Whether it’s salads or cocktails, everyone loves to chow down and relax after a hard workout. My fellow gym rats and I are always on the lookout for healthy restaurants because really, who has the energy to cook after a two-hour spin class?
While it's quick and easy to head to Whole Foods Market or Snap Kitchen for some healthy, ready-to-eat food to take home, there are other options to hit up for a great post-gym meal. (But do the other diners a favor and shower up first.)
After burning hundreds of calories, you need to rebuild your muscle and increase your energy level quickly. Located downstairs from the 24-Hour Fitness Midtown, Sushi Raku has the perfect solution. It has great happy hour specials until 6:30 ('till 10 p.m. on Sunday and Monday) like rolls and sake starting at $4. Sashimi is low in saturated fat and high in protein; just make sure to stay away from unhealthy choices like the Kobe sliders.
Pick the vege trio (skewers of grilled shiitake, eringi mushroom and okra) or the grilled chicken yakitori and keep to healthy sides like steamed edamame. For a drink stick to light beer and sake rather than the sugar-loaded cocktails.
If you're in the mood for a skinny margarita, head to Yelapa Playa Mexicana. Indulge with their appropriately named Bad-Ass Margarita or whatever is your fave — all the margaritas on the menu contain fresh fruit juice, not mix, and are sweetened with agave so they contain no refined sugar. Pair with chef Brandon Fisch's local gulf fish, including their ceviche, offered raw or grilled.
Finish your workout before 7 p.m. on weekdays to take advantage of $2 tacos and $6 rock shrimp.
To add some veggies to your protein, check out Cyclone Anaya's and Xuco Xicana — both offer an array of salads topped with grilled chicken or salmon. Fish tacos are also a great balance of protein and carbohydrates. Or try Bocados’ sizzling platter of grilled portobello mushroom fajitas as a great healthy option — instead of being tempted by their delicious (but carb-filled) tortillas, pick black beans and brown rice for your starch.
I always wish that Houston had restaurants like Palo Alto's Calafia Cafe, which stakes a claim to healthy, local entrees that have come to define the lighter side of modern American cuisine. The closest thing in Houston is Ruggles Green. Its inventive salads and healthy burgers are are packed with complex carbohydrates and are high in protein, both important components in a post workout meal.
Barnaby’s also serves food in a similar vein. Its turkey breast sandwich with cranberry mayonnaise and its signature Petaluma salad cannot be beat.
Vietnamese food, too, is inherently healthy and flavorful for a post-workout meal. The new Mai’s lotus root salad (Goi Ngo Sen Tom Thit) is refreshing and filling. Huynh Restaurant’s in-house rice paper takes spring rolls to the next level and their duck salad (Goi Vit) is served with a mouth-watering ginger dipping sauce. Best of all, this delicious cuisine comes easy on the wallet.
If you’re on a diet, consider the latest diet fad — Mediterranean cuisine, which has a reputation as the world's healthiest. Although Arpi's Phoenicia Deli & Coffee House is quite a trek for inner Loopers, the hummus is the best in town and worth the drive!
A closer alternative is La Fendee Grill. Start with the vegetarian appetizer sampler (hummus, baba ghannouj, tabbouleh, Greek salad, stuffed grape leaves, and falafel), continue with the chicken kabobs, and end the night with a sweet, flavored hookah. A big plus: BYO wine. Not only does this save you money, Women’s Health magazine recently wrote that alcohol may increase leptin, the hormone that curbs your appetite. So that glass of wine might steer you away from those morsels of honey-drenched baklava trying their best to tempt you.
But if the wine doesn’t quite do the trick and you're still hankering for something sweet, make a bee line to one of the many tart frozen yogurt places around town. My favorite is Berripop, where you can satisfy that sweet tooth with a small cup of plain yogurt (125 calories) topped with fresh fruit or a drizzle of honey. No Reese’s pieces or chocolate syrup to cancel out your workout effort!
If you’re all wound up from that aggression you’ve built from your kickboxing or weight training class, head to sports bars like Canyon Creek or Yard House. Fix your gaze on the numerous flat screen TVs blasting sports action while you munch on healthy fare such as the charcoal grilled turkey burger at Canyon Creek or the ahi tuna over greens at Yard House. Wash it all down with some light beer on tap.
Wherever you decide to go, remember that you can reward yourself without overdoing it.