Paleolithic, caveman, primal, ancestral…’Paleo’ goes by a number of different monikers. I guess I’ve been on a gradual but natural transition to the Paleo lifestyle for a long time now. I’m gluten intolerant and dairy sensitive in any case, generally eat a high protein diet to build muscle mass and have been experimenting with the ketogenic diet for the past month. Recently, I had an allergic scare in a restaurant – something in the food caused my throat to close up for the better part of two hours. I could barely speak and tried desperately to ignore rising waves of anxiety as I struggled to get air into my lungs. Since then I’ve prepared pretty much all my meals at home and rarely eat out. Looking for cooking inspiration I spent an evening poring over books on food in the Kinokuniya bookstore at Dubai Mall. Three hours later I emerged with a stack of Paleo cookbooks – it was the closest thing to how I already eat so I was sure to find plenty of meal ideas, it’s all gluten free and a lot of it is ketogenic – perfect!
So what is the Paleo lifestyle anyway? The Paleolithic or ‘Paleo’ diet is based on eating whole, natural foods that were eaten by our ancestors before the age of agriculture and the domestication of animals. It means eating primarily meats, seafood, non-starchy vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds and none of the grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, sugar and processed foods that are run-of-the-mill in a typical modern lifestyle. Paleo isn’t so much of a diet as it is a lifestyle. You stock your fridge and cupboards with whole foods, avoid processed, tinned and canned foods, read labels and order simple foods off menus in restaurants.
Paleo is only just starting to pick up in Dubai, with a few gourmet Paleo food delivery services, a few restaurants and a smattering of dessert and snack options. Mostly, it’s easiest to just cook your own food – but read on for a few tips on leading a Paleo lifestyle in Dubai and where to eat out.
6 Tips For A Paleo Lifestyle
1) Food quality counts
Buy organic vegetables at the farmers markets such as Ripe (you can also order from Ripe online or from Greenheart Farms) and you can get grass-fed meats at all the supermarkets: Choitram’s, Spinney’s, Waitrose, Carrefour, Emirates Co-op and Lulu Hypermarket. For even higher quality meats you can go to Organic Foods & Cafe, Prime Gourmet and Galleries LaFayette Food Court. Organic vegetables are far more nutrient dense, and grass-fed meats have up to as much as 5 times the amount of CLA (a fat burning hormone) than just organic meats.
2) Peanuts are not a nut
They’re a legume. Who knew? If you aren’t sure if something is Paleo – look it up. There are plenty of resources online and books that’ll point you in the right direction. Pick up The Homegrown Paleo and Practical Paleo for everyday inspiration, meal plans, recipes, resources and reference. I also follow @primalpalate, @nomnompaleo and @thepaleofix on Instagram.
3) Check labels
On a Paleo diet you don’t eat corn, soy, dairy or wheat – ingredients that often find their way into most packaged goods in the form of thickeners, flavourants, stabilizers and preservatives. Corn is the worst offender – in the form of maltodextrin it’s in pretty much everything that comes in a packet or box. Even fat-free and sugar-free goods, nutrition bars and protein shakes have maltodextrin in them. It has a glycemic index of 130 – table sugar is just 65 in comparison. Go figure what this does to your insulin levels! Even items such as packaged coconut water have additives in them. If there’s something listed as an ingredient that you can’t identify as an actual whole food – put it down.
4) Choose full fat foods
Drop that fat free yoghurt now! Low fat and sugar free foods are loaded with additives (such as maltodextrin mentioned above). Just eat whole foods that come from nature instead and stop worrying about the fat content. Fat doesn’t make you fat – as I write about here.
5) Clear out your cupboards
Spend an afternoon reading every single label of every single item in your cupboards and fridge. Throw everything out that isn’t up to the task – I gave crates of food away to my lovely cleaning lady. Despite considering myself a pretty healthy person I was shocked to discover how much rubbish there was in pretty much everything packaged that I had bought. I ended up staring at 4 completely empty cupboards! It’s been a joy to restock them with clean, wholesome foods and an even bigger joy cooking knowing exactly what’s in my food. Your body is a temple and all that.
6) Keep it simple
Build your meals around meat and vegetables and snack on fruit, nuts and seeds. Make meals in advance and freeze them. Always have eggs, nut butters (except peanut butter), coconut wraps, frozen meats and vegetables stocked up at home. When you eat out go for grilled meats, green salads and sashimi. And if you don’t like to cook try a Paleo meal service such as Love Food.
