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“Practically Vegan”: Meet the multi-talented Nisha Melvani
Nisha Melvani wears many hats: registered dietitian, Instagram influencer, blogger, graduate of the Natural Gourmet Culinary Institute, cookbook author, mother of three, just to name a few! Her journey to veganism has helped her create an impressive space online focusing on vegan meals that are practical, hence the name of her new cookbook “Practically Vegan“. Just ask her 440K followers how delicious her recipes are!
How it all began: Nisha Melvani journey to veganism
Born in Jamaica, Nisha’s background wasn’t particularly vegan. Canned foods were a staple in her home, accompanied by flavorful, yet animal-based curries. While her dad loves vegetables and encourages her to eat more plants, her mother barely touches them. This is where Nisha learns to accept other people’s journeys and where they are in terms of eating plant-based.
This is also being reflected in her cookbook “Practically Vegan”, which she creates for both vegans and non-vegans alike. Even if you’re not plant-based, you will still enjoy one of Nisha’s tasty meals. “Practically Vegan” is also budget-friendly and mindful of reusing certain ingredients to decrease waste or dust gathering in your pantry. Nisha thought of everything!
Outside of her household, Rastafarianism is a huge part of Jamaican culture and their way of cooking is called Ital food, which is mostly vegan. Trying this kind of food and being exposed to more plants makes Nisha feel so much better, lighter, healthier and just happier. That’s when she knew that this was the way she wanted to eat going forward. As Jamaica is abundant in so many fruit and vegetables, it’s also hard to avoid them. Plus, growing up in Jamaica introduces her to so many different spices and ways how to use them, as you might be able to see from her cookbook.
After attending boarding school in England, Nisha realizes what kind of food she wants to eat in the future: “I think that [attending Boarding school in England] taught me that I never want to eat bland foods again, and I don’t want to eat those parts of animals [kidney or liver] again.”
Nisha Melvani’s culinary journey
During years of living in Jamaica, England, Montreal as well as New York, so many different cultures and people influence Nisha’s life and palate. She realizes, after different jobs and time at university, that she wants to dive deeper into food and its science, as well as staying in education, where she has worked before. This was when Nisha starts to complete a master’s in Nutrition Education. At the time, she was mostly vegetarian and also a little disappointed in her education, as it didn’t really feature the practical part of nutrition in her opinion. As Nisha points out: “It took me exploring for myself after graduating to really discover there is a difference to how you’re getting these nutrients.”
When Nisha goes plant-based a few decades ago, grocery stores also look a lot different back then. So, she had to study labels – which, thanks to her education, she was able to do. Because even though there are a lot of vegan products in stores today, it is still worth reading the ingredients to understand what you are putting in your body. Nisha’s tip: “The fewer ingredients, the better.” Also, you will learn what works for you with time. There should also be room for exploration, for trial and error. Just like cooking, food should be fun because it is more than fuel.
Raising plant-based kids
In Nisha’s experience, raising plant-based and vegan kids wasn’t too hard, as they were exposed to this lifestyle from a young age. In that sense, it was kind of normal in their house. However, Nisha isn’t too strict about what they eat out of the house. Therefore, two of her kids are mainly plant-based, while one is vegan. Nisha really works toward giving her kids space and autonomy to make their own choices once they were old enough. As Nisha puts it: “I’m not so strict with them about what they eat out of my house. It isn’t really in my control nor should it be, but they have chosen to stay with our diet.” Allowing them this level of autonomy also increases the likelihood that they won’t rebel against your choices and maybe even stick with your personal diet a bit more.
Nisha is also very respectful of her kids dislikes for certain foods. But that doesn’t mean she won’t try to serve them in different ways, because say a roasted beet and a cooked beet really have completely different flavors. Actually, a sheet pan meal full of gorgeous roasted veggies with tofu or other sources of protein and some whole grains on the side is one of Nisha’s favorite meals to give her kids all the macronutrients they need. Maybe adding some seeds or nuts on top and serving it all with a delicious sauce. That way, everyone can build their own bowls and adjust it to their personal liking, and it is still a family meal. Plus, it takes almost no time to prepare and this makes sure that there are a lot of different colors in their meal. In relation to this, Nisha always asks herself: “Am I getting greens?”
Cooking for Peanuts
Initially called “My Favorite Edibles”, “Cooking for Peanuts” is a platform where Nisha Melvani shows people how to live healthily and happily – but on a budget and family-friendly. In the beginning, she would mainly go to supermarkets and show people what they can get for little money. After a bit of time, she started to explore the visual side of cooking on social media and started to prepare stunning plant-based dishes to share with the world. The name of her platform is a play on the word, because Nisha wasn’t getting paid for her work, but is also cooking for kids. Plus, she likes peanuts, so there was a lot of meaning behind it.
Wanting to learn more about cooking, Nisha attends the Natural Gourmet Culinary Institute school four years ago and returns to Instagram shortly after. Today, Nisha has a successful platform and is sharing her inspirational content with over 440K followers – some even joined her since before she started culinary school. But running a successful business can also mean getting overwhelmed, which Nisha is very open about. She is taking it one step at a time and still does a lot of things she enjoys doing the most, like working on her blog. Nisha sums this up beautifully: “At the end of the day, I don’t want it to be painful, so I’m trying not to take myself too seriously in all of these areas.”
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