Velvety bechamel sauces, soft and chewy bagels, and pastrami so tender it practically melts in your mouth. The best food in New York is also often the most calorie dense. Sticking to your health goals in a city that is known for its food is no easy feat. The good news is that there are as many opportunities for staying healthy in NYC as there are reasons to eat your weight in pasta.
Staying Healthy in NYC Top Tips
Stick to your Normal Exercise Routine
If you’re used to running every morning, go for a run. If you do Pilates once a week, check out one of the hundreds of Pilates studios in NYC on your usual day. If you have a Crunch, Planet Fitness or Equinox membership, head to the gym for your training session. Sticking to your routine will help you ensure you don’t deviate when you get back home.
Get Moving in the Morning
Choose an activity to occupy your time each morning. Some of my favorite activities in NYC include:
- Riding a bike through Central Park
- Going on a walking tour of the city
- Kayaking in Prospect Park or the East River
Plan for the Unexpected
You never know what New York City is going to throw at you each day. Perhaps you’ve planned on eating lunch at a particular healthy restaurant–only to find it’s shut down for renovations. Maybe you’ll head to a class at the gym–but the subway gets stuck and you miss your class.
Don’t let the city get you down! Make a back-up plan in case your Plan A goes awry.
Eat One Healthy Meal Per Day
New York is a city that was meant to be enjoyed by one’s taste buds. Period. Don’t miss out on the pizza, pasta, bagels, and pastrami because you’re staying healthy. And whatever you do, dear lord, eat a hot dog.
But don’t use the city as an excuse to ruin your healthy eating habits either. Choose breakfast or lunch as your one healthy meal per day. You’ll feel satisfied and positive about your food choices by the time dinner rolls around–and will feel less likely to lose your mind over cheesecake when the dessert menu arrives.
Give Yourself Some Wiggle Room
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make your health goals or if you veer offtrack. New York is full of tempting foods and delicious aromas. If you try a Cronut only to discover it packs 2,000 calories (2,000!), don’t lambaste yourself for giving into the delights of the city.
Enjoy yourself, and remember that there’s always plenty of opportunities for staying healthy in NYC–it’s not called the Big Apple for nothing.
Exercise Goals on Vacation in NYC
If I could describe a New York vacation in five words it would be: this ain’t a beach vacation.
You’ll discover that you move your body more in New York than in most cities. It’s hard to be totally sentient in the City That Never Sleeps. Some of the easiest ways to meet your fitness goals in NYC include:
Walk NYC Like a New Yorker
New Yorkers walk everywhere. We take the subway everywhere else. And the subways have plenty of stairs. When I wear a fitness band or track my steps on an app on my phone, I can easily clock 25,000 steps in one.
Check Out Public Parks and Greenways in NYC
There are plenty of opportunities to walk, run, and ride bikes in New York City. Manhattan alone is covered in dozens of public parks and greenways in every neighborhood. Parks and greenways are also a great way to escape the crowded streets of Manhattan for an hour or so.
Sign Up for ClassPass
ClassPass is an app that offers classes on demand in nearly every major city in the US. If you’re already in a city that offers ClassPass, you can try it out before heading to NYC.
You simply log on to the app and search for classes based on your desired time, location, and activity. Some of the classes and studios I’ve tried through ClassPass include:
- Indoor surfing
- Aerial yoga
- Kundalini yoga
- Barry’s Bootcamp
- Body by Simone
Nearly every studio in New York (excluding SoulCycle and a few others) offers classes on ClassPass. You can sign up for a varying level of packages, but they usually have deals for the first month. (I’ve put my membership on hold for a few months, but the last time I signed up, I got four classes a month for only $15 total.)
If you live in a city that offers Citi Bike, you can try this bike share service before heading to New York. The concept is simple: sign up for a membership (they offer day passes to annual passes), and download the app on your phone.
You use the app to pay and unlock bikes at docking stations all over the city. Return the bike at any docking station.
I like to use Citi Bike to get to tours, get home after hanging out with friends, and just to take a ride around the city. It’s a great way to exercise and to take a break from riding the subway every day.
