In late April, I was chatting with my fiance and he casually mentioned that he hadn’t eaten meat for two weeks. And so began his quest to become vegetarian and my second attempt at being pescetarian (most of the time). In the past three months of being largely meat-free, I’ve learned that there is a whole world of African pescetarians, vegetarians, and even vegans! ???? Though I don’t foresee myself going vegan anytime soon, I connected with Ama, a vegan Ghanaian who kindly agreed to share her story with us!
From Vegetarian to Vegan
The day I told my mother I wasn’t going to eat meat anymore, she laughed, said okay, and took the chicken off my plate and allowed me to eat my rice plain with tomato stew. She and my dad thought it was a phase, but almost a decade later this “phase” has yet to go away. As a young adult in my early 20s, I don’t rely on my mother to cook my meals anymore. But when I was younger, my mom was very sweet about vegan-izing traditional Ghanaian dishes so that I could eat them. In my house there was a lot of meatless jollof, stew without meat, fried rice without shrimp or egg, meat-pie without meat (confusing, I know) and yes, no shito.
Being an African vegetarian or vegan has its struggles but it is not impossible! I was a vegetarian for about 7.5 years and I made the switch to veganism about a year ago. I became a vegetarian for ethical reasons. I saw a PETA video and I felt that I just couldn’t participate in eating animals with the knowledge of how they live and are treated prior to death. I became a vegan for health reasons. I never really ate eggs during my vegetarian years and I started growing an intolerance towards dairy, so veganism just seemed like a logical next step.
Well, What Do You Eat?
Contrary to popular belief, vegans aren’t eating salads 24/7, nor are they restricted from enjoying traditional Ghanaian or African foods (like, what is life without jollof and kenkey?). Interestingly enough, when I attend Ghanaian events, I am always able to find at least one thing to eat. Whether it be salad before that Heinz cream that all Ghanaians seem to love (Nigerians love this stuff too!) is poured on it or a fruit salad, I never feel 100% left out of major events. My friends and I always go to restaurants where there’s at least one vegan option that is not a salad. I like to eat food and a small side salad just doesn’t cut it for me haha. My Instagram is a testimony to all of the amazing foods I can eat that don’t have meat or dairy.
Although veganism isn’t restrictive, it does encourage healthier eating than my vegetarian days. Powerhouses like Venus Williams, Carl Lewis, Ariana Grande, Ellen DeGeneres and Stevie Wonder are all vegans. A non-meat lifestyle is both healthy and delicious. I now eat pancakes made out of home-milled oats, a ripe banana and a dash of almond milk. I constantly chef up a homemade pineapple, tofu fried-rice – it’s the perfect mix of sweet and salty.
How Can I Transition?
It’s actually easier than you think! Veganism (and vegetarianism) are for all sorts of different people. You could try being vegetarian for one meal, one day, or even one week. Instead of eating eggs, toast and sausage, you can make a healthy and easy to make (and easy on your wallet) oatmeal with soy milk, sliced fruit and a dash of almond milk. On days when you want to treat yourself, you can make the same pancakes I make but with some maple syrup and vegetarian sausage patties from MorningStar.
When lunch rolls around, you can easily cook rice and put some spicy tomato stew on top. If you’re looking for something simpler, you can slice tofu, bake it, and put it in some ciabatta bread with some lettuce, grilled or fresh veggies, raspberry vinaigrette, and avocado slices. When dinner rolls around, you can eat a big salad (I enjoy doing this and throwing in strawberries, almonds, and French dressing); alternatively, you could chef up some fried rice, skip the egg and throw in some of the tofu from lunch and a bunch of vegetables with some soy sauce.
Transitioning is really about changing your eating habits little by little. Switch out your burgers for Black-bean burgers from Boca Burger. Have your morning coffee with almond milk instead of whole-fat dairy. Instead of chicken with your meal, stock up on lentils and beans which are filled with protein. Make one meal meatless, then try to go meatless for a day and then a week.
Your wallet, body, and taste buds will thank you!