Forget about fads and ditch the diet. Education is key to finding a meal plan to suit your lifestyle if you really want to see results. And it doesn’t have to be complicated, according to this entrepreneur
In a situation that may be familiar to many parents, Nicola Cooper’s daughters went off to university, adopted a poor diet that caused them to gain weight and came back to Abu Dhabi desperate for a bit of beach time. Aiming to shed pounds as quickly as possible, they decided to go on a crash diet. Fully aware of the importance of nutrition, Nicola decided she’d have to go on the same diet herself to see what her daughters and their friends were putting their bodies through. After seeking advice from a nutritionist to create a tailored programme that would help them reach their goals in a safe but effective way, Nicola set off on the plan.
It wasn’t long before friends and even fellow gym goers started to notice a difference and began asking what she was doing. What started as Nicola printing off her plan for others turned into 3am meal prep and citywide deliveries.
Now, Nicola’s business, Simple Café, is more official. But the concept is still the same: spread education about the importance of a nutritionally sound diet.
Since opening in Zayed Sports City in December 2016, Nicola and her team – two nutritionists, a dietician and a chef – have been offering personalised meal plans, as well as serving nutritionally wholesome and tasty food that’s vegan, sugar-free and gluten-free from their small café beneath the tennis stadium.
“We’re here to make your life simple,” Nicola says. “Whatever we can do, however we can do it, we’ll do it. It’s not always about the revenue; it’s about the educational side and seeing the impact that a little bit of knowledge can have on people’s life.”
So far, Nicola has worked with clients who suffered from severe eczema, people with restrictions such as gluten intolerance, women who struggled to conceive, busy mums and even people who just want to cleanse their body.
“We get referrals from people who are told they’re gluten intolerant but don’t know where to start. They can come here and eat everything because there’s no contamination: there’s no gluten, no dairy, nothing in my kitchen.
“It’s not just about weight loss,” Nicola adds. “People will call me and say I need 1,000 calories a day. I’ll say go somewhere else because we don’t do that. You may lose the weight but you’re not going to maintain it. You need a certain amount of protein, while carbohydrates actually help your mental function and activate the protein for your muscle growth.”
It’s this understanding and the fact that Nicola and her team truly care about their customers that has the most impact.
“Most people go away from doing a plan with us taking a different aspect because they know how it’s made them feel cutting out salt, sugar – all our meals are balanced, we nutritionally analyse everything we do.”
It’s not only for adults either: Nicola knows full well that education starts at a young age.
“There was a team of children playing [at Zayed Sports City] and the coach came and asked if he could buy some energy drinks for the children; I nearly had a heart attack,” Nicola recalls. “I spoke with my nutritionist and dietician and said there are loads of kids playing here, what can we do. So we made our Energade and Quenchade drinks with natural electrolyte enhancers because the kids were getting cramps when they were playing for too long. Sometimes we hand out complimentary drinks to let them know because uneducated people are just filling them with rubbish.”
This education is key, and while Nicola says many people are afraid of veganism, don’t understand gluten intolerance or are just biased against beetroot, it’s worth opening up your mind for the benefit of your health.
“I’m proud that we are the only vegan and gluten-free outlet in Abu Dhabi. But is that my main selling point? No. My main selling point is nutrition; when you come here you are getting something that’s balanced, salt-free, sugar-free, it’s got a nutritional analysis behind it, and I know that when I’m giving you something, I’m giving you something that’s good for you. The fact that it’s vegan and gluten-free is something that we’re proud of but it doesn’t demarcate us. I just want to provide something to the community.”
WORDS Rachael Perrett