Register for a Run
If you want to be truly healthy, you can turn your vacation (or a segment of it) into an excuse to train for a run. There are runs nearly every week in the city from spring through fall. They range in distance from 5Ks to 10Ks to half marathons to full marathons. Some of the most popular include:
Some races will take you on a course through all five boroughs and are a great way to see the city while sticking to your fitness goals.
Eat Healthy on Vacation in NYC
Making Healthy Food Choices in NYC isn’t easy. Luckily, New York is becoming a health-conscious city. We are even starting to rival Los Angeles in the sheer number of healthy restaurants. You can get some pretty awesome food that won’t force you to abandon your diet goals while on vacation.
You can also find plenty of healthy foods in New York outside of restaurants–if you know where to look.
Healthy Eating in NYC Restaurants
New York City requires some restaurants (mostly fast-food restaurants) to post calories on menus. If you’re stressed for time and end up at a Chipotle or Shake Shack, you won’t need to worry about how many calories are in your Shack Burger or burrito bowl.
You’ll also notice that most New York City restaurants dole out huge portions. Most meals could easily feed three people. If you’re traveling with a partner, try to split a meal. Most restaurants will allow you to share. If you’re traveling solo, ask the server to put half the portion in a to-go bag and give the leftovers to a homeless person.
You’ll feel good for eating less and helping someone who might not have eaten at all that day.
Types of Healthy Food in NYC
Luckily, there are plenty of delicious foods in New York City that don’t taste akin to chewing on a cardboard box. Some of my favorite food in the city also happen to be healthy, including:
- Chinese steamed dumplings (with veggies, shrimp, or chicken)
- Poke (you can find this Hawaiian treat all over the city)
- Salad Chains like Just Salad and Chop’t
Breakfast: the Most Important Meal of the Day
Start your morning the right way by making your first meal a healthy one. If you’re really excited to try a NYC diner or go out for brunch (a New York tradition), pick one day to splurge on breakfast. Otherwise, you can easily find some of these grab-and-go items at most Duane Reade drug stores and grocery stores:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Granola bars
NYC is also known for its plentiful juice bars and smoothie shops. Tons of bodegas are now joining the battle of the bulge by offering hand-pressed juices and smoothies.
Finding Snacks in NYC: When Hunger Strikes
The last thing you want to happen on your NYC health food kick is to scarf down three hot dogs from a cart because you felt a low blood sugar moment coming on. There’s plenty of healthy snacks to be found all over the city! There’s a Duane Reade on nearly every corner of the city. Some of my favorite snacks at Duane Reade include:
- Single-serving packages of nuts
- Chopped fruit and veggies
- Single-serving cheese sticks
If you want to know about where to find snacks in a jiffy in New York City, ready Snacks, Free Water, and Food, NYC Tourist Traps Don’t Want You to Know About.
Health Food Restaurants in NYC
As more and more health-conscious residents settle in New York, more and more health food restaurants have been popping up. Some of the best health food restaurants in NYC include:
- by CHLOE. – a vegetarian chain that makes air “fried” french fries, mac and cheese with nut-based “cream” sauces, and plant-based burgers.
- sweetgreen – a salad counter similar to Just Salad that serves carefully curated bowls and locally sourced ingredients. (Careful, lines can get long here. You can order online and pick up at a set time. Find out how to avoid lines in general in 10 Ways to Avoid Long Lines in NYC.)
- Hu Kitchen – if you’re following a Paleo lifestyle (as I did for a few months), this Union Square spot has plenty of options our cave-dwelling ancestors would have approved of.
- The Good Sort – get your fix of healthy juices and smoothies that are both tasty and Instagram worthy.
- Ancolie – need a salad but don’t have time to sit? Wander Greenwich Village with a salad in a jar that’s both inexpensive and portable.
- Senza Gluten – if you’re gluten-free in NYC (or just want to gorge yourself on pasta without feeling weighed down), head to this gluten-free Italian eatery.
Luckily, eating healthy doesn’t need to feel like a chore in NYC. There are plenty of options to keep you full and satisfied throughout your stay. Some health food restaurants in NYC offer food that is just as delicious as their calorie-laden counterparts.
What are some of your favorite spots for healthy eats in NYC? Share them in the comments below!
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