The problem with lunch dabbas is you’re never really sure what you’re going to get. When the clock’s up, and you get set to unveil the contents of the tiffin, you say a second’s prayer that the creator of your lunchtime manna was having a good day.
The meal service Calorie Care, (www.caloriecare.com), was supposed to do away with the arbitrariness of the homestyle food-delivery genre, while being fresh, calorie conscious and, of course, delish. Cyrus Driver, a former investment banker, began researching the service in 2004, and finally put his business plan into gear last year to set up Calorie Care.
With a staff of 35, which includes dieticians, and teams for software, delivery and kitchens, Driver’s outfit is not your average lunch-aunty operation.
The service provides up to six meals a day, including breakfast, with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, under the strictest calorie supervision, every single day of the year.
Aimed at corporate folk and the body conscious, prices can vary depending on whether you choose the veg or non-veg option, on the focus of the diet, i.e. building muscle, weight loss, weight gain, and the type of lifestyle, sedentary or active. “We work almost round the clock, and have a bank of about 175 recipes of Thai, Chinese, Indian and Continental dishes that can be tailored to every diet,” says Driver.
The Calorie Care meal preparation begins with a discussion between client and dietician.
Meeta called punctually at the appointed time and, within minutes of our discussion, declared me unfortunately “underweight”. We went through my dietary and lifestyle patterns, including food allergies, alcohol consumption, coffee, exercise addictions.
I also received some worldly advice on the fibrous and expunging effects of salads and water. I was also assured that my lunches would arrive chilled (so everything stays fresh) in microwave-safe, non-renewable containers, accompanied by two evening snacks.
The good stuff
The build-up to the meal is endearingly interactive, and can be quite revealing. It also brings a certain anticipation for what’s going to come on that tray. Since all meals are supposed to be tailor-made to specific calorie intake, there’s a satisfaction in knowing the weighted value of the meal. All meals arrived in quality-controlled containers, with printed menus and labels.
But, at the end of the day, everything comes down to taste and looks. And despite the promise Meeta offered, reality was a disappointment. Friday through Tuesday, I received four options: Thai, Continental and Indian, veg and non-veg.
Monday’s ratatouille had so much gravy that I offered it up as soup to a colleague, the chicken was overdone in the stroganoff and the spinach salad was overrun with pineapple, and what I’m sure was calorie-conscious dressing. Tuesday was Thai (calorie count: 629 calories). Forgoing spices is a given for these meals, but the taste of the unnaturally green chicken curry was too tepid to be forgiving.
Far from being able to deliver tasty healthy food, the meals yelled diet. The essential error was with the flavours. The stroganoff and spinach ballet were homely experiments in Continental flavours, but culinary throwbacks. The Thai choices tasted far too local to be named after the fiery cuisine. “We tailor recipes from popular cuisine,” says Driver, “and we’re not always authentic as that decreases the health aspect.”
The Indian selections were significantly better, but sprouts have no business being mixed up with yoghurt. And, unfortunately, the watermelon of the day was already headed downhill by the time it tumbled out onto my plate.
A month of non-vegetarian lunches, tailored for young to middle-aged individuals who live a sedentary lifestyle and offering 1,500 calories per meal, costs about Rs4,000. Vegetarian options start at Rs3,500. “It is expensive because of the various elements of service,” says Driver. “Elements like personalised delivery, customer service and packaging.”