Food is the cornerstone of Pakistani culture: from fasting and feasting through the Holy Month of Ramazan, to lavish spreads that accompany wedding festivities and Eid celebrations. To be Pakistani is to be a foodie.
Just ask yourself: how many times have you gotten together with a group of friends, only to end up eating out at a restaurant because options for fun activities are few and far between. But as health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are on the uptake globally, likely an outcome of diets heavily dependent on processed meat and fast food, a trend towards ‘health food’ has slowly taken hold over the food industry. Juice cleansers, clean eating, calorie counted meal services, and various fad diets are hallmarks of this movement, bolstered in the age of social media by ‘food bloggers,’ discussion forums, and events such as Haryali Market which promote such a lifestyle.
In Lahore alone, there are a number of businesses that cater to the needs of individuals who want to improve their eating habits. Diet By Design is a meal service that focuses on the need for weight management for its clients and promises to free clients from the burden of worrying about cooking themselves wholesome, calorie counted meals. For a price, a nutritionist sets up a personalised meal plan based on the individual needs of each customer, which is then delivered to the customer’s doorstep.
What is interesting to note, however, is that this particular service is most useful for people looking to lose weight through dieting, and therefore may not be sustainable for long-term subscription. Rather, Diet By Design provides a solution to all those looking to shed those pesky extra pounds, without making the kind of effort it would ordinarily take were you to embark on that weight loss journey unassisted.
Greenhouse is a restaurant business setup by the founders of AimFit (a cult favourite workout destination in Lahore) which also centres around nutrition and accessibility, both for fitness fanatics as well as individuals who fancy a healthy meal every now and then. Providing a wide range of options for food: soups, salads, mains, protein shakes and even desserts, each meal comes calorie counted and an emphasis is placed on quality ingredients such as organic meat and fresh produce for a tasty yet healthy meal.
Diet contributes to a large proportion of an individual’s health and fitness, and Greenhouse was created by its founder Mahlaqa Shaukat when she noticed that many people were working out a lot but neglected the nutritional element of fitness.
When asked about the demographics of customers that frequent the health food spot, appropriately titled Grab Your Meal (or GYM), owner Omair Ijaz points out that many repeat customers are in fact older rather than younger, as those individuals truly require a healthy diet to control or avoid the health issues that plague so many belonging to the older generations.
Set up like a Subway style sandwich shop, customers build their own sandwich choosing from freshly baked breads, seasonal and fresh vegetables and an array of sauces. The meat is grilled over rock salt, a technique purported to filter out impurities and enhance flavour. A useful gimmick employed by this particular business is an offer for 10 per cent off your bill if you arrive in workout gear to their restaurant, located in Y Block DHA.
Unlike other health food eateries, GYM does not provide calorie counts and wants to cater to those people searching for wholesome, nutritious grab-and-go meals. However, the question remains about the realistic nutritional value of a rather hearty serving size (each sandwich can easily feed two people) that is filled with creamy sauces (you get to choose 3 per order).
Ultimately, the principle of ‘buyer beware’ should dictate which health food business is right for you depending on your goals: are you looking to slim down and need a specifically tailored diet to that end? Or, do you simply want to escape poor eating habits and incorporate unprocessed, farm fresh food in your diet? The choices are plentiful: honourable mentions also go to Thanda Garam Fresh, Eat Smart, and Cosa Delicatessen. But whether these businesses are simply cashing in on a clean eating trend or actually yield the results they claim is a separate matter.