One question most vegans, especially those of African origin get asked is, “how sustainable
is the vegan lifestyle?” or “how can you not eat meat, since our food cultures are
predominantly meat eating?”.
Regardless of where you’re from, it is true that it might be difficult in the beginning but
there are ways to make the transition into veganism easy, interesting and well balanced.
One way to start is by having the right mindset and challenging your whole diet and lifestyle
and asking yourself why you’re on the journey in the first place. Even though there are
different reasons why people become vegan, with the all-encompassing reasons being
ethical (animal protection), health, environmental and or spiritual beliefs, having your ‘why’
at the back of your mind will keep you motivated and in check.
From a food, health and nutrition perspective, sustaining a healthy vegan lifestyle will
require discipline, planning and an understanding of what your meals should be made up of
so you’re sure of getting all the nutrients your body needs – vitamins, minerals, healthy fats
etc. It is important to bear in mind during transition that you will make mistakes especially
with food that you have not cooked personally. When this happens, try not to beat yourself
up. Note the error and guard against it in future. Hopefully, the tips below will help make
your vegan journey easier and more sustainable.
Start with ‘Why’ – reminding yourself why you became vegan is vital to keeping
yourself on track. Whether for health and wellness, spiritual, animal rights or for the
environment, the ‘why’ at the back of your mind goes a long way in helping you
make the right food choices on your journey.
Create a balance – Try as much as possible try to create a balance, making sure to incorporate whole foods
i.e. vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses, beans, wholegrains in your diet rather than
heavily processed vegan foods. I usually say, start by working with what’s available
locally to you. A bit of creativity helps here. You would be amazed how many dishes
you can create from local produce. Don’t be afraid to play around with ingredients
and sometimes adapting old non vegan recipes to become yours.
Plan your meals ahead – This helps especially if you’re a busy person with a heavy
work schedule. A meal plan that you can follow and easily adjust is quite helpful.
Meal prepping ahead for the week also works. Cook and batch freeze your soups,
stews etc so you’re not stuck and tempted to opt for unhealthy foods. Preparing
ahead and packing your meals when you go out is also a life saver.
Connect with other vegans – the saying goes that if you want you know how the
journey ahead is, ask those who’ve been there before you. The benefit of connecting
with other vegans cannot be overemphasised. Join local vegan groups, connect with
those with similar values as you and you’ll be able to learn from them.
Ensure you’re getting all your vitamins and minerals-Vitamins and minerals are the
bedrock of a healthy life. As much as possible as stated earlier, try to get as much as
possible from natural food sources. However, you will need to supplement especially
vitamins B2 and B12. Look out for vegan multivitamin brands to add zinc, Iron,
calcium, vitamin D to your diet in addition to your leafy greens, fruits, seaweeds (if
you can), nuts and seeds. If you’re able to get these from your food, the better for
Don’t be afraid to try out new recipes– One way to make your vegan food experience
interesting, is having an open mind and being ready to try out new recipes. There’s a
plethora of recipes from around the world you can play around with.
In summary, maintaining a healthy vegan lifestyle through a diet of plant based whole foods
is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and your family. Start with little steps,
enjoying the variety of fresh produce provided by mother nature, be creative and ready to
explore, always with your ‘why’ in mind.
Article by Michele Branco -Aiyegbusi, a vegan health and nutrition coach and Executive Chef
at Michele’s Vegan Kitchen, Lagos, Nigeria