When most people think of New Orleans cuisine, they probably don’t immediately conjure up mental images of green smoothies or acai bowls.
Over the past 300 years we’ve cultivated a reputation for being a place that serves dishes featuring lots of butter – and batter. And in the midst of all the tricentennial celebrations that have been taking place all year, we’ve all been enjoying ourselves and all our city has to offer, food-wise. But if you’re looking to tone down the calories and maximize your nutrition intake, fortunately, the city also boasts some guilt-free eateries that serve dishes that are more likely to give you energy instead of motivating you to take a nap.
Good Karma Prasad Cafe
This vegan lunch and dinner spot is situated on the first floor of the vibrant yet soothing atmosphere of the Swan River Yoga Mandir on Canal Street in Mid-City. Whatever you do, don’t let the word “vegan” scare you away if you’re just beginning to delve into a healthier lifestyle. Even the most staunch carnivores will be pleasantly surprised by its robust offerings — sizable sandwiches with meat alternatives such as tofu and house-made veggie burgers; avocado toast; wraps, smoothies, salads, gluten-free options, desserts and coffee are all featured on its extensive menu. It’s a great place to stop for a snack after you take one of its yoga classes upstairs, or a stand-alone meal spot when you’re on the go. 2940 Canal St., 401-4698, SwanRiverYoga.com/good-karma-prasad-cafe.
This contemporary, airy vegan restaurant opened in the Lower Garden District, featuring New Orleans and Southern classics – with a plant-based twist: Think Southern-fried tofu, vegan gumbo, fresh beignets, an array of spreads, and even nachos (made with vegan cheese, of course). Seed’s mission isn’t just to provide customers with healthy, garden-based food; it also takes the environment as a whole into consideration with its use of menus on recycled paper and available compost. 1330 Prytania St., 302-2599, SeedYourHealth.com.
Seed is a contemporary, airy vegan restaurant in the Lower Garden District.
Carmo – A Tropical Cafe & Bar
Carmo is a colorful vegetarian-friendly restaurant in the Central Business District with lots of options for business lunches. It’s also a cute date spot for couples who are looking to bond over healthier fare. It draws its inspiration from tropical locales around the globe, including Southeast Asia, West Africa, the Caribbean, and South America. 527 Julia St., 875-4132, CafeCarmo.com.
The Daily Beet
Dylan Maisel opened the Daily Beet as a food cart a few years ago before establishing the brick-and-mortar in the CBD. “There is so much beauty in New Orleans’ rich food heritage,” he said. “However, the American food system is in deep trouble. We eat nutrient-empty, ultra-processed food laden in fats that often suck the energy right out of our days,” he said. As a business owner, he strives to have a positive influence on the way that New Orleanians eat. The Daily Beet, “serves high-energy foods that allow people to flourish throughout their days. We are vegetarian; however a tiny percentage of our customers are vegetarians — our customers just realize that they feel better when they leave our place and head back to work, rather than grabbing pizza.” 1000 Girod St., 605-4413, TheDailyBeetNola.com.
Over on the Freret Street corridor Bearcat Cafe is a full-service cafe that emphasizes high-quality, fresh breakfast and lunch options, along with sustainable, micro-sourced coffees, tea and other bottled beverages. Its menu is cleverly divided into two sections: the “Good Cat” section, which offers lighter fare, and a “Bad Cat” section, that highlights heavier options. The place is a good spot for a group, as it accommodates a variety of dietary restrictions, including vegan, vegetarian, paleo and gluten-free. 2521 Jena St., 309-9011, BearCatCafe.com.
Big Easy Bucha
Kombucha is a variety of fermented, effervescent black or green tea drinks that are allegedly good for the gut and contain both antioxidants and probiotics. Some of the brands out there have a distinctly vinegar-y taste which can turn some people off from it, but Big Easy Bucha’s creative flavors are sweeter, lighter and easier to enjoy. For example, the “Basin Street Blues” contains a combination of blueberry and mayhaw. The company uses regionally sourced and organic ingredients when possible and can be a refreshing alternative to an iced tea or iced coffee during the hot summer months. Plus, it’s sold at most local grocery stores, including Rouses and Whole Foods.
This newly opened venture on Broad Street serves creative and vegan variations of New Orleans staples, and offers new items daily. Some of the hits include vegan jambalaya (made with a sausage alternative), okra gumbo and collard greens, along with smoothies, salads and desserts. 1016 N. Broad St., 821-2669, SweetSoulFood.net.
Sweet Soulfood serves creative and vegan variations of New Orleans staples.
