Tested by Friday editor Karen
The concept: A tailor-made healthy menu of your choice delivered toyour doorstep.
The experience: It began with a consultation in Right Bite’s sleek Satwa offices where I was greeted by an equally sleek – and very slim – Nathalie Haddad, the company’s managing director and dietician. She smiled, pulled out a form and began firing questions. Height? 175cm. Age? Do I have to say? “It makes a difference,” she answered and I shuddered at the thought of middle-aged spread. Weight? “I honestly don’t know.” She smiled again then pointed to a weird-looking machine with two metal handles. Nathalie asked me to step on to it and hold the handles.
A painless current passed through me to analyse my body. It not only showed how much fat there was – a shocking 44 per cent – but also the amount of water, protein, minerals and my obesity diagnosis. This consisted of my BMI, body-fat percentage and waist-to-hip ratio. The latter is important because the more weight you carry around the middle, the greater your risk of heart attack. A normal ratio is .75-.85 apparently and mine was a very unhealthy .97. My water intake was also low – surprising because I drink a lot, but Nathalie explained diet soda doesn’t count and is “very unhealthy”. So is my penchant for buttered toast, cheese and tomato sandwiches, crisps and pizza. I’m a vegetarian, which I always assumed was a healthy choice, but after running Nathalie through my typical day’s meals I realised I never eat vegetables.
After all her investigations, Nathalie concluded that I have to lose 28kg. My mouth was dry with shock. She said my basal metabolic rate is 1,572, which is the number of calories I’d burn up if I did nothing. I was put on a diet of 1,200 calories a day. Gulp!
Next I was handed the vegetarian menu to choose from. I was worried there would be nothing but lettuce or muesli on it, but it read like a menu from a Michelin-starred restaurant. I happily ticked away as Nathalie read me the rules – breakfast had to be eaten by 8am to start the fat-burning process and I had to eat every three hours until dinner, which was no later than 8pm. My diet sodas were banned and I had to drink eight glasses of water a day and exercise three times a week for an hour. I dieted six days a week and could eat what I wanted ‘within reason’ on Fridays. Brunch was not allowed, Nathalie warned, spotting my smile.
The menu: It was delicious. All of it – and there was a lot. I loved opening my cooler bag, which was delivered at 6am to my apartment every day, and savoured every mouthful of every dish. While I missed my sodas and had to force myself to drink lots of water, I didn’t ever feel hungry and two weeks flew by. A typical day consisted of:
Breakfast: Wholewheat zaatar croissant, low-fat blueberry yogurt
Morning snack: Banana
Lunch: Vegetable lasagne with a side dish of rocket and mushroom salad
Afternoon snack: Low-fat maple granola bar, fruit salad
Dinner: Spinach and cheese quesadillas plus a side of spicy Indian carrot soup
The result: I lost 6kg in a fortnight.
Pros: Right Bite is gourmet diet food. The meals are so tasty they could be straight out of a top restaurant. There was a wide variety on the menu and
I didn’t eat the same thing twice.
Cons: There aren’t any! It means I want to stay on the diet forever – who doesn’t want to have tasty food that helps you lose weight? The meals are so good you won’t cheat and the results are fast. I didn’t have time to exercise, so could have lost even more.
Verdict: A fresh, healthy fine-dining-style diet that tastes as if you hired your own celebrity chef to hand-make low-calorie dishes. I ate tasty meals I couldn’t cook myself.
Price and details: Right Bites renewal rate for a Full package 24 days is Dh2760. First time subscribers and Friday magazine readers avail a 10% discount on any of our packages when quoting RB333615; please contact Right Bite to avail our packages and price lists and discount value. Please note no two discounts or promotions can be availed at the same time. Also see www.right-bite.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Balance Café Health & Wellness
Tested by Friday fashion editor Danielle
The concept: A diet plan customised for your body type and based on Ayurvedic principles that will not only help you to lose weight but, more importantly, aims to improve your health, which will in turn help your digestive system, sleep patterns and your general well-being and balance.
