Know Your Menu at Nathalie's, Abu Dhabi
As always, our trusty dietary field operative John Bambridge was on-site to give his low down on a menu selection so healthy that even your personal trainer would give it a gold star!
Formulated by the eponymous owner, Nathalie Haddad, a nutritionist of eight years and founder of Right Bite in Dubai, Nathalie’s offers food for an international palate but with a Lebanese twist. The weekly menu rotation aside, it is the stand-alone breakfast menu (or a lazy lunch at the weekends) that is likely to draw residents from both the venue’s home and its neighbouring emirate with equal zeal.
Stealing the show is the foul moudammes, Nathalie’s rival for even the most authentic of fouls, and a dish that is exceptionally well balanced. Both the constituent legumes, fava beans and chickpeas, are high in folate, which is necessary for DNA synthesis and repair, as well as the trace nutrient mineral manganese. The garnish of parsley meanwhile helps to contribute all the usual vitamin favourites, but also a highly concentrated source of vitamin K, with the recommended daily intake contained in just five grams.
The foul also comes served with whole-wheat pita bread, as Nathalie’s uses whole grains wherever possible. This ensures the bran and the germ of the wheat grain are retained, which not only makes for a much better balance between the carbohydrate and the dietary fibre – essential for digestive health – but also provides three times the B-vitamins, thiamin and niacin, for which cereal crops are an important source in most conventional diets. When compared with refined white counterparts, whole wheat also yields almost twice as much of the mineral selenium, which mediates thyroid activity and reduces the toxic effects of mercury on both the body and brain.
The continental breakfast proceeds to roll out the whole wheat cornucopia, with multi-seed bread, croissants and blueberry or apple and cinnamon muffins which are soft and full of flavour but baked entirely without butter. Sugar is also omitted from the recipe in favour of apple sauce. The result is a muffin which packs just 250 food calories according to the tally at the counter – but half the calories of a normal muffin.
If even this is too indulgent for the most stringent of regimes, Nathalie’s also serves nutella-filled mini-croissants at only 50 calories. The larger croissants, made without resorting to butter, contain only 200 calories. A cheese-filled variety, popular in both Lebanon and Syria, is also reproduced, but with low-fat Emmental and Cheddar in place of the traditional but heavier Akawi.
Eggs also feature prominently on the breakfast menu, available as everything from an egg white omelette served up with asparagus, to poached and perched on an English muffin and accompanied by spinach and salmon, and each option with either coffee or orange juice. Nevertheless, eggs are an infamous double-edged sword, with their high nutritional value coming at the cost of a significantly elevated saturated fat content. For some, the whites alone are a choice source of both protein and riboflavin, the latter essential for maintaining numerous systems in the body. On the other hand, in skipping the yolk you also miss out on a significant portion of various vitamins including choline – an essential nutrient that plays a major physiological role in maintaining the integrity of cells, and a substance athletes often run low on.
But if all this weighs too heavily on the decision-making process, do not fear.It is important to remember that one of the perks of Nathalie’s is that even if you passively drift into grazing mindlessly on the carbohydrates and sugar, the dishes remain reassuringly portion-controlled by an experienced nutritionist.
Perhaps the most dramatic example is the biryani, observed but not tasted, which boasts a mere 455 calories. Prepared with no ghee, it downgrades the typical 1,500-calorie extravaganza of a dish to an assuredly appetising and filling but ultimately modest meal. Unfortunately, this is just a snap shot, but if you’re sceptical that such alchemy can be achieved and still produce worthy succour to the senses, feel free to try it yourself. But remember – if you catch breakfast, don’t forget the moudammes.