Whether you're a healthy eater by nature or you've just gotten yourself a vicious case of po-boy-itis, you may find yourself seeking out a healthy restaurant while you're vacationing in New Orleans' French Quarter. Despite the city's well-deserved deep-fried reputation, it is actually possible to find lean grilled meats, heart-healthy whole grains, and loads of green veggies, all of which are heavy on the flavor but light on the bad fats.
Note that at nearly any of the Quarter's fine-dining establishments, such as Chef Susan Spicer's Bayona, Chef Emeril Lagasse's NOLA, or the wonderful GW Fins seafood restaurant, you'll find healthy options on the menus: salads, grilled fish, vegetarian entrees, and so on. Don't be afraid to ask for something to be grilled instead of pan-seared, for example, or to skip the potatoes in favor of double veggies. Better restaurants will be happy to accommodate your dietary needs.
If you're vacationing on a budget, though, or just not interested in something quite so fancy-schmancy for every meal, there are a few noteworthy local restaurants serving up delicious, good-for-you meals in casual settings. You just have to know where to find them. Here are the best of the bunch.
Meals From the Heart Cafe
Tucked away among the vendors in the French Market (a nice source for fresh produce, as well as souvenirs and New Orleans ephemera), Meals From the Heart takes seriously the notion that healthy food can (and should) be delicious. Gluten-free, red-meat-free, vegetarian, vegan, and raw food eaters are all accommodated here, as are folks who are just looking for something more generally diet-friendly.
Breakfast offerings include delicious whole-wheat blueberry pancakes, egg white, and whole-egg veggie omelets. Lunch and early dinner options include gluten-free po-boys, flavorful black bean or turkey burgers on whole wheat buns, rich gumbo made with okra and turkey sausage, and a wide variety of salads.
1100 N Peters St., Bay #13
The name of this local favorite should be a tip-off that there's healthy food to be found inside. The mouth-watering gourmet menu is internationally inspired, and though every single item isn't necessarily low-fat or low-calorie, you'll find vegetables a-plenty, creatively prepared whole grains, organic ingredients, and options for all sorts of diets.
For lunch, try a tofu banh mi, made with pan-fried organic local tofu and a plethora of veggies, and brimming with Vietnamese flavors. Or maybe you'd prefer a caramelized heirloom tomato salad topped with fresh lump crab meat. For dinner, try the bibimbap, made with Louisiana-grown purple heirloom rice, a variety of veggies, a poached egg, shrimp, and pork belly (substitute tofu if you prefer). If you're a low-carber or grain-avoider, try the house charcuterie selection and one of the many toothsome salads on the menu.
307 Exchange Pl.
Foodies will enjoy making the connections between traditional Senegambian cuisine and New Orleans Creole cuisine while digging into the food at this West African restaurant. Even if you're not into food anthropology, you'll enjoy the friendly service and delicious, healthy dishes here.
If you're craving veggies, get your fill with a heaping order of jama-jama (sauteed spinach) or mandowa (steamed broccoli) alongside nyeo (steamed tilapia), cope ni makondo (marinated grilled chicken breast), baked lamb in an apricot sauce, or a variety of soups, stews, and curries. Most everything is served with either rice or fufu (mashed cassava or yams), and portions are generous. The menu is vegan and vegetarian-friendly, and low-carbers and even Paleo dieters can assemble meals a la carte without trouble, as well.
1212 Royal St.
Felipe's is a good choice if you've got some people in your group who want to eat something healthy and some people who will just die if they don't get their daily injection of queso. The menu isn't extensive, but the ingredients are fresh and well-prepared and prices are low.
The fish tacos are a major highlight of the menu (they come on soft corn tortillas, but you can always just eat the fresh veggies and fish out of the middle if you're trying to avoid corn). There's also a taco salad available, which comes with your choice of several grilled meats, shrimp, or fish.
301 N. Peters St.
Attiki Bar and Grill
The Mediterranean Diet is popular among health food fans for a reason: it's great for you, the healthy fats included in the diet are more satiating than a standard low-fat diet, and the food tastes good! There are a few good Mediterranean restaurants around the city, and this French Quarter gem is one of the best. Note that it's also a hookah bar, and though it doesn't tend to be super-smoky, if you're sensitive, you can get your food to go.
You'll find most of your favorite Greek and Lebanese dishes on the menu here, including baba ganoush, tabbouleh, hummus, shawarma, and gyros. You'll also discover a nice selection of healthy entrees, including a flavorful grilled salmon filet served on a bed of greens alongside grilled fresh veggies.
230 Decatur St.