)
- Lower rates of type 2 diabetes
- Lower body mass index (weight)
- Lower overall cancer rates
Picking the Vegetarian Diet that Works for you:
1. Decide your reasons for going vegetarian. Do you want better health? Do you care about animals living in extremely inhumane conditions? Is decreasing your carbon footprint important to you? Your reasons for making the switch will predict your ability to stick with it. The stronger your driving force, the better the outcome.
2. Pick a classification that supports your tolerances and preferences. You cannot be a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian if you suffer abdominal discomfort when you drink milk (Lactose Intolerant). Similarly, you are less likely to succeed at being a Pescatarian if fish is expensive and/or unavailable where you live.
3. Enjoy the transition.
The wonderful thing about becoming vegetarian is that the lifestyle is not static. If you find one classification too rigid and restrictive, pick one that is more flexible. The key to success lies in finding a plan that works for you. Not ready to fully commit? Consider joining the “Meatless Monday” campaign and start by giving up meat once a week. Before long, you may find yourself following a highly plant powered diet.
ways to cope with being vegetarian in Nigeria:
it’s hard to go to a party or any other event without a piece of chicken, snail or even prawns staring back at your face. Here are five ways to cope with being vegetarian in Nigeria:
1. Don’t be scared
Fear not – you won’t starve. Contrary to what you might have thought, a lot of our meals are vegetable based so you’ll be fine.
Get ready to be asked funny questions
From the minute you declare your identity as a vegetarian, there are many who’ll look at you like you’re an alien and ask you what planet you are from.
“Are you sure you’re Nigerian?”
“Oh, you’re on a diet?”
“Are you a goat?”
Brace yourself – people will look at you strangely and ask how you can cope in a meatless life.
2. Give your host a heads up
If you’re going to an event, be sure to give your hosts a heads up so they can prepare your meal specially. Most events and parties in Nigeria don’t usually come with consideration for a vegetarian menu.
3. Check out the restaurants menu online
Going out to eat? Many restaurants in Lagos now offer options for vegetarians so you can still go out and bond over a meal with friends. To make sure you or your friends have selected the right place, you can look up the restaurant’s menu online or give them a call.
4. Cook your own food
Can’t deal with the hassle of eating out or trying to find a vegetarian menu at a party? Just cook your own food how you like.
5 simple Nigerian vegetarian foods you can try
Maintaining a vegetarian diet in Nigeria is not that hard as most of our meals are plant based. These meals have been vegetarian from the get-go.
Though most of our meals are gotten from plants, we depend heavily on animal source of protein. Here are some simple Nigerian vegetarian foods you can try that wont make you feel like youre missing out.
Vegetarian Nigerians do exist. Vegetarians and Vegans are people who do not eat any form of meat. However, while vegetarians tend to consume dairy products and eggs, vegans avoid all animal products, including eggs and dairy.
Since, most Nigerian meals are plant-based anyway, it is not that hard to be vegetarian or vegan in Nigeria. Here are some simple vegetarian meals you can even prepare at home.
1. Moi Moi
Moi moi is a very versatile meal in Nigeria. It can be eaten with almost anything. Moi Moi is made with beans paste and spices. The best thing is you can add any filling to it. If you want your moi moi to be completely vegan, you can have it completely plain. If you make a main meal like jollof rice or fried rice and skip the meat, you can use moi moi to complement the meal as protein.
2. Akara and Akamu
Akara and Akamu together is one of the common breakfast meals in Nigeria. Akara is also made with bean paste and spices while Akamu is made with corn meal. It is completely meat and dairy free, except you add milk to the akamu.
3. Mushroom stir-fry
Using mushroom in your stir fry instead of shrimp or chicken is a good vegetarian option, with pasta or rice. Check out this eggplant and mushroom pasta recipe.
4. Puff Puff
Puff Puff is a sweet street snack very common all over Nigeria. It is basically made out of flour, sugar and yeast, with no egg or milk at all. You can easily make this snack at home or buy at a street corner.
5. Bole and pepper sauce
Bole is a street food made up of roasted plantain and a spicy pepper sauce. It is usually eaten with fish but you can skip that, obviously. If you don’t have access to the spicy sauce, you can also try the yoruba alternative — Boli and Ekpa (groundnut).
I will like to ask a simple question for my fellow readers and viewers.
1. What is your own views and contributions on this articles?
2. What was you own experience of trying to avoid meat?
3. Have you ever thought of being a vegetarian?
Please let me know all your reactions, views and insights in the comment box below!
Kogwuonye Patrick Onyeka
University of Benin
University of Benin