Home-chefs have moved on from cupcakes to zoodles because keto meal prep is hard

Home-chefs have moved on from cupcakes to zoodles because keto meal prep is hard

I subscribed to a keto meal plan — could it be for you?
Updated 02 Oct, 2019

Last year I lost 35 pounds. Every time I tell anyone, I get a million questions. How? What? When? Why?

Contrary to my friends’ view, I had been slightly on the chubbier side since grade 3. For the longest time, I thought people are either born skinny or chubby and there’s nothing they can do about it. By the time I grew up and realised I could do something about it, I became too comfortable in my skin and would just procrastinate putting in the effort.

So how did I eventually do it? I subscribed to a meal plan.

The biggest hurdle to weight loss

Most people who start a weight-loss challenge lose their dedication to eat healthy after the third day. They get sick of eating boiled eggs and grilled/boiled chicken and no dessert. Their cravings kick in and they give up for dessert or carbs and never end up reaching that first milestone which motivates them to keep going.

But what if I told you that you can enjoy delicious food and still lose weight? Yes, you can enjoy butter chicken, lasagna, pizza, burgers and chocolate mousse and still lose weight.

—Hiralicious Cuisine and Meal Plans
—Hiralicious Cuisine and Meal Plans

I enjoyed all of that, yet kept my carb count less than 20 grams a day. The only difference between my food and food at restaurants was that the pasta in my lasagna was made of zucchini, my pizza had a cauliflower base, the burgers were wrapped in lettuce instead of buns and the chocolate mousse had Stevia and dark chocolate instead of sugar and milk chocolate.

I’m not a chef, nutritionist or somebody with lots of time on their hands. On the contrary, I don’t know how to fully operate an oven. I’m someone who does three jobs and works 12 hours a day, but I understood that the only hurdle between me and weight loss is meal prepping and I found a solution for it.

Monthly meal subscriptions — the most convenient way to lose weight?

One of my friends’ moms, Mrs Obaid Lodhi, had just started preparing keto meals and delivering them in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Her meals have great variety — Chinese, Thai, Italian and even-sugar-free desserts, making sure nobody gets tired and compelled to cheat on their healthy eating regime.

When asked how she turned into a professional healthy meal provider, she told Images that it all started when she wanted to try out the diet herself.

“I read about the keto diet somewhere in which I didn’t have to give up on my favourite foods and wanted to try it out myself. I had very positive results and so took up a few online courses regarding nutrition and healthy eating and then started doing it on a commercial scale,” she said.

—Keto Fix
—Keto Fix

While to many it may seem like an easy thing to do, preparing meals that are delicious and lead to weight loss at the same time can be quite a tricky business.

Mrs Lodhi admits that she’s very strict with quality, quantity and calorie control. She prepares all the meals herself and takes each individual’s macronutrients into account while preparing their meals according to their requirements.

“It's not like going into a restaurant and ordering a dish. It is like being exclusively monitored by someone with experience throughout the time period you have subscribed to meals,” she added.

Clients have at least one less thing to worry about.—Mrs Lodhi

The biggest benefit of opting for a monthly meal subscription instead of preparing meals at home is the discipline. “In these times of hustle and bustle where people don’t have enough time during the day, a monthly meal subscription from an expert can be really helpful. Clients have at least one less thing to worry about and since the meals are homemade and prepared exclusively for each client using organic produce, the quality is ensured too.”

Mrs Lodhi’s meal plans vary between Rs50,000 to Rs70,000 a month.

Over the past year, many home chefs and restaurants all over Pakistan are offering a monthly healthy meal plan subscription, where customers pay a lump sum of anywhere between Rs20,000 to Rs80,000 a month to get two or three meals delivered to their doorstep everyday.

Deeba Haroon of Deeba’s Deli got into meal prep because she and her husband wanted to lose weight.

Chicken chilly dry—Deeba's Deli
Chicken chilly dry—Deeba's Deli

Initially, they opted for a meal plan subscription but soon realised it wasn’t catering to their taste and they would end up cheating. So Deeba decided to read up, experiment and prepare the meals herself. In about a month’s time, she and her husband lost 22 pounds (10kg) each.

