Cover Story

Subscription diets: Cross my heart & hope to diet

Sabrina Rajan, Sonali Shenoy

With the pre-Diwali parties in full swing, falling off the diet wagon is the easiest thing to do. However, we have you covered. Zoning into the recent trend of subscription fit food that is creating a buzz in the city, we believe we can preempt the fall by committing to at least one healthy meal a day – and mind you, we’re  talking lipsmacking fare like burritos, juicy kebabs, blueberry dips and such. Popular sports nutritionist and dietitian, city-based Shiny Surendran agrees with us and says, “Following a healthy meal on a daily basis can be a challenge for most individuals. The staff at home might not know to toss a meal in interesting ways or make healthier meals with less oil. Sometimes your cook goes on  a long leave and the client slips off the wagon and is unable to follow a healthy meal pattern.” So then, what do we do? The right answer is, sign up with one of the diet food providers we have shortlisted here – and get right back on track! As Shiny adds, “Subscription meals are a boon. The entire menu is planned with the help of professionals and chefs who have the expertise to toss up tasty and healthy meals.”

Thai chilli & paneer salad
<em>Thai chilli & paneer salad</em>

The princess and the pumpkin

“People ask me, how can you serve rice and roti and call this diet food?” says Sowmya Skandan. The founder of the year-old Pickled Pumpkin has a ready answer these days, which has us impressed long before we try her chef’s pesto paneer rendition that is as soft as a cloud. “You can’t sustain a diet you don’t like the taste of,” the 32-year-old offers. With a background in microbiology, and a nutritionist mother, food was always a passion at home. Even more so when Sowmya returned to India a couple of years ago with a toddler, working long hours at her non-profit job in public health, with no time to plan her own meals. Tapping into the healthy eating market with a focus on portion control, as opposed to bland or raw foods that you might have to wince through, this company offers everything from ‘balanced thalis’ to wraps, sandwiches and pasta (apart from salads of course), with your choice of oil on request. Cost: Rs 1,000 for five meals. Details: 9884386868 or

Counter: 500 cals per meal
Look out for: A balanced thali that comprises 20 grams of protein + 50 to 60 gms of carbs. A high protein meal with 50 to 70 gms of protein is available as well.

In good taste

B Sreevarshini may run an outfit that caters meals for folks who want to drop a few kilos — but ironically, the one thing she finds least palatable is the word ‘diet’. “A year ago, I was overweight and the last thing that I wanted was diet food,” confesses the IT-professional-turned-foodpreneur. Possibly why her venture, A Salad Company, offers everything from Mexican burritos in a bowl for lunch to Schezwan-style brown fried rice with a chilli garlic chicken stir fry for Saturday brunch. “We put out a new menu every weekend via our website, Facebook and e-mailers to keep things interesting,” explains the 31-year-old, who is candid enough to tell us that the start of her company in January 2016 was also the start of her own journey to “eating without the guilt”. Between trial-intensive weekends with five chefs and her own ideas, she ensures, “The dishes are free from preservatives, colour, maida, white sugar and transfats.”  With requests for paleo and keto-style meals pouring in, we are told that trials will be on soon to weave these into the menu as well. Cost: Rs 525 (veg) and Rs 850 (non veg) for five meals. Details: 9444791746 or

Counter: 400 to 450 cals
Look out for: Their Middle Eastern-style Saturday Brunch with a five-course spread (660 cals) at Rs 350.

Japanese salad with Teriyaki 
chicken & wasabi mayo

Blind date

No menu? “Nope. If you ask me what you’ll be having next week, I honestly... wouldn’t know,” says Minal Kripalani with a laugh. Lean on Me, her homegrown brand that was started as recently as August, caters fresh salad three times a week and is so focused on fresh ingredients that the menu is only decided the evening before. “That’s when the veggies are bought,” she explains. From a fun twist on Khao Suey in a salad box to a street-inspired Bhelpuri dressing, this former home baker of nearly 20 years takes her flavouring agents pretty seriously. So much so, that the pickled ginger in the soya veggie salad that arrived at our office was a tad intense for us to handle. On the bright side, there’s no room for hidden carbs in these salad bowls, “I serve proteins and veggies and nothing much else,” she says. Even the dressings she points out are not oil-based, but instead concoctions made of soya sauce, peanut butter and of course the classic vinaigrette. As a bonus, you get an artfully created spoon that doubles up as a fork if you flip it around! Cost: Rs 350 a salad (including delivery charges). Details: 9840722848 or the Facebook page at Leanonmesalads

Counter: 200 to 300 cals
Look out for: Her desi inspired salad with a Bhelpuri dressing.

