There are few other places in the world where there is such a market for meal delivery plans as the UAE. Once the domain of those losing weight or bodybuilders on strict macronutrient plans, the UAE has adopted meal delivery plans as its own version of high-end fast food.
The plans usually include five days of meals – three meals a day – delivered daily to your door. Some offer drinks or juices in the plans, some are under the guidance of nutritionists and others are just for convenience. Some claim to be “healthy”, others claim to help you lose weight. Whatever you want, it’s there, if you have the cash, and in some cases, A LOT of cash.
With more disposable income, a culture of long working hours and a large number of people who either can’t or won’t cook, UAE residents are the perfect clientele for companies offering daily meals delivered to your door, especially in a climate where health food is becoming more fashionable.
I take great care over what I eat and know how to make good, healthy food quickly and easily, while juggling my work life and dedicated daily yoga and gym practice, so I am possibly a tough cookie to review meal plans. For me, paying someone to deliver my daily nutrition involves a lot of trust – I want to know that the food is clean and nutritious, good value and, quite frankly, better than anything I can cook myself at home.
So, I tried five meal delivery plans and here’s what I found.
I first tried LoveFood last year and one year later, it still offers consistently high quality. All the meat, fish, fruit and vegetables are organic, yet their prices represent great value. My plan, which was three meals (two with meat or fish, and breakfast often containing eggs), two snacks and three infused waters, was Dh186 a day (cheaper options are available). This is great value if you think about the price of a couple of takeaway coffees and a simple lunch out.
For me, the only downside was that I needed to add extra food as my “lifestyle” plan was around 1,500 calories and was not quite enough for my active lifestyle and long days. The good thing is that they are very flexible in adjusting plans to suit individual needs.
The food is nutrient-dense, diverse, colourful, delicious and not once during the week did I leave a single meal unfinished or feel bored. Snacks, of which you have two a day, such as kale chips and chocolate bites were creative, showing they are trying hard to make the plans interesting. Thai curry was one of my favourite meals though the lamb shank on squash puree was also amazing. I also loved the fruit-infused waters, of which you have three each day, so staying hydrated isn’t a case of just drinking water each day. Another bonus is tthat their food comes in glass containers – which you send back – rather than the plastic containers most commonly used here.
Their system of having the daily menu online didn’t seem to work for me, as often my food didn’t match the menu. In addition to when my meals had been changed to accommodate my food allergies, I was still not given a menu accordingly, so I didn’t always know what I was eating. The focus with Love Food isn’t calories, but simply delivering wholesome, natural food, which in my opinion, is a great philosophy. They also have a nutritionist available for telephone consultations prior to beginning the plans.
Delivers: Across the UAE
Price: Dh186 a day, cheaper options available
This restaurant at Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre off Oud Metha Road is a little gem. The food is top level cuisine: healthy, creative and organic, with paleo, gluten- and dairy-free options. Everything on the menu from the sweet potato fries to stuffed zucchini is top quality.
It has also started offering meal plans, which are created by the in-house medical centre at Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre, and clients can speak with nutritionists before signing up.
I opted for the vegan plan as I am roughly 80 per cent vegan for ethical and ecological reasons. As with LoveFood, I didn’t feel there was quite enough food for me on the “vegan athlete” plan, which provided around 1,800 kcals a day through three meals and two snacks.
Their creativity is great, especially considering the challenges in making a vegan meal plan exciting. The vegan chilli sin carne was one of my favourite meals, in addition to the vegan cream cheese, which I was convinced was goats cheese. They also managed to make gluten-free bread taste like normal bread, which is a dream to anyone with gluten intolerance. On the downside, I can’t tolerate too many nuts and seeds and I felt that there was a little too much tofu for my liking, which can interfere with women’s hormones due to its high phyto-oestrogen levels if eaten in large quantities.
I loved the comprehensive nutritional breakdown of your food each day and these guys also use glass, so they score eco points from me too. Price wise, it’s also great.
