We’re firm believers in never turning down a tasty plate of food, but even we have to admit we over-indulged during the festive period. So, despite the fact we hate to follow the crowd, we’ve been on a quest to track down the best healthy dishes in the capital. Of course, we’re not encouraging you to cut cheeseburgers out of your life for good (we would never, ever do that to you) but once in a while we all fancy something that’s a bit kinder on the waistline, but still tastes great. So while you’re still working off the last of the turkey, here are our favourite guilt-free treats in the city...
Barley salad at Afya
Hipsters may still be deeply obsessed with quinoa, but we still like to opt for a different base to our salads every now and again. Barley has so many health benefits: it can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as build and maintain a healthy bone structure. Yet the best bit is simply how it tastes. This nutrient-packed dish also contains all the best vegetables including beetroot, cauliflower, asparagus, courgette and lettuce.
Dhs67. Open daily 6am-11.30pm. Traders Hotel Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, Al Maqta (02 509 8555).
Veg empanadas at Amerigos Mexican Bar & Restaurant
We believe Mexican food is one of the greatest cuisines in the world. With nachos, enchiladas, fajitas and more to choose from, plus all the guacamole you could wish for, the menu at Amerigos Yas Island is full of colour, spices and authentic flavours. The only problem is that most Mexican plates can be a bit short on vegetables, so it’s a good job we have the empanadas de vegetables as an option. Stuffed with mushroom and sweetcorn, it makes any New Year’s resolutions to cut down on meat so much easier to stick to.
Dhs48. Open daily noon-1am. Park Inn by Radisson Abu Dhabi Yas Island (02 656 2000).
Pan-seared scallops at Aquarium
As well as being a joy to devour, scallops also have the added bonus of being totally healthy. Not only does Aquarium boast fantastic views of Yas Marina, but it also specialises in producing brilliant seafood, too. It’s got its pan-seared scallops down to a fine art, and we’re a little bit in awe of them. Served with a vibrant green broccoli purée and sweet cherry tomatoes, it’s the kind of dish you wish would never end.
Dhs189. Open daily noon-1am. Yas Marina, Yas Island (02 565 0007).
Tuna tartare at Belgian Café Yas Island
As well as Belgian specialities such as steaming pots of mussels, steak frites and roast meats, this friendly pub also serves up some European dishes that are a bit more on the lighter side. The tuna tartar features chunks of fresh fish marinated in a sweet and spicy apple and horseradish sauce. It’s served with rocca leaves and a crunchy baguette, because carbs are always a good idea, even in January.
Dhs98. Open daily noon-2am. Radisson Blu Abu Dhabi Yas Island (02 656 2000).
Marinated hamachi sashimi at Benihana
This teppanyaki-style restaurant is perhaps best known for its theatrical cooking demonstrations, as well as its superb selection of sushi and sashimi. It goes without saying that all of the seafood options are healthy and packed with goodness, however our favourite has to be the hamachi sashimi. Joined by delicately sliced asparagus, celery, avocado, carrots and baby spinach, it helps you get well on your way to your five-a-day, too.
Dhs92. Open daily 6pm-11.30pm. Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, Al Zahiyah (02 697 9011).
Niçoise salad at Bentley Kitchen
This stylish Italian restaurant somehow manages to make every dish it produces a work of art. Its take on the classic Niçoise salad is thankfully no different. You’ll find plenty of greens (beans and baby gem lettuce), protein (quails eggs and pepper-crusted tuna) and even carbs in the form of new potatoes. It’s all finished off with black olives, cherry tomatoes and lemon olive oil.
Dhs65 (Dhs45 without the tuna). Open Sat-Wed noon-1am; Thu-Fri noon-2am. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island
(02 626 2131).
Acai and Greek yoghurt super bowl at Cabana Beach Bar & Grill
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to visit Greece, having yoghurt for breakfast will provoke memories of sunny mornings and bright blue seas. Or even if you haven’t, the combination of the flavours in the acai and Greek yoghurt super bowl, along with the views over the Corniche will make this a breakfast you’ll never forget. Featuring mashed berries, goat’s cheese, mango, strawberries, chia seeds and pistachios, it’s fruity, creamy, crunchy and full of vitamins.
Dhs90. Open daily 10am-11pm. Nation Riviera Beach Club, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Nation Towers (02 694 4553).
Goma Wakame at Cho Gao
This beautiful pile of greens is absolutely packed with minerals and vitamins. The Japanese seaweed has so many health benefits, while the flavours are accentuated by the refreshing lemon dressing. Sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds it’s a marvellous creation that goes perfectly with so many of the other Asian delights found on the varied menu at Cho Gao Crowne Plaza.
