The big veginterview: One Arab Vegan

Abu Dhabi Instagrammer Neda shares her top tips and vegan recipes

The big veginterview: One Arab Vegan

The growth in veganism has coincided with the surge in social media’s popularity, with platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram spawning thousands of bloggers and lifestyle figureheads. Time Out Abu Dhabi caught up with one of the UAE’s most popular vegan social media influencers Nada, aka One Arab Vegan.

Nada, who lives in Abu Dhabi, has amassed a 20,000-strong army of online admirers thanks to her delicious, simple and lip-smackingly good recipes, one of which she has shared below.

She explains her journey into a plant-based diet: “I’ve been vegan for seven years now. I stopped eating red meat and poultry at the age of 12, but it wasn’t until I moved to the UK for university that I started to properly dabble with vegetarianism.

“I was blown away by the incredible variety of vegetarian options at both supermarkets and restaurants. That said, I definitely wasn’t a healthy vegetarian – my diet consisted largely of pasta, faux meat products and cheese toasties and I suffered from what seemed like chronic sinus infections.

“While trying to get to the bottom of my health issues, I discovered a dairy sensitivity and cut it out of my diet overnight. From there I embarked on a quest of ‘clean eating’ and exercise in the hope of shedding unwanted weight.

“After seeing results, my habits started to spiral out of control. It wasn’t until I discovered a plant-based diet that I was able to banish restrictive eating and exercise and focus instead on filling body with wholesome, nourishing and delicious fare.

“After discovering a newfound passion for vegan cooking, I read every book, blog and watched every documentary I could find. I learned not only about the health benefits of a vegan diet, but about the horrors of factory farming and the impact of animal agriculture on our environment.”

Nada insists despite what most people might think, being vegan in Abu Dhabi isn’t difficult, largely due to food imports from the US and EU and a upward trend in restaurants offering either vegan dishes or entire vegan menus.

She adds: “Abu Dhabi is definitely becoming more suited to vegans.

“That said, I think establishments could definitely be a little bit more creative with vegan options – plant-based doesn’t have to mean boring. Also, it would be great to see some businesses catering to a cruelty-free lifestyle outside of just food.

“Things like vegan beauty products, accessories, shoes and handbags are not very easily accessible in Abu Dhabi just yet.”
However, if you prefer to eat in, rather than out, then your diet becomes even easier to manage.

Worried about giving up your naughty favourites? Don’t be, says Nada: “If you’re particularly attached to your junk foods, don’t think of it as giving up anything because I guarantee you, whatever it is you enjoy indulging in, there is a vegan version of it.

“Whether it’s a juicy burger, chicken nuggets, ice cream, or cake, you’ll still be able to enjoy the foods you love.”

Her tip for any aspiring vegan is: “Don’t worry about all the things you have to give up, instead focus on adding whole foods into your diet.

“Experiment with beans, nuts, seeds and legumes, enjoy different kinds of fruits and veggies, replace refined grains with whole varieties and invest in a good spice cabinet and vegan cookbook.

“Eventually, the vegan foods and meals will crowd out the other stuff.”

Easy vegan chilli

1 tbsp olive oil
½ cup red onion, roughly chopped
3 medium-sized bell peppers (red, green and yellow), sliced
2 cans chopped tomatoes (400g)
1 can black beans, well rinsed and drained
1 can kidney beans, well rinsed and drained
1 cup textured vegetable protein
1 tbsp maple syrup
3-4 crushed garlic cloves
½ cup chopped coriander
1.5 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1.5 cups water or vegetable stock
Chili powder or hot sauce to taste (both optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a large pot on medium heat, sauté onions in olive oil for two to three minutes, until softened.
2.  Add in sliced bell peppers, seasonings (cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper) and sauté for another three to five minutes, stirring frequently.
3.  Add in chopped tomatoes, beans and maple syrup.
4.  Stir to combine then add in the textured vegetable protein with water.
5.  Lower heat, cover and simmer for ten minutes – taste and season as needed. Add in crushed garlic and simmer for one more minute before turning off heat. Sprinkle in chopped coriander and stir through.
6.  Serve with greens choice of grain.

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