Hiding vegetables in meals is one of the world's best known parenting hacks and chef Magnus Mumby is expanding on the concept … for adults.
His school catering company Food Nation has recently branched out to include Food Nation Go, a meal delivery service accessible through an app.
UAE residents can expect a range of meals, from breakfast to mains to school favourites and then “premium health” available at the push of a few buttons. There are no meal plans, subscriptions, sign-ups or minimum orders.
This is the first time the brand has, quite literally, catered to adults, although its coffee shops, located at 25 schools in the UAE, have meals that are also popular with parents.
Much like the food the catering company has been dishing out to school children over the last five years, there is a heavy focus on health. All the dishes delivered are non-processed, additive-free, and low in sugar and saturated fat. This should come as no surprise since Mumby himself is both a chef and nutritionist, and places a lot of emphasis on what’s going into the food – or what’s not.
“Our concept is all about hidden nutrition and goodness – reducing the meat content and adding more vegetables without compromising on the finished the product. We take normal dishes – say chicken butter masala or cottage pie and see how we can make it healthier,” he says.
To better explain, he cites the example of the lasagne which looks just like traditional dish, but 40 per cent of which is shredded root vegetable to make it nutritionally-dense. Even the white sauce is a low-fat version made without butter.
Also on the menu are dishes like the skinny shawarma box, falafel and hummus wrap, vegetable tom yum soup, cauliflower katsu and noodles and salmon tartare fishcakes. The kids’ “easy eats” range features dishes that have been tried and tested in schools for years like the pumpkin, black beans and feta enchiladas and the spaghetti bolognese (with vegetables hidden in the sauce). Nutrition, per 100g, is mentioned alongside every dish.
“We came to realise that if you keep changing dishes – adding brown rice instead of white or more quinoa, people can get bored and they want to stop eating healthy. We’re not changing anything radically but making good food with a higher vegetable inclusion and less processed substances. It’s all about improving our health bit by bit,” he says.
It’s tied in with another mantra that the brand has. “If we don’t make it, we don’t serve it,” says Mumby. “Absolutely everything is made-in house from sauces to salad dressings. We even roast our own spices.”
The launch is a reaction to the coronavirus as many schools and students opt for distance learning. Having the capacity to make large batches and deliver them across the UAE has helped keep costs down, with most mains and meals averaging at Dh20. True to its slogan, the packaging aims to be recyclable and plastic-free wherever possible.
According to Mumby, the move towards a healthier lifestyle and diet, even if it is baby steps, is the need of the hour. “If you see the kinds of lifestyle diseases that are killing people these days, they can all be linked to diet. It’s a combination of heavily processed food and a more sedentary lifestyle that we’re now leading. The problem is that our desire for cheap comfort food outweighs the harmful side effects they have. And these are side effects that will start to show years down the line.”
The solution – and his advice to parents? To stock up on more whole foods. “Fats and carbs are not the enemy, as long as they are moderation. But eating unprocessed foods – whether it’s chicken, fruits, vegetables, nuts – is far more effective than calorie counting.”
Food Nation is available for download on Google Play and the App Store. Orders need to be placed by 8pm for the dishes to be delivered to the doorstep the next day. Delivery is made throughout the UAE.
Craving healthy food with minimum effort? Here are three more healthy delivery services in the UAE to try:
1. Love Food
This delivery service has doesn’t quite believe in a “diet” but a “sustainable way of life”. Which means customers can expect dishes that are sugar-free, organic and free-range, with gluten-free and dairy-free options also available.
It has monthly plans wherein three meals and two snacks are delivered daily (excluding weekends), with dishes like Thai curry and a lamb shank on squash puree.
There are a number of plans to choose between depending on a customer’s overall goal. Vitality is a balanced meal for weight management, Lifestyle is a low carb one for weight less, Power packs a punch with high protein and there’s also a Keto plan. Monthly plan prices start at Dh2,628.
Weekdays; monthly prices start at Dh2,628; delivery across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah; www.lovefoodme.com
2. Right Bite
Launched in 2004, Right Bite provides personalised healthy meal plans in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The service offers a number of plans depending on customer’s preferences like The Basic (simply breakfast, lunch and dinner), Balanced Mom (for pregnant women), Low-Carb, Vegan and Renew You (for healthy weight-loss).
Customers can book also an appointment with licensed dieticians to discuss their needs. The meals have been designed by dieticians and use natural and wholesome ingredients.
Available daily; Dh2,310 for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 20 days; delivery across Dubai and Abu Dhabi; www.rightbite.com
3. Kcal Extra
The restaurant chain that prices itself on healthy fast food has its own meal delivery service to encourage healthy eating.
There are a number of plans to choose between, and they can also be further customised based on personal preferences (there’s an international menu and the Chef Hala plan for a more Arabic menu).
Customers can also see just how many calories they are consuming on a daily basis, with a daily meal plan including breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks.
Available daily; prices start at Dh2,450 for 20 days; delivery throughout the UAE; www.kcalextra.com