Google healthy meals for people on a diet and you would be bombarded with so many foreign sounding foods and food items that will leave yourself spinning.
Tuna, cottage cheese, quinoa, tofu, chia seeds, broccoli, parsnips, zucchini noodles.
These are but a few of the healthy alternatives that Google suggests. And while you might be able to get some them here in Nigeria, they can be a bit pricey.
Luckily, there are a lot of staple foods that are actually extremely good for the health, are quite filling and help you drop excess pounds.
If you live in the South-Eastern part of the country, particularly Enugu State, then you would know this food. If you’re coming to the East from the West or other parts of the country, a foolproof way to know you’re already in the East is when you start hearing shouts of Okpa di oku (Hot Okpa) at the motor park.
Traditionally made from ground Bambara nuts (Jugo beans), palm oil and pepper only, this healthy dish can double as a snack and as a proper meal.
While ingredients like eggs, crayfish and vegetables can be used to spice up the feel of the dish, in making Okpa, the maxim, “Less is always more”, should be followed. Okpa is rich in protein which is vital for children, body builders and anyone looking to lose weight.
2. Efo Riro
This is a rich vegetable soup that is common among the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Made from Efo shoko or Efo tete (Green Amaranth), beef, shaki (cow tripe) and other offals, this soup is can be eaten alone or with Amala, a lightweight and healthier alternative to Eba. It is rich in vitamins and proteins thanks to the leafy greens and the meat parts present.
3. Fio Fio
This is a dish made from fio fio beans (also known as pigeon pea, Aduwa (in hausa), otili (in yoruba) or Kajanus kajan). This dish is peculiar to Nsukka and Enugu in the South East where it is called agbugbu. Unlike cowpea which contains 20% of proteins, fio fio has a high protein content of up to 60% and is also especially good for those with sickle cell anaemia and blood pressure. The dish is usually served with a lightweight onion and palm oil stew, fish and some accoutrements like ukpaka (oil bean), vegetables etc.
4. Edikaikong Soup
A traditional soup of the Efiks and Ibibios of Nigeria, Edikaikong is a rich mélange of different vegetables, meats, offals and sea foods that is nourishing in every sense of the word and is particularly good for convalescing people. It can be eaten with Eba, Semo, Akpu or Pounded yam but it is healthier to combine it with Amala or Wheat.
5. Moin Moin (Moi Moi)
Also called bean cake by the Ajebo republic of Nigeria, moin moin is one dish that is as old as Nigeria itself. No Nigerian Saturday is complete without a breakfast of moin moin and pap. Moin moin is made by steaming ground cowpeas mixed with a vast array of ingredients that include crayfish, pepper, onions, tomatoes and sometimes eggs, sardines or corned beef. They can be eaten alone, as a snack, with Jollof or fried rice and with pap. Moin moin is a good source of protein and is not in any way fattening.
6. Ekpang nkwukwo
This dish is traditional to the South-South people of Nigeria. Made from grated cocoyam, water yam, cocoyam leaves, smoked fish and periwinkle, ekpang nkwukwo is a healthy savoury meal that is rich in proteins and all the necessary classes of food. It is a bit similar to the Ijebu Ikokore. Often referred to as ambrosia, this easy to make pottage meal has none of the blandness associated with most so-called “healthy foods.”
7. Nigerian Salad
No Caesar salad, Cobb salad or any of that foreign orishirishi business for my Naija people. From the minimalist version to the full-on, no-holds-barred, empty-your-fridge version, Nigerian salad can serve as a side dish or as a full meal. This amazing dish can be made with cabbages, cucumbers, carrots, sweet corn, white onions, curly leaf lettuce, green beans, eggs, tomatoes, baked beans and sometimes even sardines and corned beef.
Preparing this meal can be tiring what with all the chopping, dicing and mincing but the resultant and gratifying explosion of textures and flavors makes the whole process worth it. This salad can be eaten with mayonnaise or any other salad dressing but for our fit fam brethren, you might want to go easy on the salad dressing.
8. Masa or Mosa (Rice Cake)
Masa is a staple Northern dish that is similar to pan fried rice cakes. The Hausas of the north are well known for their fit and trim physique which is a product of their active lifestyle and healthy diet. Masa is made from onion and ginger flavored rice. It can serve as a healthy snack or a breakfast dish.
9. Dambu Nama
This is a Northern meat dish that is made by seasoning fried, shredded meat with Suya seasonings. This healthy meal, just like Suya, is a good source of protein and can be eaten alone or as a side dish.
It is no news that Nigerian people love “swallow”. Eba, Semo, Samvita, Santa (akpu), Wheat and Pounded yam are but a few available options. But while the aforementioned foods (with the exception of wheat and Samvita) are heavy, starchy and packed with loads of carbohydrates, Amala is a lightweight alternative that satisfies both the need to stay healthy and the need to swallow. Amala is a Yoruba meal that is made out of yam flour (Amala isu) or cassava flour (Amala lafun). This flour is called elubo. Amala gets its characteristic brown color from the dried yam flour. There is also a third Amala variety which is made from unripe plantains and is particularly good for diabetics and weight watchers. This variety is called Amala Ogede. Amala can be eaten with Egusi soup, Ewedu soup, Ogbono soup, Efo riro etc