The experience: I first had a thorough consultation with Ayurvedic Doctor Chandy George. My weight was recorded as well as my fat to muscle ratio and height. Next came the interesting part. Dr Chandy sat me down and applied pressure to my wrist to ‘read’ my body type. Without me muttering a word he knew my – and more astonishingly my family’s – health history. I was warned that if I didn’t watch my sugar and fat intake I too would develop diabetes like my father.
He also correctly calculated when my intake of high fatty foods increased (a year and a half ago – after moving to Dubai and eating out more) and could tell that my water intake was low and that I exercised irregularly. He also brought up that I sleep too much for my body type. Too much sleep makes me sluggish apparently, and there was I thinking it was because I need more!
Dr Chandy said I was a Kapha body type and that a plan with less meat, more vegetables was best for me. A low-calorie diet (under 1,200 calories a day) was advised, due to my lack of exercise. I was also advised to sleep less, drink more water and to try to walk at least 45 minutes a day.
The menu: Balance Café doesn’t offer breakfasts but I was given two choices from which to pick my lunch and dinner each day. I chose my full 30 days’ worth of food in one go. I was very impressed with the variety – no two days are the same, and the meals looked like something I would pick off
a restaurant menu.
I arranged for delivery at 6pm each day. At that time I received my evening meal for that night and my lunch for the following day. This was great as your dinner is fresh (sometimes still hot!) and lunch is less than half a day old.
It was delicious and fresh and didn’t taste at all low in fat! A typical day included:
Lunch: Goats’ cheese salad and baked vegetables with citrus risotto and sugar-free apple strudel for dessert
Dinner: Teppanyaki grilled red snapper, sesame tossed pak choi in hoisin sauce
The result: In four weeks I lost 2.5kg.
I have also taken Dr Chandy’s advice and am sleeping fewer hours each night and I have found I feel far more energetic and less sluggish.
Pros: The quality continued throughout and the delivery was always on time. I had texts from the chef to make sure everything was to my liking, asking me if there were any tweaks I’d like to make to the meal plan. I was seriously impressed with the service!
Cons: I was out of the office a lot during my third week so I found heating up my lunch a problem and that I could only eat the appetizer salad.
Verdict: This plan is great as it is tailor-made to your body type and you can tweak it as you go along according to your likes and dislikes. I really like the professionalism of the chef and the time-conscious delivery service. I didn’t lose as much weight as I had hoped, although this is down to me not putting in enough exercise. I’m happy that I feel a lot healthier and far more energised.
Price and details: Dh2,744 for 28 days of lunch and dinner.
Call 04 384 4051/4050. Also see
Tested by Friday sub-editor Anna
The concept: A five-day juice diet to cleanse and detox your body. According to the team at Detox Delight, it’s “a holistic approach to the long-term improvement of our nutrition and thus our metabolism and well-being.” I was nervous. Would I be starving? Would the juices be tasty? Would I be grumpy? But I was ready to give it a go. After all, it was only for five days.
The experience: I was worried I’d be hungry but, oddly, on the first day I couldn’t even manage to finish all my juices – there were just too many of them. Determined to do better the next day, I started drinking them earlier and spreading them out more.
Each juice was totally different from the one before so I didn’t get sick of them or feel like it was too repetitive. On days three and four I felt like I hit a wall at midday and my energy levels faded as the day progressed. That said, I started each morning feeling like an Olympian – strong, energetic and elated. Every night I slept like a hibernating bear. Can’t complain about that! Ups and downs are normal.
The menu: Each day I was given either five bottles of juice and a bottle of nut milk (the Juice Delight Programme) or four bottles of juice and a big bowl of vegan puréed vegetable soup (the Juice and Soup Delight Programme).
A typical day included Pink Detox Lemonade (apple, water, grapefruit); Orange Detox (apple, carrot, orange, grapes, rocket); Pink Detox (apple, carrot, beetroot, celery, lime, ginger); Green Detox (pineapple, apple, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, celery, wheatgrass, spirulina); Yellow Detox (apple, courgette, orange, parsnip, parsley) and cashew milk (cashew nuts, water, stevia, lucuma, vanilla, cinnamon).
The daily detox lemonades (they varied each day) were a definite highlight.