 To make subscription-based diet food work for you, it’s important to get   an assessment done beforehand. For a cardio vascular patient, for     example, people are quick to recommend oil-free food. But the problem   is not just with oil. You need oil to produce hormones and a lack of it   would lead to other problems like hairfall, faster ageing and  hormonal   imbalances. Similarly, a low carb diet, which is a fad at the moment,   would not be healthy for someone with a kidney problem.

 — Luke Coutinho, celebrity nutritionist 

Green probiotic juice, smoked paprika salad
& tomato soup

The green mile

Their youngest customer is a one-and-a-half-year-old lactose intolerant baby, and their oldest, 
a 75-year-old. Caboutu (coined by combining the words ‘care about you’) opened shop with a single product on the menu in 2014 — the smoothie. Formerly christened Relish, until rebranding in March this year, the company is co-run by husband and wife team Ganesh Krishnan (43) and Sowmya Ganesh (40). These days, the couple pack in as many as 65 items on the menu — ranging from cold pressed vegetable juices, soups, probiotics, nutmilks and salads. “I am proud to say that a broad section of our clientele are medical professionals, apart from celebrities and corporate professionals,” says Sowmya, indicating that there is no better judge of healthy food than doctors. Reluctantly sniffing their green juice Elixir, we have to admit that we were pleasantly surprised when our sipping turning to chugging — it tasted like mildly addictive  pani puri water! Who would have imagined that, considering the ingredients — banana stem, bermuda grass, bae leaf, wheat grass, spinach, lemon grass spirulina, cumin, Himalayan salt and coconut oil. Cost: Rs 1,920 for six meals. Details: 9840310312 or

Counter: 200 to 300 cals
Look out for: Often forgotten traditional ingredients like black rice in your salad and banana stem in your smoothie.

Peanut butter & dark chocolate protein balls

Play ball
You don’t normally get excited about peanut butter and dark chocolate on a diet plan. But 24-year-old Aksha Nanavati of Soul Soufflé has changed the game with her handmade protein balls that come in assorted flavours like Fig & Almond, Cashew & Ginger and yes, chocolate. While doing her Masters in Strategic Design and Management in New York, she recalls, “I realised that it’s so much easier for people abroad to practice all these different healthy diets than we can here.” Ever since, she made it her mission to make clean eating more accessible with what she calls ‘Soul boxes’, which include a sandwich or salad, a smoothie and protein bar.  For a quick pick-me-up to boost your energy levels in the afternoon, she says, “My protein balls have 20 grams of natural whey protein each, and make for a great preworkout snack as well. They are completely gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free.” For complete meals, try a Soul box that includes a salad, smoothie and nutrition bar. Cost: Rs 2,340 (veg/vegan) and Rs 2,475 (non veg) for five meals. Details: 9940255666 or 

Counter: Less than 500 cals for a Soul box | 50 to 80 cals for a Smoothie box 
Look out for: Peanut butter & dark chocolate protein balls.

Grilled fish served with veggies

For the athlete in you

When an athlete from a vegetarian family needed to go on a high protein diet, he reached out to Splendid Food Company, for chicken grills on a regular basis. That’s how the idea of subscription diet plans happened for Food Designer, Sadia Iyaz. Offering high-protein meal kits for athletes, body builders and fitness junkies, they have tailor-made menus, with each meal comprising a kebab or a grill with a salad portion. Think grilled fish with a watermelon and feta cheese or a chicken kebab with a Hawaiian. “We pack an assortment of kebabs, paneer, egg and seafood accompanied with a fresh veggie salad, fruit salad or dry fruit salad,” informs Sadia. They have also been making muesli and health bars since 2009 – and their almond bar is dessert worthy, we think! Price: Rs 500 per kit for a minimum of 12 kits a month. Delivery option also available. Details: 9445427566

Counter: One gm of protein for every 2.2 kgs of body weight per meal
Look out for: Their Shikampuri kebabs – large, delicious mince meat patties stuffed with pickled onions.

