Healthy meal services in Dubai: The Skinny

So the last few weeks, I’ve tried three different meal delivery services. It’s a long time since I wrote this story so I wanted to see what was going on in this massively growing ‘healthy eating’ market.

In Dubai, these businesses thrive. In London, if I told someone I spent the best part of Dh3,500-5,500 (UK pounds 600-900) on having someone cater for me for the month, they’d think I must be either crazy, stupid or filthy rich. In Dubai, not so much. I am always surprised at how many people claim to not cook or not be able to cook. It’s a life skill and doing these meal plans makes me realise that even more than ever.

I really am no chef, but knocking up a steak or fish fillet with some rice and steamed vegetables really doesn’t need a Gordon Ramsay in the house, nor the salary of a banker. Granted, I know many people here who really do work insane hours, and a handful of genuine athletes who truly would benefit from such support, but for the majority of us, do we really need this luxury?

I really racked my brains as to whether to name and shame the one appalling company I tried. Is it transparent of me to not name them when they were so bad? Or if you don’t have something nice to say, shouldn’t you just say nothing? So, I am saying nothing in this case. Other than …. “please don’t choose HealthYou”. It is the epitome of why people see healthy eating as boring, grey and tasteless, why they feel constantly hungry and reaching for the nearest Snickers bar. Ok, the end. I can’t say anything good, so I shall move swiftly on.

Why I do like the idea of having a month or two of a GOOD meal plan is this:

– You can get some great inspiration if the meals are done properly to realise you can actually cook for yourself after all

– You can understand the concept of food combinations, mixing things you’d never think to combine to have recipe ideas

– You will better understand portion sizes

In short, it should be an education process and a short term thing to help you get on track, not a security blanket, someone to do the work for you. Our health is a huge responsibility we can hand over to nobody but ourselves.

To justify the cost, the food in these plans should, in my opinion, be much better than something you can knock up yourself (whether due to time available or ability), that’s why you’re handing over your hard earned cash to someone else to feed you – which let me say, is a pretty big responsibility if you actually give a damn what you’re putting into your body. When I last did this, one company had a PhD holding nutritionist in charge of a major operation which served Alpen bars as your snack and Special K as your breakfast – seriously. And people really pay for that junk – in fact they pay thousands of dirhams for that. And worse still, they presume this woman to be a ‘doctor’ as she calls herself Dr X, though she’s not actually a medical doctor, she simply has a PhD in nutrition, and she’s not doing too well with that either.

Drum roll, Super Meals UAE and Love Food. Honestly, after my first experience, I was all but ready to drop this idea of trying out more food companies.

But, in comes number two; Supermeals. Having gone through two physique competitions where my nutrition was all planned out around macros, and also now following the blood type diet, I was pretty impressed to realise this is how each person’s meal plans are created. The brainchild of Medhat Amin, driven by his passion to help others the way he shifted his own life around, a man who a couple of years ago couldn’t even run around with his young daughter, I felt this company had a genuine purpose. His food is innovative, super tasty and service couldn’t be more personal. Honestly, I can’t fault it. Anything which wasn’t quite right was rectified immediately and I really felt the plan was made for my body, not just the other X number of people who were having meals delivered that day, how it feels with many of the other, bigger companies.

But, does the average ‘Joe’ really need to be this scientific about their macros – how much fats, proteins and carbs they need in their diet? Maybe not, but is it worth giving it a go? Absolutely. For an athlete it’s an amazing way to tinker with improving performance and for weight loss, there’s no doubt it will work once you get the numbers right. If you’re just a busy bee that wants to have a healthy diet while you slog through your 10 hour working day, I doubt it’s that important. It’s more of a marker to see with which combination your body functions best.

Then comes Love Food. Just as I was kind of sick of eating out of the plastic dishes from Supermeals (which you can send back and they will recycle), in comes the recycled glass dishes of Love Food. This was music to my ears. I hate the amount of waste we create with all this plastic from these companies and in general. With Love Food, you simply send the dishes back, they are washed, and in addition to their being better for the environment, it’s so much nicer to eat out of and way healthier if you’re microwaving the food.

The food was so colourful, tasty and fresh that really, I can’t think of anything bad to say. I’m not going to waste word space telling you a list of things I ate, that’s what websites are for, but as someone who has searched high and low in Dubai for things that taste good and are free of wheat, gluten, dairy and eggs, this has been amazing. Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Could I justify the costs? Not on my current salary, but if I was going to put my money into something, I would hands up say this one, though the customer service needs work.

My conclusion? It really is so important to have a few dishes which you can cook yourself. It’s so empowering to be able to cook, and cook healthily. Education is just a click of a button away now. There are so many websites and social media accounts with amazing recipes which are quick and easy as well as healthy (check out my Instagram account where I post super easy recipes @desertswanblog), so my take home message is – learn to cook, experiment, play around. Save money and spend it on travel….. But that’s just my two cents worth.

(Note: All food I had from Supermeals and LoveFood was also gluten, egg and dairy free to suit my food intolerances.)

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