Dhs60. Open daily noon-1am. Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Street, Al Markaziyah (02 616 6149).
Kale y manchego at Dusk
All veggie lovers know that there’s nothing like a lovely kale salad, and you can devour this one right by the white sands of Zaya Nurai Island. However, that’s not the only thing the Mexican restaurant’s signature salad has going for it. The nutrient-filled green leaves are also given a sweet and salty bite by the addition of manchego cheese, goji berries, walnuts and dried cranberries. All in all, the flavours are as lovely as the setting.
Dhs67. Open daily 5pm-1am. Zaya Nurai Island (02 506 6274).
Octopus carpaccio at Filini garden
Italian food is always brilliant (and yet often so thoroughly straightforward). But with most dishes based around carbs and cheese, it’s not exactly the obvious cuisine to choose when you’re trying to be healthy. However, Filini Garden has always like to put its own sophisticated spin on things. As well as crispy pizzas and cheesy lasagnes, the Italian eatery also offers guilt-free plates such as its octopus carpaccio. Featuring thinly sliced octopus and finished with a classic lemon dressing, crushed black pepper and rocket leaves, it’s simple but delicious.
Dhs56. Open Sat-Wed 4.30pm-1.30am; Thu 4.30pm-2am, Fri 12.30pm-2am. Radisson Blu Abu Dhabi Yas Island (02 656 2000).
Poached black cod at Finz at Beach
With fresh seafood served in a fine-dining setting, it’s not hard to be healthy at Finz. If you’re trying to go totally fat free and even avoid the butter-seared scallops, the poached black cod should be top of your list. Flavoured with braised fennel, rocket leaves and crushed cashew nuts, it’s every health-conscious diner’s dream.
Dhs150. Open daily 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, Al Zahiyah (02 697 9011).
Fish taouk at Flooka
It can often be a challenge for seafood lovers to know where to start when it comes to the extensive menu at Flooka. You might opt to have the catch of the day grilled, baked or barbecued to your liking, or choose a few plates from the huge selection of hot and cold mezze. But the most health-conscious and flavour-packed dish has to be the fish taouk. It includes marinated pieces of king fish in a lemon, garlic and olive oil dressing.
Dhs61. Open daily, noon-midnight. Eastern Mangroves Promenade, Dhafeer Street (02 441 8244).
Yasai Soba at Frangipani
When you’re marvelling at the views of the postcard-perfect Zaya-Nurai Island, it’s very easy to have a blissful time no matter what you’re eating. But your trip to this island escape can be made all the better with
a brilliant bowl of yasai soba. This fascinating Asian dish features soba noodles, vegetable broth, beansprouts, spring onions, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, tofu and broccoli. We’re going to need a bigger bowl.
Dhs95. Open daily 7.30am-9.30pm. Zaya Nurai Island (02 506 6274).
Acai bowl at Gossip Café
This is certainly one of the prettiest breakfasts we’ve ever seen. Topped with fruits, seeds and edible flowers, there’s definitely an un-written rule stating that you need to photograph it from every angle before tucking in. It’s also packed with antioxidants and contains a perfect sweet and nutty blend of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, acai, almond milk and almond butter. It’s sure to put you in a good mood for the rest of the day.
Dhs55. Open Sun-Thu 7am-11pm; Fri-Sat 7am-midnight. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 677 7520).
Tandoori broccoli and mushroom at Indigo
Indian food is known for having plenty of vegetarian options, but that doesn’t mean that the calorie count isn’t often very high. However, when you go for the tandoori broccoli and mushroom at the Beach Rotana’s Indigo restaurant, there’s no need to worry about the damage it will do to your waistline. Providing a great source of natural energy and fibre, the spicy flavours are counteracted with a cool yoghurt dressing.
Dhs72. Open daily 6pm-11.30pm. Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, Al Zahiyah (02 697 9011).
Jumbo shrimps at Joe’s Crab Shack
Seafood can be incredibly healthy as long as you choose the right things, and there’s nothing at all naughty about the chopped salad at Joe’s Crab Shack. Topped with huge, meaty jumbo shrimps and finished with slabs of creamy avocado, red potato and roasted almonds, it’s every bit as filling and satisfying as any of the other mains on the menu. It’s also finished off with a fabulous balsamic vinegar dressing.
Dhs82.95. Sat-Wed 10am-11pm, Marina Mall, Marina Village (04 705 9747).
