Healthy Airport Eating

7004114708_ce53ab431d_oBy: Nikki Nies

Long story short, I was at the Chicago O’Hare airport for longer than expected and I had to buy something to eat while I waited for my flight.  As I walked through the terminals, I tried to find something reasonably priced as well as evident of a health conscious menu.  I passed Auntie Anne’s, a sushi bar, Subway, etc. Nothing really met my needs, but I had to eat something, so I ended up getting an Italian Club sandwich.

I was shocked that there were limited healthy options in the airport as there’s been a new “wave” of healthy eating.  I was disappointed that I had to “settle” for a sandwich when I know the airport has the resources and means to provide its consumers healthier, tastier options.  My dilemma made me interested in if ANY airport provides nutritious and healthier options.

There’s hope, Denver International Airport has been ranked as 2013’s healthiest airport.  1383918838000-Untitled-1More than 86% of restaurants offer one or more healthy, plant-based entrées, from veggie wraps and garden burgers to fresh salads and fruit bowls.

Like many, you may have the mentality of being on “vacation” and that you’ve got a pass to indulge in airport foods, but traveling’s food intake should be paid equal attention to other events.  Traveling causes an increased risk of dehydration, constipation, circulatory problems and added stress.

Where might you have a struggle grabbing a healthier meal?  Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport came in last with a score of 68%.  No worries, here’s some useful tips to keep in mind, no matter where you’re headed.

Tips for healthier airport meal options:

  • Limit high sodium and fat food meals–which can increase risk of dehydration and slow blood flow
  • Choose fiber rich fruits and vegetables, that are high in antioxidants
  • Opt for “rainbow” filled food plates
  • Prior to heading to airport, research on airport’s website for the best place to grab a healthy meal at the airport
  • Bring snacks with you (i.e. apples, pb&j sandwiches, carrots, dried fruit, cheese sticks, etc).
  • Opt for unsalted or low sodium choices
  • Before picking the first restaurant you see at the airport, take a lap around the terminal and check out what’s offered.  Who knows, you may find a favorite new dish.
  • Limit caffeine intake as it can lead to dehydration
  • Stay hydrated by purchasing water
  • Avoid rich, greasy, fried foods as it can trigger acid reflux, GERD or an upset stomach on the plane ride

I’m surprised Chicago O’Hare was ranked #2 of healthiest, perhaps, I wasn’t in the “healthy” terminal, but maybe next time I’m flying I’ll be able to explore the airports many options.  Airport options have come a long way.  Since 2001, Denver’s airport’s score improved 25 points (from 61 to 86% in 2013). I’m glad to know now what other airports are offering and to remind myself how to navigate among the many options in airports.

Photo Credit: Flickr 


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