Delivers: Dubai only
Price: Dh175 a day (five days a week with three meals and two snacks), cheaper options available
Detox Delight is primarily known for its juice cleanses, but also has soups and snacks. I tried the Eat Clean programme, which includes three meals a day, one of which is usually a soup or smoothie, plus two cold-pressed juices. Personally, I’m not keen on a liquid diet – juices or smoothies – as I would prefer to eat my calories, but for people on the go or unable to ingest enough good-quality nutrients, they can be a good natural supplement to your daily diet.
The meals were tiny, often the size, for me, of a side portion, and mostly food I already make myself at home. One meal was an undressed portion of quinoa with chopped carrots, tomatoes and zucchini. Highlights included the charcoal-infused lemonade and Asian salad with mango and avocado, while the thick vegetable soup was one of my favourite meals, though not enough by itself. Unfortunately I found the undressed salads and gazpacho quite bland.
I like the concept and the passion of its founder, Nicole, but at Dh299 a day, five days a week, over a month, it is more than I spend on rent and too expensive for me.
Delivers: Across the UAE
Price: Dh299 a day
Smith St Paleo
Rather than signing up to a full meal plan, Smith St Paleo offers an excellent alternative for healthy meals. The UAE’s answer to Deliciously Ella, Holly Smith began her food journey by developing a passion for cooking (and sharing her creations on Instagram) while flying for more than a decade with Emirates. She is known for her hearty vegan bliss balls, which are available at her husband Marcus’s gym, Inner Fight.
With seven meal options, including a vegan, paleo porridge and chicken skewers on coconut cauliflower rice with satay sauce, everything has been inspired by cuisines from all corners of the globe. The food is colourful, nutrient dense and, most of all, fresh. There are no preservatives, or additives, so the food has a shelf life of two to three days.
What makes Smith St Paleo stand out from other meal plans is its sauces – homemade and junk-free, ranging from satay or tahini sauce to chimichuri. Holly has spent years developing the recipes, from her salted caramel balls to her chimichuri beef and her passion is evident. It’s appetising, filling and most of all, tasty.
With pick up either from Inner Fight in Al Quoz or delivery by Deliveroo or Uber Eats, Smith St Paleo offers a solution somewhere between the grabbing food on the go and committing to a meal plan, with the cost of two main meals and hearty porridge breakfast coming to Dh160, or Dh185 with three 35g bliss balls.
At Dh60 per meal, it’s also good value for the amount of work and ingredients. Portions are big so you’ll never feel hungry, especially when starting the day with the banana nut porridge. Every ingredient is clearly labelled on the packs with full nutrition information, and you can pair the breakfast with main meals, bliss balls and two vegan shakes to custom-make your own fresh meal days.
Smith St Paleo’s food cart can visit office buildings around Dubai and take orders online.
Delivers: Pick up from Inner Fight, Al Quoz, or through Deliveroo and Uber Eats
Price: Dh160 for two main meals and breakfast
I stumbled across this company on Instagram, the home of beautiful food pics. The meals looked interesting, attractive and creative. Sadly, it didn’t quite live up to its Instgram account for me. The food was fairly bland, in colour and taste. The quinoa pudding, for example, tasted like very plain quinoa with some honey and pecan nuts. Chia pudding, on the other hand, with strawberries for breakfast was tasty and simple, and definitely worked well for the prettiness factor.
Everything on the menu, they say is steamed, hence the name. I really enjoyed the veggie balls on a beetroot base and their salmon on a veggie mash but, generally speaking, the food was not as appealing as I had hoped. The portions were fairly good sizes though and there was certainly variety.
For people who don’t have time or desire to cook, it’s a good lower budget option. Price wise they are competitive – Dh110 to Dh160 a day (three meals and two snacks), depending on the plan – however, I think they need to tweak their meal plans a little as certain things don’t work well for delivery, such as avocado, which if undressed, will simply turn black – in one meal, I thought it was mushrooms. In a fruit salad, again, undressed apples discolour and smell bad.
Price: Dh110 to Dh160 per day for three meals and two snacks