This trendy but laid-back coffee house has two locations across town from each other, in the Bywater and in the Riverbend. It opened in 2009 with a mission to provide freshly made juice, breakfast, brunch and lunch items using healthy, high-quality ingredients and no preservatives. Since then, it has garnered the likes of college students, young professionals, residents from around the city, and even visiting celebrities including David Byrne and Connie Britton. Its atmosphere is conducive to a sit-down meal, or for an afternoon perusing the Internet on your laptop while sipping coffee. 3218 Dauphine St., 304-5962; 7901 Maple St., 309-5557, SatsumaCafe.com.
The creation of Tracey Davenport and her husband, Dave Kirtland, opened in the sleek contemporary Auction House market on the corner of Magazine and Julia streets just this past year. Aloha Lei brings a taste of the South Pacific to New Orleans in the form of sushi rolls and poke bowls, which are characterized by chunks of raw, marinated fish tossed over rice with vegetables and umami-packed sauces. (There’s also a tofu option.) Some of its options incorporate a Louisiana twist; options include Creole-inspired redfish and spicy crawfish. Ultimately, the dishes here are simple, fresh, and well-balanced. 801 Magazine St., 504-372-4321, AuctionHouseMarket.com/alohalei/.
With our famously indulgent food and drinking scene in New Orleans, it can often seem difficult to find hobbies that are on the healthier side. But if you’re looking to switch out an occasional happy hour for something new or different, something that could improve your health (and maybe even your bank account), here are some recommendations for new workouts, recreational activities and even educational opportunities to teach you more about your surroundings and the environment.
Grow Dat Youth Farms
In a seemingly hidden part of City Park, Grow Dat Youth Farms has quietly made an impact on the lives of children, local residents and the environment of south Louisiana as a whole. Its mission is to nurture young people by teaching them how to grow food; every year this lush space generates more than 20,000 pounds of fresh produce.
But it’s not just for the kids: Grow Dat also seeks adult volunteers, who can become “agricultural adult apprentices” to deepen their knowledge and experience of sustainable urban agriculture through hands-on experience and by working alongside mentors and farmers. 150 Zachary Taylor Drive, 300-1132, GrowDatYouthFarm.org.
Canoe and Trail Adventures
Canoe and Trail Adventures seeks to blend outdoor recreation with education, by offering guided tours around the local swamps and bayous, via canoe and kayak. One of its most popular activities is the Twilight Paddle series, wherein a group of up to 16 participants can book a three- to four-hour canoe or kayak tour, under the guidance of a Louisiana Master Naturalist, who provides safety equipment and expertise. Launch sites are about 30-45 minutes away from New Orleans, but depending on the time of the year, Canoe and Trail Adventures can often provide a shuttle. The company also offers activities and adventures geared toward youths, as well. CanoeandTrail.com.
New Orleans Boulder Lounge
While there are no mountains or cliffs in sight of the Crescent City, rock climbing enthusiasts (and beginners, too!) can gain expertise at the New Orleans Boulder Lounge, a gym with an ever-expanding membership base, due to the increasing popularity of this multidisciplinary activity. Anyone can sign up for a drop-in class; and it’s also kid-friendly. The Boulder Lounge is not just a fitness and health outlet, either: it’s also a social place, where climbers of all skill levels build not just physical strength, but confidence, as well. It also hosts parties, camps and other community events. 2360 St. Claude Ave., 962-7609, ClimbNOBL.com.
New Orleans Boulder Lounge features climbing walls for all skill levels.
Swan River Yoga
The light-filled studio at Swan River is spacious and welcoming. What differentiates Swan River from other local yoga studios is its commitment to developing spiritual growth, in addition to the physical practice of yoga. It hosts all-level classes throughout the day, as well as kirtan (singing) sessions, guided meditations, and other alternative healing sessions. The teaching staff is notably patient and helpful, dedicated to seeing their students’ spiritual, physical and mental growth. 2940 Canal St., 5422 Magazine St., SwanRiverYoga.com.
Higher Power Yoga/TRX/Spin classes
With two studios in the Greater New Orleans area (downtown and Mid-City), Higher Power offers a variety of yoga, spin and TRX classes in a boutique setting. The fitness lessons support and challenge students of all levels, ages and body types, and though each instructor has a unique style, they all offer encouragement and positivity while setting — and helping people meet — challenges (and yes, burning tons of calories). The studio also offers a variety of packages: A drop-in class will cost $22, while the $36 all-you-can-do-in-a-week is a steal for fitness buffs and those who aspire to become one. They also offer monthly membership passes and other deals. 514 City Park Ave., 1000 Girod St., 302-7497, HigherPowerNOLA.com.