Amore salad at Lips
There’s quite literally so much to love about this vibrant salad, partly because it uses only the tastiest flavours such as avocado, sweetcorn and tomato. The ingredients are of the highest quality, too, and the juicy shrimps are a total sensation. The final flourish is a drizzle of the chef’s special herb dressing (we’re still working on getting the recipe from him, don’t worry).
Dhs46. Open daily 9am-midnight. Marina Mall, Marina Village (02 681 8191).
Market Green Earth Burger at Market
There must be few things more pleasing in life than being able to enjoy a burger while knowing that it’s actually good for you. Featuring a chickpea and shiitake mushroom patty, satisfying aubergine relish, vibrant muhammara and a chunky layer of halloumi, this burger isn’t just good for you because it’s got the words ‘Green’ and ‘Earth’ in its name. It’s just as filling as a cheeseburger, but without the guilt.
Dhs70. Open daily noon-3pm, 6pm-9pm. The Abu Dhabi Edition, Al Bateen Marina (02 208 0000).
Butterfly chicken at Nando’s
If you’re in the mood for fast food but want to do it the healthy way, then you can’t do much better than Nando’s. There’s a huge range of salads on the menu, but the butterfly chicken is just as nutritious (as long as you go for some not-so-naughty sides of course). The succulent double chicken breast comes with a crispy skin, and you can finish it off with a three-bean salad, corn on the cob or chargrilled vegetables.
Dhs62. Open Sat-Wed 11am-midnight; Thu-Fri 11am-1am. The Mall at World Trade Center Abu Dhabi, Hamdan Street (02 631 0002).
Sweet potato avocado toast at Park House
Avocado on toast is one of those breakfast dishes that never, ever gets old (well, in our opinion anyway). But if you’re trying to cut down on bread in 2019 (or you’re just totally enamoured with anything that involves sweet potato), now you can enjoy a gluten-free version of the staple dish at Park House on Reem Island. The perfectly poached eggs, creamy avocado, chilli flakes and chia and flax seeds (for an extra boost of nutrition) are layered on top of a sweet potato ‘toast’. It’s possibly even better than our usual massive slab of sourdough.
Dhs48. Open daily 8am-10pm. Reem Central Park, Reem Island (55 736 8127).
Quinoa bowl at Pearl Lounge
There’s often a false feeling that the healthier options are less enjoyable, which clearly couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to this scrumptious plate. The combination of cured organic salmon, edamame beans, sesame seeds and poached eggs is absolutely flawless, and gym goers will love the extra protein boost provided by the quinoa. That should keep you going while you’re personal trainer barks orders at you.
Dhs98. Pearl Lounge at Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Residences Emirates Pearl, West Corniche (02 510 1234).
Organic quinoa salad at Pizza Di Rocco
Turning down the offer of pizza can be an extremely painful experience. But the blow is somewhat softened when the alternative is this colourful bowl of goodness. Quinoa is the trendiest superfood around for good reason. It’s packed with protein, it’s filling and it tastes great, too. It’s finished off with spring onion, pine nuts, raisins, avocado, cherry tomatoes and drizzled with a refreshing olive oil and lime dressing.
Dhs41. Open 11am-midnight Fri-Tue, 11am-2am Wed-Thu. Various locations including Salem Steet, Al Dhafrah (800 76226).
Insalata di caprine at Spaccanapoli
Sometimes you can finish off a salad and end up feeling almost as hungry as before you started. But there’s no danger of that happening when you try this lovely dish from casual Italian restaurant Spaccanapoli. The chefs at the Crowne Plaza eatery mix walnuts, crunchy apples, baby spinach and mixed lettuce with plenty of creamy goat’s cheese. It’s all finished off with a balsamic salad dressing, which might just be the best bit of this lovely bowl of food.
Dhs49. Open daily noon-11pm. Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Street, Al Markaziyah (02 616 6149).
Smoked burrata at The Foundry
Okay, so cream and cheese might not be 100 percent healthy. However, we think that the smoked burrata from classy steakhouse The Foundry still qualifies for a place in our new detox diet plan. The creamy soft cheese just contrasts so wonderfully with the crispy lettuce, green beans, radishes, beetroot, carrot and cherry tomatoes. Not only does this dish contain a delightful collection of fresh garden vegetables, but it’s also presented immaculately as well. It’ll make your pal who went for the steak, chips and mac ’n’ cheese go green with envy.
Dhs65.00. Open daily 6am-10.30am, noon-3pm & 7pm-11pm. Southern Sun Abu Dhabi, Al Mina Street, Al Zahiyah (02 818 4888).