The result: Not only did I feel my body was detoxed, I managed to lose 3kg. Not bad at all. I finished feeling motivated to keep up with a healthy lifestyle and proud of my accomplishment.
Pros: After the third day, I started to notice that my stomach and face appeared less bloated. Without a doubt I felt lighter on my feet and I started each day with an amazing energy that I never had before. Sugar rush from the detox lemonade? Maybe. Even my co-workers noticed. I was extra chatty, my brain felt sharper and my mood was lifted. I also liked that the programme gives you options. If you feel like just juice is too much for you, you can follow the juice and soup programme or a juice and vegan meal programme.
There’s really something for everyone. You don’t need to be a hard-core raw foodist, vegan or juicer to find something to suit you.
Cons: Although I liked most of the juices, I really disliked any of the drinks that included cabbage, although that’s a personal preference. On days three and four, at midday I started to fade and get a bit lethargic. But I read online this is part of your body’s reaction to the detox and means it’s working. By the end of the day I was even more tired. I wasn’t hungry at all, but I felt like I needed a boost of energy. So on the days I felt this way I decided to go to a spin class. Now, strenuous exercise is not recommended as part of this programme, but I just told myself I’d take it at my own pace and I’d stop if I had to. The class was tough – and I mean tough! But when it was over, I felt elated, alive – like I did each morning – and ready for my next juice and an early night. I think the trick is finding your own way to cope with the tougher days – I found mine by incorporating a bit of exercise.
Verdict: Although I don’t see myself doing this for any longer than one week, I think this was the perfect plan to ‘reset’ my body – physically and mentally. Now I feel prepared to continue with a more healthy lifestyle. Definitely worthwhile.
Price and details: The 5-day Juice Delight Programme costs Dh2,850.
Also see www.detox-delight.ae.
Tested by Friday editor Karen
The concept: Daily calorie-controlled meal deliveries created to help you achieve realistic goals.
The experience: In the World Trade Centre, Health Trendz’ nutritionist Lovely Ranganath talked me through the process, but by now I knew the drill – confession, weigh-in, and salvation in the form of ready-made meals delivered in a cooler bag. I was weighed using the special In Body machine to analyse my body composition and, yes, it was mostly fat. Lovely said I needed to lose around 20kg and that I had to up my game, quite literally, and exercise every day to increase my metabolic rate and burn fat.
She asked me to drink 1.5 litres of water a day and eat little and often. She put me on a 1,500-calorie diet for one week, reducing it to 1,200 calories for the remaining three weeks. She announced this with a friendly smile, convincing me it would all be OK and I wouldn’t be crying with hunger.
She asked where I wanted the food delivered and gave me the timing options.
Unfortunately it was too late for home and too early for the office, so I decided to have the food arrive the night before so I could store it in the fridge. It’s not ideal as somehow it doesn’t feel as fresh, but I suppose it’s no different to getting food from the supermarket chiller where it might have sat for days.
The vegetarian menu was vast and on a computerised spreadsheet. There seemed to be a lot of snacks, so I was relieved. There was also a wide variety, but it included quite a few sandwiches – which I love – and, feeling guilty, I choose a lot of them as options.
My carb addiction didn’t go unnoticed – Lovely rang me after receiving my choices and asked me to swap a few sandwiches for healthier salads and fruits. Oh well, you can’t blame a girl for trying...
The menu: My husband thought my cooler bag from Health Trendz was a gym bag – it was huge and packed with containers of fresh food. A typical day was bursting at the seams with:
Breakfast: Cheddar cheese and lettuce wholemeal panini
Snack: Strawberry and grape salad
Lunch: Masoor dhal with cauliflower, brown rice and a Greek salad
Afternoon snack: workout bar
Dinner: Pasta fagioli (white beans in tomato sauce) plus fresh pineapple.
The portions were generous and tasty. The meat-free spaghetti bolognese and the lasagne were amazing. I chose to be on the seven-day-a-week plan, which meant there was no respite, but the menu wasn’t repetitive and there was plenty of choice. I was also never hungry and if anything there was too much food!