This dance studio on St. Claude is community-driven and supports dancers of all ages and skill levels: whether you’re a pro, a semi-pro, an enthusiast, or just someone who likes to twirl around in the living room when no one’s around. Dancing Grounds offers a number of classes in different genres, including salsa, hip-hop, tap, jazz-funk fusion and even “twerkshops” to help participants channel their inner Big Freedia. Don’t be surprised if you not only work up a sweat, but also make some new friends in the process. 3705 St. Claude Ave., 535-5791, Dancingrounds.org.
City Surf Fitness
A few years ago, people might have given you skeptical looks if you talked about surfing in New Orleans, but if you stop in for a class at City Surf on Magazine Street, you’ll find yourself on top of a board, despite being on dry land. Depending on which class you take, you might find that it incorporates elements of aerobics, yoga, strength-training and cardio activity; performing these exercises on top of a surfboard allows for an extra challenging but satisfying workout. 5924 Magazine St., 281-4174, CitySurfFitness.com.
City Surf Fitness offers aerobics, yoga, strength-training and cardio activity balanced on top of a surfboard.
This newly opened lakefront park in eastern New Orleans suits a variety of interests for families and visitors of all ages. With party barge rentals, jet skis, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and flyboarding, the expansive spot along Lake Pontchartrain also sells food and drinks, and frequently hosts DJ’s. It’s a spot where one can either relax on its spacious seating area, or get out on the water and show off — or at least, learn — watersports skills. 6701 Stars and Stripes Blvd., 982-8346, YNOTdock.com.
New Orleanians tend to have a lot of local pride, which extends to supporting local businesses in lieu of major chains. These are just a sampling of the many forward-thinking shops and businesses, owned by visionary entrepreneurs who have invested their time and energy into creating shopping experiences that don’t just benefit themselves and the customer, but to suppliers, farmers, and everyone involved along the way.
Owned by former international aid worker Jamie Menutis, Green Serene is a women’s boutique on Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District that sells sustainable, eco-friendly clothing, jewelry and gifts, often made from repurposed and recycled materials and fabrics. The inventory at the shop also consists of items made by local artisans and other conscientious entrepreneurs. 2041 Magazine St., 252-9861, GreenSereneNOLA.com.
St. Claude Social Club
Eclectic, worldly and colorful, the St. Claude Social Club in the Lower Garden District is an experiential shop that offers vintage jewelry and clothing, costume pieces and imported goods. As the name implies, it’s more than just a store: It’s also a social outlet that hosts special events that give it an old-school “women’s parlor” vibe, bringing in entrepreneurs, demonstrators and artists who showcase their methodologies. For example, during Carnival season, you can show up and learn how to create costumes; it also hosts makeup tutorials, cocktail hours and other design-oriented events geared toward helping women express themselves. 1933 Sophie Wright Place, 218-8987, SaintClaudeSocialClub.com.
Simone’s Market, an artisanal grocery shop and deli on Oak Street, is modestly sized but packed with high-quality goods for all types of dietary needs and preferences, along with a bounty of handmade items that aren’t found anywhere else in the city.
Owner Simone Reggie has an extensive culinary background, and seeks to provide customers with high-quality, healthy and affordable food, while also supporting local farmers and food producers. If you’re not in the mood for major grocery shopping, though, it’s also a great casual lunch spot that serves fresh sandwiches, grain bowls, salads and dips. 8201 Oak St., Suite 2, 273-7706, SimonesMarket.com.
Simone’s Market is packed with high-quality goods for all types of dietary needs and preferences.
Glitter Box NOLA
Located in the French Quarter, Glitter Box is a shop that offers handmade crafts, accessories, art pieces and gift items, all with feminist flair. The shop is also community-minded and supports marginalized groups and social justice activism. (Each month, it donates proceeds to a nonprofit that supports education and empowerment of women, and those who identify as such.) Owner Lila Heymann and shop manager Alice McGillicuddy also host events after-hours, aimed to bring members of the community and local artists together. 1109 Royal St., 568-0955, GlitterBoxNO.com.
Crescent City Farmers Market
For fresh produce and ingredients, the Crescent City Farmers Market operates multiple days a week in a variety of locations across the city. For aspiring home cooks, the market also brings in demonstrators who show customers how to use seasonal bounty, and work within budgets to maintain a healthy diet and support local farmers and growers, as well. Multiple Locations, CrescentCityFarmersMarket.org.
Crescent City Farmers Market offers fresh produce and ingredients in a variety of locations across the city.