Over the past few years, more and more Karachiites have become health-conscious.
We've seen growing demand for healthy food options being met by 'lean' menus at restaurants like Espresso and N'eco's Cafe. Now gyms and fitness studios have joined in by sending out nutritious meals from their kitchens.
Karachi gym CORE has a health cafe that's only for members, Studio X's Juice Bar offers cold-pressed juices and now, fitness studio Health Act's one-off menu and customisable meal plan are open for all, thereby functioning like other health food places like EatFit or Evergreen.
We tried out Health Act's menu to figure out where it fits in this niche market.
Trying out Health Act's menu
From the Health Act menu, we were sent a salad, a burger, a sandwich and noodles. And though we didn't think the food would satisfy four (starving) staffers, we found it to be surprisingly filling when we divvied up the order.
Here's the lowdown on what we were served:
Grilled Beef Salad -- Rs445
At first glance, the salad looked appetising and fresh. It included generous helpings of grilled beef tenderloin pieces, crispy iceberg lettuce, kidney beans, fresh tomatoes, carrots and onions.
Verdict: Crunchy, light and very fresh, the salad was an instant hit. It didn't overwhelm with ghaansphoons. In fact, all the vegetables and greens were balanced along with the beef strips. However, we wish we had early warning about the dressing — it was very heavy in olive oil and we would've liked less of it on our salad.
Total calorie count: Calories 439 | Carbs 51 | Protein 29 | Fats 13
Chicken Fajita Sandwich -- Rs330
This sandwich on Focaccia bread was stuffed to the brim. Bonus! It was filled with chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes and low-fat cheddar cheese.
Verdict: The bread was soft and fresh. Our only quibble was the lack of flavour in the filling; we ended up loading on the sauce, the Sundried Tomato Chili Pesto (Rs55) to make up for it. Be warned: it tastes great and at 34 calories it's good for calorie-counters, but it's spicy!
Total calorie count: Calories 509 | Carbs 72 | Protein 32 | Fats 9.9
Burmich XL Burger -- Rs410
Don't let it fool you. We initially thought the Burmich XL was a veggie burger, but after reading the label on the box we realised it's a chicken burger. It contained crispy iceberg lettuce and tomatoes topped with cheddar cheese served in homemade whole wheat bun.
Verdict: The patty was sizable and the bun soft. It did not crumble and the burger did not fall apart when we cut it in four parts (just like the Focaccia sandwich bread). Win!
This was everyone's favourite. It was packed with flavour, the patty to bun ratio was good and the bun also did not fall apart when bitten into. In fact, it has to be one of the least messy burgers I have eaten to date. Another win!
Total calorie count: Calories 559 | Carbs 62 | Protein 61 | Fats 7.5
Zoodles & Meat Sauce -- Rs430
Who doesn't love noodles? Naturally, we were all excited to try this dish out. It comprised Zucchini noodles served in minced beef and tomato sauce and it looked delicious.
Verdict: Unfortunately, this dish was a major let-down. It didn't have the flavours we were hoping for and desperately needed a kick. Also, the noodles were soggy. However, the meat to noodle ratio was spot-on, and there was no kanjoosi with the meat sauce.
Total calorie count: Calories 174 | Carbs 18 | Protein 17 | Fats 4
The only thing missing? Dessert. Bummer.
Here's our rating for Health Act's food:
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
There's no denying that Health Act delivers on its claim of pure nutritious food, but the pricing, in our opinion, seemed a bit high. With no dearth in health food pleaces in Karachi, we're not so sure if we were sold on Health Act's food given the prices.
How Health Act's food is different
We figured out what we liked or didn't like from our order, but what we were really interested in knowing was what Health Act has to offer that other health food places didn't.
Azfar Ashary, Director Heath Act, explains that their food's difference can be traced back to their farm.
"Our food's preparation is different from what most people of Karachi are accustomed to. Our bread is homemade, the wheat is grown from our own farm and it's not machine-processed, it’s ground by hand so that it's coarse, not refined."
The bread that is eventually made by this process doesn't suit everyone's tastes, he said. "People like their bread soft and fluffy," Azfar says, adding that many eateries in Karachi mix 50% white flour and 50% wholewheat and label it as wholewheat. (Erm. Yikes!)
"When we make our bread it’s very dense and to some it would be dry but when you eat our sandwich, the bread will sit in your stomach for a longer period of time, slowly releasing energy, taking you through the day -- so a smaller portion of that bread will fulfill your hunger for a longer period of time. Since it’s 100% whole wheat and organic, it’s healthy," he adds.
Currently, Health Act's farm only grows wheat and has its own chickens, however, in the future they hope to expand to vegetables.
Although it may take some time for Health Act to garner a huge fan following, Azfar says that so far they have received positive feedback from customers. "Generally, anyone who has tried our food, has liked it, 9/10 people have liked it.
"It took two years to launch my kitchen to get the food right. Cooks here are used to making food in a more commercial way (that’s made in Pakistan), so I had to train the staff from scratch."
Health Act's goal is to change people's lifestyles, give them healthier options and surprisingly, competition doesn't scare them.
"Eatfit has started this trend, because of them we’re here, because of them Health Act has come about. It’s better to do it together as a unit than step on each other’s toes. If we work together we’ll be able to achieve our goal."