A Transplant's Perspective: Staying Fit in the Big Easy
We all love those Po-Boys and jambalaya, crawfish, king cakes, beignets, and bananas foster. I'm salivating even thinking about all those deliciously delectable foods that make the Big Easy so sweet.
There's double meaning when it comes to that sweetness, though. During my time in the Crescent City, eating healthy was one of the biggest challenges I faced - never, ever did I think lard would be so charming and delicious.
As a transplant to New Orleans, I had to look for hidden gems throughout the city to help stay healthy and create a workout routine that also catered to my festival calendar - no easy task. Many people visiting, moving or continuing to live in New Orleans face the same dilemma: How do you stay healthy in the city with the most delicious food? As you cruise the Blues Highway on a road trip down south or head to the French Quarter on a normal weekend at home, keep the following four tips in mind to keep yourself in check (and to keep the conscience clear when you decide to indulge).
1. Go Off the Beaten Culinary Path
We’ve already mentioned the fact that New Orleans cuisine can be deep fried, sugar-coated, and oh so delicious. It might seem as though it’s impossible to avoid such foods in NOLA, but here's the trick - avoid the tourists and you somewhat avoid those greasy sugars that make your intestines wonder, "What kind of test are you giving me?"
Instead, explore the neighborhoods and restaurants where chefs whip up creative salads, entrees and snacks that are much lighter than their Louisianan counterparts. You've got Pagoda (Mid-City), Green Goddess (French Quarter), Press Street Cafe (Marigny), Satsuma (Bywater), and all those famous traditional restaurant (Commanders, Antoines's, the list could go on forever). All of those restaurants give you the option - that's right, this is just an option for when you've indulged enough for the day - to add some greens and veggies and (gulp) wheat grass into your diet. The added bonus - you’ll discover new parts of the city that you’ve never seen, tourist or not. Locals can use the opportunity to mix up their nights out, too.
2. Make Your Tour Mobile
So many tour groups and companies herd their clients onto buses so that they can see entire cities in shorter amounts of time and locals often opt for their cars instead of their feet. Sure, transportation that's motorized is certainly a convenient and easy way to get a broad view of New Orleans, but you can get more in touch with the city if you explore it on foot.
Take that bike out of storage and explore the new Lafitte Greenway or draw up your own route to hit all of the highlights that you want to see or errands you want to complete. Then, slip on a comfy pair of shoes and get walking. If you foresee yourself getting tired on the trail, work in activities that allow you to rest in between the sights — perhaps you can plan to stop at a café or park. If you need further inspiration to keep going, remember the many benefits that walking can have for your health: it boosts energy, staves off weight gain, enhances your memory and fights off cancer.
3. Take Advantage of the Weather
Since the lowest average monthly temp is about 43 degrees in January, New Orleans is clearly a place where outdoor exercise is possible all year long.
Whether you want to tone up or maintain while you’re indulging in the city’s rich fare, running is the ultimate outdoor exercise. It allows you to explore new areas of New Orleans while you’re exercising and bettering yourself. And, because others have done the same before you, there are plenty of resources to help you map your route.
4. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Let’s get one thing straight before this story wraps up: there’s a reason New Orleans is famous for its food and beverages. It’s delicious. And, while you’re doing well by maintaining a healthy meal and exercise plan, you should never completely cut out the indulgences that you love. Just make sure that you make it something special, a planned-ahead treat that you work for by eating cleanly or logging a specific number of miles on the running trail. If you’re on vacation and want to try everything on the menu, do just that: try a little bit of everything without stuffing yourself silly.
In the end, you’ll be much happier with yourself when you plan ahead, get moving and supplement your rich indulgences with new, healthy finds. Now, let’s get out there and enjoy New Orleans.
Savannah Hemmings is a Tulane University alum with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She is a Philadelphia-based personal stylist and writes about style, fashion and fitness on her lifestyle blog, Sincerely Savannah. Her work has been featured on Hello Giggles, Bustle, Self Magazine and TIME. The best days of her life were spent gallivanting through the streets of New Orleans and completely believes in the quote “You can live in any city in American but New Orleans is the only city that lives in you.”