“Are you sure that’s really a low-fat dish?” my husband asked, watching me tuck into platefuls of Indian and oriental dishes, but my clothes were getting looser. Friends and colleagues started to comment on my slimmer appearance, which ensured I didn’t slip up. I chanted my motto every day: ‘If it’s not in the bag don’t eat it,’ – and it worked. I ended up being able to drink two litres of water a day, which meant frequent trips to the washroom, but my skin looked better and I felt constantly full.
The result: I lost 3kg in 4 weeks.
Pros: There is so much food it’s hard to believe you are on a diet. It’s wholesome home-style cooking rather than gourmet, but it fills you up. It is competitively priced – and there are lots of options for meal plans at different prices – so it is affordable. The seven-days-a-week plan means you never have to think about food or what to eat – it’s all done for you, which takes all the hassle out of dieting, and results are steady – just below a kilo a week for me.
Cons: Some days there was too much food for me so I struggled to finish everything and I didn’t eat my snack bar. I didn’t find the time to exercise, so didn’t need the extra calories. My cooler bag was always delivered on time but the little finishing touches that I’d come to expect from Right Bite weren’t there with Health Trendz. There was no menu in the bag, so you had to hunt through to identify what there was, there was no hand sanitizer, condiments or little treats – Right Bite gives chocolates – but it does include teabags and milk.
I didn’t like having my food delivered the night before because It meant I had to unpack and store everything in the fridge overnight and repack the cooler bag the next morning.
Verdict: Affordable, tasty and plenty of choice, this is an easy and effective dieting option. It wasn’t high-end enough in that I’d been spoilt by a gourmet Right Bite diet plan immediately before, but there’s so much food every day it’s impossible to cheat.
Price and details: From Dh1,800. Full-day vegetarian meal plan for one month, 7 days a week is Dh2,700.
Call 04 308 6338 or 04 308 6958.
Kcal Extra Success
Tested by Friday senior writer Suchitra
The concept: Kcal is a food-delivery service that first assesses your nutritional shortcomings, determines your calorie requirements and delivers fresh meals for the entire day, which add up to 1,000-1,300 calories.
The experience: After I signed up for the 22-day Kcal Extra plan an account manager was immediately assigned to me and she made an appointment for my weigh-in. Laura, the nutritionist, did a fat, water and weight analysis, without wincing at the fact that I seriously needed to trim down the fat portion, up my intake of water and build
more muscle. I paid a Dh200 deposit for a cooler bag, which was delivered to my office at 8am sharp, with labelled microwavable food boxes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and two in-between snacks. I loved the fact that I did not have to think about what to eat as someone was taking care of it. Personally I didn’t find the food tasty, but it wasn’t bland either. I loved the crisp garden salads with feta and vinaigrette dressings and the Thai-style veggies with light coconut curry and the multigrain cutlets with maple syrup in the morning, but the grilled vegetables or some of the soups left me feeling ravenous for something more adventurous to tickle my palate.
I was honest and diligent about eating food at the right time – to begin with. Within a week I knocked off 2kg and my trousers began to fit easily. I also had more energy. I was dedicated for the first two weeks, but by the third a snag occurred – my meal plan was a five-day one, which meant that on weekends the delinquent in me began plotting deviations. The cheats began guiltily and by the end of week three, a little more boldly. I had begun craving my high-carb freshly baked Indian chapatti (bread) with curry. I must have lost about 5kg by week three, but put two right back by week four.
The menu: Since I’m a complete vegetarian, my choices were limited, but a typical day would see me eating:
Lunch: Beetroot salad
Dinner: Vegetable quiche
Side dish: Grilled vegetables
The result: Despite my cheats, I was impressed that by the end of the programme Laura announced that I weighed 3.5kg less.
Pros: Convenient and efficient.
Cons: The food left me wanting more – and I had it.
Verdict: If you are faithful and determined, with a friend like Kcal you could achieve your target with a few months of sensible eating. Get back on track and then help yourself to stay on that. It is possible to eat good food and still lose the lard!
Price and details: A month’s plan (five days a week) is Dh2,550. Call 04 434 4111. Also see www.kcalextra.com.