She told Images that her friends started noticing the change and requesting for meals too. “The word spread and requests kept pouring in and that is when I decided to start my own deli,” she mentioned.

Deeba knows there are several meal prep providers in town but feels there’s still space for more. “Since low-carb meals require special attention and care, it often becomes difficult for followers to stick to the dietary protocols and fatigue sets in,” she said.

There’s little room for a subscriber to cheat because their cravings are met with the plan.

“Preparing a different tasty low-carb meal everyday can be time consuming and hence not the best option for people who are working or at a busy stage in their lives. It is best for such busy people to order a meal plan instead,” added Deeba, who is now delivering healthy meals daily to over a dozen clients across Rawalpindi and Islamabad and also takes one-off bulk orders.

Hira Ghazi of Hiralicious Cuisine and Meal Plans in Karachi got into this business by experimenting on herself too. She told Images that due to health reasons, she had to lose weight and found out about the keto diet.

“I was always into cooking, so I began experimenting and realised how therapeutic it is. After trying it on myself and reading a lot of material, I decided to help other people who are struggling with weight but can’t prepare their meals themselves.”

Meals from Deeba's Deli.—Deeba's Deli
Meals from Deeba's Deli.—Deeba's Deli

Hira thinks the need for meal planners exists because people have a busy lifestyle and often don’t have time to prepare different meals everyday but also because the person preparing the meal needs to have proper knowledge about nutrients and ingredients.

“When people subscribe for meals, not only do they not have to worry about the ingredients and keeping the carb count minimum, but they also get proper counselling and knowledge, which stops them from cheating and losing track. Besides this, when they get meals from an expert, they are less likely to face the consequences of experiencing the challenges of eating less carbs like constipation and headaches. Meal experts use ingredients that take care of these challenges,” she highlighted. Hira offers seven-day, 15-day and monthly meal plans starting at Rs35,000 per person.

Aicha Zahid lost 48.5 pounds in four months. While this was a challenging journey, what got her started and really helped her initially was Hira’s meal plan.

“I had no idea how to lose weight, so I opted for Hira’s meal plan for a month. In that month, I got my meals, which kickstarted my weight but I also got immense guidance from her. I knew this was a long journey, so I began making my meals myself after the first month,” she mentioned.

Aicha highly recommends subscribing to a meal plan — at least for the first month — because they help you understand the process and provide constant motivation.

Afia Hamza from Islamabad began her transformation journey last month and has already lost 15 pounds. She had been procrastinating for a while but finally decided to opt for a meal subscription too.

—Keto Fix
—Keto Fix

“I’m getting my meals from Keto Club in Islamabad and while I was skeptical about the meal subscription initially, just a week into it, I realised how easy losing weight becomes with it,” says Afia.

“One doesn’t have to go through the hassle of finding interesting low-carb recipes, getting the right ingredients and cooking. A variety of meals are delivered to your doorstep, making it easy for you to stick to the regime.”

As much as Lahore loves and knows how to enjoy food, the trend of meal subscriptions for low-carb and keto meals is big there too. Keto Fix is one of the most popular options in the city, offering various packages and a big variety of food options to make sure people enjoy the process of losing weight. There’s little room for a subscriber to cheat because their cravings are met with the plan.

A new industry for home-based chefs

While these low-calorie meal providers make it easier to enjoy good food while eating healthy, it’s important to note that most of these chefs are not qualified professionals but self-taught, home-based chefs. Some started out as home-based bakers who then switched to “healthy meals” since that market is now saturated.

There is no external regulation that can verify their claims or regulate the quality of their offerings. The only way to find out is word of mouth and trying it yourself.

Most of these meal providers are housewives who have now turned into entrepreneurs running a successful business and some of them have so much demand that they have expanded and hired helpers. Deeba told Images that she began her business a few months ago and is already making more than what she was offered for a nine-to-five job after taking a career break.

— Hiralicious Cuisine and Meal Plans
— Hiralicious Cuisine and Meal Plans

The underlying question here is, what happens when the keto fad is over? Most fads and sudden trends catch on overnight but are forgotten as quickly. What happens when this trend dies or the market saturates?

Deeba says she understands that the keto diet fever may die down sometime, but this trend has made people more health-conscious and that the need for healthy food options will continue to exist.