10 Restaurants To Eat Paleo Food At In Dubai
1) Cycle Bistro
This is the only ‘true’ Paleo eatery in Dubai. Everything on the menu is Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar free. There’s plenty of choice too – our favourites are the Paleo fajitas, zucchini pasta, lasagna, moussaka and chocolate cake.
The Cycle Bistro
Inside The Cycle Hub, Dubai Autodrome, Motor City
04 425 6555
2) Friends Avenue Cafe
This isn’t specifically a Paleo cafe but they do have a nice, simple Spring Chicken Salad with broccoli. Eaten without the dukkah dressing it comes with it’s a perfect Paleo lunchtime dish.
Friends Avenue Cafe
Ground floor, Fortune Executive Tower, Cluster T, Jumeirah Lake Towers
04 554 5813
3) Omnia Gourmet
We love Omnia! There are plenty of Paleo mains to try at this hidden spot but I often stop by just for a dessert from their extensive offering of gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy free treats. The ‘Paleo Love’ slice is pure bliss.
Jumeirah 2, Jumeirah Fishing Harbour
04 343 7181
4) Mezza Lebanese Kitchen
In general, Lebanese food is a Paleo foodie’s dream. We recently discovered the freshest Lebanese eatery around in the form of Mezza Lebanese Kitchen. Their tabbouleh is bulgar-wheat free, the parsley fresh, and the grilled meats succulent. Just gorgeous.
Mezza Lebanese Kitchen
Cluster Y, Jumeirah Lake Towers
04 554 5872
5) Heat Cafe & Grill
Right opposite the Surf House Dubai on Beach Road, this little gem is frequented by active, beachy sorts who like to make a healthy pitstop. Try the 5 egg-white omelette, avocado skewers, turkey-wrapped chicken tenders or grilled meat and veggie salad.
Heat Cafe & Grill
Opposite Emarat Petrol Station, Jumeirah Beach Road, Umm Suqeim 2
04 338 8831
6) The Counter
Any place you can build your own meal is a winner in my books. Their meats are grass-fed, hormone-free and antibiotic-free and you can choose to eat it in a bowl (instead of between a bun) with any greens of your choosing. I like to take the 2/3 lbs beef steak cooked medium-rare – in a bowl – with avocado, sundried tomatoes, baby spinach, shredded carrots, organic mixed greens and some mustard. Skip the cheese and fancy dressings.
The Beach, Jumeirah Beach Residences, Dubai Marina
052 640 8814
7) Ruth Chris Steakhouse
Any steakhouse is an easy eating out option on the Paleo lifestyle. We do like Ruth Chris best though. Ask for your steak to be cooked without any marinade, make sure to get some greens on the side, avoid the starchy potato fries and sauces and dress with mustard or balsamic vinegar instead.
Ruth Chris Steakhouse
Lower Ground Floor, Near Marina Mall, Dubai Marina
04 454 9538
8) Nofara Cafe
This is sort of our ‘local’. It’s right around the corner from the office in JLT and they recently revamped their menu to include a whole bunch of Paleo and gluten free options. The service is terrible, as is their wifi, but the food options ain’t too shabby. The Paleo gnocchi is pretty good.
Ground level, Swiss Tower, Cluster Y, Jumeirah Lake Towers
04 432 2023
9) Sushi Art
With sushi being such a popular eating out option in Dubai I thought it wise to advise on your Paleo choices. Sadly, you can’t eat anything other than the sashimi. But boy is it good. Edamame is a no-go as it’s soy and while seaweed is fine on the Paleo diet the sort you get here has been loaded with preservatives on it’s trip to the Middle East so is best avoided. Get a tray of sashimi, and bring your own Paleo-friendly coconut aminos as a substitute for soy sauce.
The Beach, Jumeirah Beach Residences, Dubai Marina
10) Chicken Tikka Inn
Ah, an old school haunt – this list is so full of shiny new eateries I had to include an oldie. This place is older than I am – it first opened it’s doors in 1972 and I’ve eaten there hundreds of times throughout my life. It’s known to make the best ‘grilled half chicken’ in Dubai – all on a proper charcoal grill. A squeeze of lemon and it’s just perfect. The original venue is open until 3am so is a great late-night stop at the weekend too!
Chicken Tikka Inn
Opposite Spinneys & Jumeirah Centre, Beach Road, Jumeirah 1, Jumeirah
04 344 5524
Are there any other Paleo eateries that you frequent in Dubai? Tell us about them in the comments section below!