There was a time in Karachi when the only option for a healthy office lunch was to bring a tiffin-box from home or order chicken tikka and eat it plain with chutney. It’s a relief that those times are over; restaurateurs are taking notice of evolving eating habits and coming up with some exciting calorie-friendly options. Two of the most popular outlets catering to the health conscious office worker are the aptly named Eatfit and the relatively new Evergreen.
Talking to Haadi Karimjee from Eatfit, the concept behind starting it was to provide a fresh and healthier lunch option for people at work, including calorie counts with every item so people could monitor what they could eat. Currently operational for six days a week for the afternoon shift only, Eatfit has a seasonal alternating menu that changes based on the days of the week.
|Eatfit delivers six days a week. - Photo by author.|
Primarily delivery at the moment, though their offerings can be found at Red Mango, they offer items for a complete meal from starters, to salads, wraps, burgers, sandwiches and even dessert.
Looking at Eatfit’s menu, one can see that they have taken familiar lunch staples and tweaked them to make them healthier – for e.g. the oily kebab paratha roll is replaced by the whole wheat wrap, the greasy cheese stuffed beef burger is given a healthy transformation vis-à-vis a whole wheat bun and lean beef patty.
|Fresh Oriental chicken sandwich from Eatfit. - Photo by author.|
Classic lunch staples are their strengths along with their sandwiches — the whole wheat wraps have herbs kneaded into the dough for an extra burst of flavour served with a complementing dip that makes you forget that this is whole wheat. The salads are again a revelation — no hint of mayo in the potato salad and still creamy with loads of flavour.
|The healthy yet full of flavour potato salad at Eatfit is a winner. - Photo by author.|
However, their oriental salads need some focus — the Asian brown salad while sounding great had just too much going on from the dried apricots, water chestnuts, sesame seeds in the salad to the soy honey dressing that needed tweaking.
|The Asian brown salad could use some improvement. - Photo by author.|
The success of the brand can be seen in the fact that they were approached by the popular Haque academy, and asked to operate as a food outlet in lieu of regular canteen food. While the kids might prefer having French fries and Biryani, it is a boon for mothers who want to inculcate a diet free of cold drinks and preservative laden junk food.
On the other hand, Evergreen Foods, though a relatively new entrant (launched in February 2014), has made quite the mark with its premium line of fresh salads, noodle bowls, and just recently, gourmet sandwiches.
Talking to Kamil Rahim from Evergreen, the idea came with introducing a ready to eat option for people wanting a quick lunch. Though pretty common abroad, it’s a novel concept for Karachiites — just walk into a supermarket or the gym, grab a bowl or sandwich which is healthy and filling enough to get one through the work day.
The initial idea was such a success that they had to start delivery to provide their much publicised offerings in office areas not located in a commercial sector.
|Asian Chicken Noodle Bowl at Evergreen. - Photo by author.|
Though the offering is limited, they have a carefully thought out menu — the salad greens are fresh and crisp, the meat is beautifully grilled, and the sensational dressings just bring everything together. The zesty-lime dressing with the chicken fajita salad can easily be sold on its own; it is that finger licking good!
Priced at Rs380 per dish, Evergreen might seem expensive, but the premium ingredients used, speak for themselves — the crunchy garlic croutons and the freshly grated parmesan (both served separately) in the chicken Caesar salad, melt-in-your-mouth tender beef in the Pepper Steak sandwich and just the right amount of sauce so the sandwiches don’t become soggy.
|Pepper Steak Sandwich at Evergreen. - Photo by author.|
Though both are similar in the fact that they cater to the corporate slave, the offerings are different. Eatfit offers a complete menu of mostly traditional lunch items where one needs to order a complete meal to feel full, whereas Evergreen offers a limited variety of gourmet ready to eat items with one dish easily providing the right amount of nutrition and energy to last until dinner time.
|Chicken Caesar Salad at Evergreen. - Photo by author.|
Eatfit offers more variety and a comparatively low calorie menu, but Evergreen has a more unique taste — every single ingredient plays a part in adding some texture or flavour note to the overall dish, creating just the right balance.
Both outlets deserve top marks for their packaging — all the items are hygienically packed, the dressings and toppings are served separately so no soggy salads, but Evergreen has a more luxe feel, and it’s also convenient since everything is in one container.
|The luxe packing of Evergreen items. - Photo by author.|
In terms of pricing, both are under Rs400/head. The majority of items on Eatfit’s menu are affordable, ranging from Rs110 to Rs300, but the portions are small. At least two items need to be ordered on the menu for a complete meal that costs about Rs300 - Rs350. Evergreen has a simple flat rate of Rs380 for every dish (excluding the lone vegetarian salad).
One edge that Eatfit has is that while it uses delivery portals for ease of ordering, it operates its own riders, and thus has more control over the delivery process and subsequent charges.
Evergreen works with FoodPanda and Urbanite, and has to bear the possible delays as well as the extra charges that come with using a third party service. With Urbanite charging as much as Rs250 for certain areas of Karachi, it changes the value of money equation for an individual order completely.
|Hoison Chicken from Evergreen. - Photo by author.|
Hira Khan, a frequent customer of both outlets from the Korangi Industrial area loves both.
"I have recently tried to make lifestyle changes to be more health conscious. The most difficult part is managing healthy lunch options with a heavy work schedule. Eatfit and Evergreen have simplified life and allowed me to live healthier and feel less stressed," says Khan.
On why she prefers one over the other, she says: "Eatfit has a wide array of options at a much more reasonable cost. But the confusion between Monday and Tuesday menus makes you want to pull out your hair when you are in a crunch. Also the serving size, especially the sandwiches, might leave you a bit hungry.
To me, Evergreen food seems fresher especially the beef items. Looks beautifully packaged, but comes with a higher price tag."
Other opinions on food fora have the same story — both are loved for providing a healthy option, with customers having favourites in both menus.
While people can debate and argue on their favourite item, one thing is for sure — tasting the offerings from both outlets clears up the misconception that a healthy lifestyle does not mean eating bland, flavourless 'ghaas phoos' or diet food; with the right ingredients, a meal can be both tasty, filling and most importantly under 400 calories!
The only problem with these outlets — after eating a lunch from either of these two places, no one can use the "I feel too lazy or sleepy after lunch" excuse at work.
Rating (4.375 out of 5)
Food: 4 | Delivery: 5 | Packaging: 4 | Value for money: 4.5
Timings: Monday – Saturday, 10:00 – 17:00
Rating (4.25 out of 5)
Food: 4.75 | Delivery: 3.75 | Packaging: 4.5 | Value for money: 4
Stocked at: Aghas, Structure Health and Fitness and Pharmacie Plus
Kiran Afzal is a researcher by profession, who enjoys food blogging and reading on the side.