How to cook healthy Nigerian meals

How to cook healthy Nigerian meals

Two hours before I wrote knew I was going to write this blog post, I texted my four close friends this, asking them to try some of the recipes. My United Nations group of besties (a Croatian, Ugandan, Chinese and Canadian) are foodies like me and their taste buds have no boundaries. They’ve had Nigerian meals at my place and when I make us drive for hours just to go to a Nigerian restaurant when we travel. So I was surprised I hadn’t shared with them a link to All Nigerian Recipes website.

I love that website because you can find just about any Nigerian recipe on there.

I had just gotten home and I wanted something delicious that wouldn’t take a long time to make because I was soon heading back out again. I was really craving rice and stew—just the way my mom makes it. I quickly dashed to All Nigerian Recipes in hopes that their video tutorial would help me remember some of the steps. As I watch the video, it hit me again how unhealthy Nigerian dishes can be. This is mostly because we:

  1. use a lot of oil in our meals
  2. fry things often (plantain, fish, stew/sauces and the list goes on)
  3. use starch often (pounded yam, gari)
  4. overcook meals
  5. use non whole foods/ingredients (brown/wild rice vs. plain white rice…and rice is a staple ingredient in Nigerian dishes)

These are some of the things I’ve noticed, and I’m personally trying to change when I make Nigerian dishes. One thing I love about Nigerian foods is actually the scent…and of course the taste. When I first started to make the transition to cook healthier Nigerian meals, I avoided cooking Nigerian food altogether because I thought I’d lose the aroma, and the meals won’t taste as good if I substituted ingredients and make other changes like that. But that hasn’t exactly been the case.  I’m still in the transition phase, and my dishes taste better each time. Now, whenever I’m preparing a Nigerian meal, I:

  1. use less oil. I do this for my soups, stews and anything else that normally requires 1 to 2 cups of oil. I use about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of oil instead (for stew or soup that serves up to 5 people).
  2. fry less. I’ve stopped frying my stews, and I can’t wait to bake my ripe plantain instead of frying it.
  3. use starch sparingly. I love me my pounded yam. Like I always say, cook me a good soup and I’ll eat pounded yam EVERY DAY. Pounded yam with soup is my go to dish after rice and stew. Now I enjoy it every now and then instead of a few times a week. And I tend to eat it early in the day too so my body has enough time to digest it instead of eating it for dinner.
  4. use less heat. Instead of cooking that okro soup with spinach for 30 minutes, I cook my okro and chopped spinach for a good 7-10 minutes. When I use these ingredients in soups, I make sure to add them last so they’re not overcooked. The only thing I like very well cooked is my meat so it’s easier to chew.
  5. Use whole foods/ingredients. This was a hard one for me, especially since some of these whole/healthier ingredients tend to be less tasty. Switching from parboil rice to brown rice mixed with wild rice took is taking me some getting used to. My go to rice and stew comfort food doesn’t taste the same with whole grain rice, but I’ll find a way to make it work.

Nigerian meals can be delicious AND healthy. Try out some Nigerian dishes if you haven’t already. If you have, keep enjoying your meals—and keep these five things in mind the next time you’re making your jollof rice or egusi soup.

Happy eating!


~ by omonaij on April 13, 2014.

4 Responses to “How to cook healthy Nigerian meals”

  1. The things you’ve said are things I have to end up doing when I cook Naijja and Caribbean foods! Tastes the same just less greasy. Rice and stew I still eat with white rice,Basmati is better. Cook some Quinoa with it for more nutrition!

    • I love Caribbean food!! I haven’t made much of it, except a tasty rice and peas with brown stew chicken one time. Like Naija dishes, Caribbean food could be made healthier too. You can’t go wrong with quinoa on anything.

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