by Halima Hassan
My path to veganism was not easy. I went from faux practicing to the real deal. As a former hot cheeto addict, I am glad to say the days of replacing my meals with hot cheetos are finally over. I did not discover veganism through videos or blog posts, but instead discovered veganism due to the health complications I began having. I used to hear about Somali adults complaining about the gas and ulcers they suffered from and I would chuckle when they warned me about my hot cheeto addiction. I continued to laugh at their warnings and eat however I wanted. Until one day I was not laughing anymore: I was informed by my doctor that I had an ulcer. Upon hearing this news, I asked for the best diet possible that could reverse my ulcer. The nurse in the room told me to try veganism. I felt like she was joking with me when she said veganism. It never crossed my mind that it was a legitimate option. When she said to try veganism, I thought to myself “Veganism?! Am I a goat?”
Since my 2014 ulcer incident, I’ve slowly changed my diet to become more plant based. I didn’t immediately jump into veganism but eased my way in. I decided that if being healthy meant eating like a goat, then sign me up! I first began by replacing all my drinks with water. I also cut out unhealthy foods from my diet like sweets and chips and I stopped eating fried and oily foods. Next, I put myself on an eating schedule so I would not over/undereat and could give my body time to digest. Then, I started eliminating both dairy and meat from my diet. In no time, I was a full on vegan and this lasted for 9 months. However, I found myself relapsing and this helped me realize that although I liked being vegan, I only liked it for set amounts of time. So then I decided that I would try being vegan again when Ramadan came.
Ramadan time came quickly and I decided that I wanted to try veganism again. Ramadan is a blessed month where you can challenge yourself and go beyond the expectations you have set for yourself. I decided I was up for the Vegan during Ramadan challenge and it was also helpful that I had a game plan this time around. I decided just eating food out of a box labeled “Vegan” wasn’t enough. In order to meet my goal of having a cleaner diet, I needed to meal plan so that I could make nutritious and appetizing home cooked meals.
During Ramadan, my suhur meals were simple. I ate oatmeal paired with different types of fruit toppings. For afuur, I tried recreating foods I used to enjoy eating with meat but instead replaced the meat with vegetables. I also always made sure to end my afuur with a cup of freshly made watermelon and peach juice and the duas my ayeeyo showered me in.
I documented the meals that I cooked up during Ramadan on my instagram. This was my way of showcasing that vegan food could be both delicious and nutritious. I meal planned by thinking of what I wanted to make that week ahead of time and then purchasing ingredients and making note of prep time for my instagram followers. Some days I made food that I was craving and sometimes I made food based of off commercials that inspired me. Vegan Ramadan was a complete success to me because of the love and support I received from people around the world telling me that I Inspired them or they recreated the meals I posted.
I was able to accomplish eating vegan for the duration of Ramadan. I truly did THAT. I also connected with Allah SWT and felt the blessings of Ramadan. Veganism was not something I chose to do because of religion or because of some belief about animals (although I am dying to be a dog mom). I became vegan because my health gave me a wake-up call that I needed ina isla yaabo aka get my life! How could I be a grown woman and consume no vegetables throughout my day? Thanks to my vegan diet, I’ve experienced healthier skin and hair and better energy levels. Not only do I feel great on the inside thanks to my improved diet, but I also truly glow from the outside. If you take care of yourself internally, it shows externally! Although I was not initially thrilled about having an ulcer, I am thankful because without it I might not have adopted a vegan diet and gotten my life.
Tips for Potential / New Vegans
- Identify why you want to be a vegan. Is it for a cause? A health reason? Knowing why you’re doing something is a good first step.
- How long do you want to be a vegan? Is it for a season, a day, or long-term? Setting goals is a helpful guide and reminder of what you’re working towards.
- Where do you feel comfortable starting? I highly recommend first following a plant based diet to familiarize yourself with veggie based meals. I went from eating meat filled meals to eating only lean meat to finally eating no meat at all. Eventually if you eat less meat overtime, going without it entirely becomes more and more possible. If you’re a vegetable hater, start by drinking green smoothies masked with fruit. This way you get the nutrients from veggies but trick yourself with fruit flavor.
- Take it slow! Don’t feel a pressure to jump in with no practice and go vegan immediately. Start by eliminating things bit by bit. Take baby steps and remember to do things at your own pace.
Halima’s Homemade Black Bean Burgers:
Veganism is viewed as limiting yourself, but never limit yourself when it comes to what you can make! My favorite go to meal was always a burger. When I became vegan, I thought my burger days were over until I realized I could be making my own vegan friendly veggie packed patties. I researched and modified different recipes to make my own flavorful burger to serve 4 people.
2 cups of drained black beans
1 cup of seasoned corn
2 cups of cooked brown rice
1 diced onion
2 red peppers
½ tablespoon of ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons of water
1 cup breadcrumbs,
*Note* Season to your own comfort levels.
- First, mix water and flaxseed in a small bowl.
- Mash the black beans in a separate bowl.
- Then combine breadcrumbs, cooked brown rice, seasonings, and corn in a bowl with the mashed black beans.
- Add flaxseed mixture in with the previously combined items.
- Mix all the ingredients together and form patties.
- If you don’t plan on eating the burgers immediately, then freeze them and cook them when you’re ready. If you’re consuming burgers immediately, fry them on each side until they are brown on both sides. Serve the burgers with your favorite toppings!
Keep up with my vegan adventures on Instagram: @xalimoos