She’s now pivoting to include other healthy meal options and low-carb food in her portfolio, not necessarily geared towards the keto diet.

The dark side

But there is a dark side to the so-called “healthy” meal plan phenomenon too.

Most meal plan providers are catering for the keto diet, which is not suitable for everyone. Since it is a high fat and extremely low-carb diet, it is generally not recommended for people over the age of 40, pregnant women and people with diabetes, among other conditions.

Therefore, it is suggested to check with your doctor before opting for this — or any — diet. One can’t rely on just the meal provider as most are not medical professionals and may not be able to help with the specific needs of people with medical conditions.

What happens when the subscription is over?

Every time I told people that I was on a meal plan for four months last year, I get asked, what happens when the subscription ends? This is one of the apprehensions that stops people from opting for a plan. They think they’ll gain it all back in a matter of days. Not necessarily.

What happens when the subscription is over depends on what you do after the subscription. If you go back to unhealthy ways, it’s quite likely that the lost weight will come back. It won’t be sudden, but a few months and the old life will be back.

Meal prep.—Keto Fix
Meal prep.—Keto Fix

When one goes low-carb, the first three to five pounds that come off are basically loss of water retention, which will return as soon as one has carbs — but the fat loss won’t come back overnight.

Like most healthy meal providers admit, this is a lifestyle change and it requires commitment. Sure, one can enjoy a burger or two after they have reached their goals or while they’re taking a break, but one needs to gain inspiration from the meals and add them to one’s normal life for a long-term change.

While subscribing to healthy meals for two to three months can definitely promise a substantial weight loss, they can’t promise its sustainability for life unless a healthy lifestyle is adopted. But they change the way you look at food and your health and sometimes, that’s all that is needed.

Are you exploring your relationship with food? Share your experience with us


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Fatima Oct 02, 2019 08:37am
Please take that healthy delicious food out of the poisonous plastic containers.
Waqqas Oct 02, 2019 02:03pm
Not easy to get rid of plastic from everyday life. Do-able though. Nice article. Simple formula. What ever is your intake, burn more than that, you will be fine.
Fatima Oct 02, 2019 10:47pm
@Waqqas Different but not difficult. There was life before plastic, and trust that it will continue well after. All plastic is poison. Please read on micro-plastics in humans. Don’t slow poison yourself and your family for your convenience.
Farrukh Arshad Oct 02, 2019 11:17pm
The title should also mention in a yellow blinking star with red border "For Premium Class Only". I am also into healthy diet for quite some time so I understand the need, but instead of suggesting a 50K / person / month meal, it would have been much better if you provide 2 - 3 recipes of healthy meals, a suggestion to do some kind HIIT not more than 20 - 30 minutes, or perhaps a 3 days resistance training or some CrossFit stuff (not more than 30 minutes and 5 days a week). In my experience I don't think such meal is in true sense "healthy" for long term without any physical training.
Gamer Oct 03, 2019 09:31am
1) This diet is not for everyone. You must check with your doctor first. However not all doctors will be supportive of this diet since they dont understand the concept. My first doctor asked me not to do it. I asked for a second opinion. The next doctor told me to keep an eye on my electrolytes, minerals, trace minerals and vitamins in check. (This was the most difficult part). However, he encouraged me to go for it. 2) Pregnant and breastfeeding women need not start any form of restrictive diet, let alone Ketogenic diet which is very extreme. 3) People over 40 can and should consider this diet. I started when I was 44. I had high BP and moderately high cholestrol. Surprisingly my BP came under control and I was able to reduce my BP medications considerably. My cholestrol also came down inspite of eating all that fat. My good cholestrol shot up and bad cholestrol came down. PS: I reduced 27 Kilograms with this diet in 7 months. Staring from 111 Kgs and went down to 84 Kgs
FAZ Oct 03, 2019 09:37am
Stopped reading after "The only difference between my food and food at restaurants was that the pasta in my lasagna was made of zucchini, my pizza had a cauliflower base, the burgers were wrapped in lettuce instead of buns and the chocolate mousse had Stevia and dark chocolate instead of sugar and milk chocolate." You got to lose it to lose it man. Simple.. Pain for losing the gain..