travel spotlight: NYC

Central Park Cycles And Vegan Donuts: A Wellness Guide To New York City

Where to eat and what to do in the city that never sleeps.

Ah, New York: So much to do, see, and eat. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of your choices (the pizza! the bagels!) but if you’re more on the health-conscious side, battling an autoimmune disorder, or just trying not to overindulge, don’t worry. New York makes it easy to stay on track while letting you feel like you’re cheating. Here, a list of restaurants and activities that will help you stay on track. Enjoy!

TO EAT…

For breakfast or brunch:

  • Butcher’s Daughter (gf, v): Juices, smoothies, and plant-focused brunch dishes.
  • Two Hands Café (gf, v): Adorable Australian café serving up the best açai bowls and Avo Toast you’ve ever had. Also: If you’re a dairy eater, try their whipped ricotta and berries on gluten-free banana bread!
  • MIMO (gf, v, p): Build-your-own smoothie bar! We’re talking ALL the superfoods!
  • Pressed Juicery (gf, v, p): Best grab-and-go juice spot in town.
  • Monika’s Café Bar (gf options): Vibe-y Mediterranean dig in Queens with a super customizable menu. Happy to make adjustments to any menu item to fit your needs. Delicious brunch menu.
  • Dudley’s (gf + v options): Another adorable Australian dive with patio seating, to die-for brunch, and lots of delicious and unique salads.
  • Dimes (gf, v options): Açai and chia pudding bowls. Gourmet toasts. Macro bowls. Need I go on? Often crowded, but worth the wait in line!

For lunch on-the-go:

  • Europa Café, Sweetgreen, Pret-A-Manger: All one-stop shops for customizable salads, sandwiches, pasta, etc., all with gluten-free and vegan options.
  • Sushi Bento (gf, v options): If you’re a sushi lover like I am, this is your place. They put out fresh bento boxes on their shelves every three hours and everything is specified, gf, df, v, etc. Or you can customize your own rolls, bowls or bento boxes at the counter. They even have little packets of GF soy sauce.
  • Whole Foods: Because no matter where you go, Whole Foods is always amazing, and there is a location right next to Central Park. (Picnic, anyone?)

When you want a burger:

  • ByChloe (v, gf options): This completely vegan burger joint offers a variety of plant-based burgers, salad bowls, fries and more! Options for gluten-free buns available. SO DELICIOUS.

For butter coffee:

  • Greecology (Paleo): Grass-fed greek yogurt and butter coffee. Breakfast = Solved.
  • Springbone (Paleo): A completely Paleo café located on the outskirts of Little Italy, this is your go-to for gourmet bone broth and light Paleo bites.

When you’re craving carbs:

  • Wild (gf, df, v options): The ambiance and friendly staff alone is reason enough to come here. But if you need more convincing, everything here is gluten-free and all pizza crusts are vegan, too. We’re talking pizza, pasta, the works. Eat your heart out.
  • Ruby’s Café (gf, v options): The best gluten-free pasta I had in New York, hands down. Serving all kinds of salads, sandwiches, pastas, etc., and everything can be made gluten-free.
  • Tompkins Square Bagels (gf options): Because you need to have a bagel at least once in NYC.
  • PizzArte (gf, v options): An upscale hole-in-the-wall pizza place and bar, great for a late-night pizza run and located right smack in the middle of Manhattan. They’re extra attentive to those with allergies and intolerances, and have specific pizza stones just for us gluten-free folks. Also, the most authentic NY style pizza of the list, in my opinion.
  • 00 + Co (v, gf options): Completely vegan pizzeria with the best nut-based cheese in town. Super plant-focused, also offering artisanally crafted small plates.

For sweets you don’t have to feel guilty about:

  • Erin McKena’s Bakery (gf + v): A devoted gluten-free AND vegan bakery in Brooklyn. That’s right. Donuts, bagels, scones, cupcakes… is your mouth watering yet?
  • Van Leeuwan’s (gf + df options): I am a self-proclaimed ice cream addict. Van Leeuwan’s has multiple locations around New York, and has lots of vegan options to choose from. The creamiest, most luxurious vegan ice cream I’ve ever eaten. And trust me… I’ve had my fill.
  • Monika’s Café Bar (gf + v options): Two words: Carrot. Cake. Gluten-free and vegan. Out of this world!
  • Wild: After you’ve loaded up on pizza and pasta, they bring out a dessert platter for you to feast your eyes on and take your pick from. Everything from red velvet cake, cheesecake and mousse pies, and everything is gluten-free. Most of it is vegan, as well.

BONUS TIP: Friday Night Dinners at Natural Gourmet Institute: For just $45, you can enjoy a 4-course intimate dining experience (BYOB, too!) prepared by recent graduates of New York’s whole-food, veggie-focused culinary school, the Natural Gourmet Institute. What does this mean for you? While your meal will still be decadent and indulgent, you won’t have to worry about the presence of gluten, dairy, chemicals or animal products in your food, and everything is organically grown and locally sourced. Talk about a win-win!

…AND TO SWEAT.

  • Free fitness in the parks: one of the best ways to utilize the city’s parks, is to sweat in them! The park websites (Bryant Park, Central Park, etc.) list all of their upcoming free yoga and fitness classes, which are usually hosted by the city’s most prestigious studios and instructors.
  • Best affordable yoga/fitness studios: When you want a fitness studio experience, my favorite affordable classes include:
    • Yoga: Y7
    • Barre: Pure Barre
    • Bootcamp/Strength and Conditioning: WRKNYC, Tone House
    • Spin: SoulCycle
    • Also keep an eye out for classes and workshops held at Hub17, the community workspace below the Flatiron location of Lululemon.
  • Run/bike around Central Park: Central Park is one of New York’s greatest gems (and gyms). With a 6-mile perimeter, it’s a beautiful canvas for a workout, whether it’s a run, bike ride (rent a bike using Groupon!), a walk or a plyo workout using the park benches. Afterwards, collapse in the grass with a good book, or hop over to Whole Foods to refuel the right way! Pro tip: If you end up renting a bike, I highly recommend only using it in Central Park, which is a highly controlled environment.
  • Walk everywhere! There is so much to do, and so much to see, in New York City. Save some money, skip the cabs and walk everywhere. You’ll see more of the city, tone those calf muscles, and avoid that post-meal lethargy from all the gluten-free pizza, pasta, and bagels.

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