Stuffed chia seed wrap

Follow the keto code

Shalini Padmanabhan of Reel Café loves culinary challenges. When she found that many of her customers were on the ketogenic diet, it was just a matter of time before she perfected a 
menu for the same. From fluffy almond breads and delicious flax seed wraps, this innovative baker has designed subscription meals that barely have any carbs. Besides, she also has a host of low-carb snack options like cheese crackers and almond flour cookies – with a one-month shelf life, we recommend you stock them for those midnight cravings! Price: Rs 1,250 onwards for a weekly subscription for six meals. Details: 9840875555

Counter: Each meal has only about eight to 10 grams of carbohydrates.
Look out for: Mexican Cauliflower Fried Rice that has only six grams of carbohydrates!

Mediterranean salad with honey
& walnut dressing

Say yes to delicious

When it comes to Insta-worthiness and great taste, three-month-old Fit Meals By Shravya is a delight. While there is no fixed menu – we love her thoughtful text messages that precede a meal, offering serving instructions and describing the ingredients and their nutritional value (every Monday, Wednesday and Friday). The juicy rosemary flavoured grilled chicken is one of the winners – sitting on a bed of fresh and crunchy spinach, slivers of apple and feta with a smattering of walnuts and almonds. The addictive blueberry mint splash is the icing. Shravya Reddy, the hand behind these salads, tells us one of her secrets – “I source my vegetables directly from an Ooty farm. I plan my meals and accordingly place my order,” and adds that often, she substitutes croutons with healthy options like roasted makhana. The 28-year-old is not new to the kitchen, with her mother running the catering initiative, House of Gable — we recommend you try their jars of chocolate batter on cheat days! Price: Rs 300 onwards + delivery per meal, Details: 9176773339

Counter: Customised
Look out for: Their Thai-inspired chilli-garlic rubbed chicken with a prettily spiralised carrot, cucumber and peppers salad – the peanut based dressing is stellar.


Papaya & berry mix

Tea-time crunch 

Beautifully packaged in reusable boxes – yes, they have Diwali gift options too – 29-year-old Arul Murugan and his two partners have understood the art of smart snacking. Offering subscription packages for the past two years, under the brand name Snackexperts, they provide low fat, fresh, no-preservative snacks made of indigenous ingredients – expect the likes of honey glazed roasted cashews with dots of white mustard, chewy chocolate flapjacks and red rice murukkus from their menu of 50 items. Currently the trio of youngsters deliver 6,000 servings daily in the city — with clear nutrition information on every packet, their deal ensures you stay clear of the deep fried end, at work and at home. Trial box starts at Rs 150 and a regular box of 70 grams at `699 for a month with five different snacks. Details: Counter: Your daily snack will not exceed 200 calories (two servings)

Smooth transition

Don’t like salads? Work your veggies into a smoothie instead. Owner of Smoothie Heaven, Nishant Vijaykumar has a dream — to have more folks opt for a smoothie lunch instead of a snack. “Smoothies work as good meal replacements,” says the 26-year-old. Hoping to get the trend started, he is offering subscription packages of at least 20 smoothies a month, priced from `100 onwards per smoothie (free delivery within a two kilometer radius). Pick from tasty concoctions like Omega Me (strawberry, banana, apple and chia seeds) or the C Breeze (Greek yogurt, strawberry, grape, banana and orange). Details: Whatsapp only to 994423555

Whey healthier than dessert

How do you get your chocolate fix when your goal is to lose those extra kilos? Shriram Rajendran decided to solve this problem by turning his latest line of jar desserts into post-workout pick-me-ups. Whey to Go, their first healthy addition in the market, which is only a couple of weeks old, consists of 30 grams of protein per jar, apart from cream, milk and Belgian callebaut chocolate. “We’ve been working on this for about a year now,” says the 28-year-old who adds that it comes nutritionist approved at 365 calories for a 150 gram jar. Available at and on Swiggy.

Charcoal-activated idlis at SPI cinemas

Black magic idlis
After 196 Degrees Below and Sitcom, the latest place to jump on the charcoal-activated ice cream trend is SPI Cinemas. Planned for a Diwali launch, Bhavesh Shah, head of food and beverages says, “That’s not all. We’re also introducing the same with cold-pressed juices, waffle cones, idlis and dosas.” With a marginal increase in pricing and no major changes in flavour or texture, he assures, now you get to bite into a black idli and whiten your teeth at the same time! Other benefits of charcoal-activated dishes include flushing toxins, lowered cholesterol and anti-ageing properties. Details: 42244224