How to Eat Healthy Food at the Airport
Travel has a heap of mental health benefits–but it’s also liable to throw a wrench in your usual wellness habits. “You’re out of your usual routine, and you’re often totally on your own without a game plan, says Torey Armul, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It can be hard to find healthy food in the airport, and when candy and fast food are so close and convenient, it takes a little extra effort to maintain healthy habits.”
But given all the other ways travel can hurt your health, it’s more important than ever to seek out smart choices when you’re en route. “Traveling can be exhausting, so that’s when you really need that energy and you want to feel good,” says Armul. “But if you’re eating the wrong stuff, you can wind up sluggish, tired, and bloated.”
The ideal snack or meal has a combo of both protein and fiber, says Armul, which both digest slowly and will keep you full and energized from check-in to baggage claim. Toss a piece of fruit, some nuts, or a low-sugar granola bar in your bag so you have a healthy fallback plan, and scope out the airport options before you fly—planning ahead will help you stay the course instead of stopping at the first Mickey D’s you see.
We combed the menus at key airports to find the foods that'll give you energy and help your health mid-layover without packing a resolution-killing calorie wallop. Don't let a few hours on the road destroy your diet: Read on, then fuel up accordingly.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
The Place: Napa Farms Market
The Dish: Tuna Nicoise Salad
The Details: For the sweet spot between filling and flavorful, opt for this composed Nicoise Salad--a mix of tuna, green beans, olives, potatoes, and egg. It sounds hearty, but those ingredients are packed with nutrients, too: Just 3 ounces of tuna contains all your recommended B12 for boosting brain function and building blood cells, while the choline in eggs has been linked to improved memory and better liver function.
Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
The Place: Burrito Beach
The Dish: Veggie and Egg Breakfast Burrito
The Details: Skip the greasy, cheesy fast-food breakfast staples and instead make a pit stop for this dish, which is high on nutrients and super filling without getting into gut-busting territory. Zucchini and peppers add bulk without hiking the calorie count, and both are great sources of carotenoids, pigment compounds that have been associated with better vision and a lower risk of certain cancers. Looking to go extra-lean? Order it with egg whites to keep the calories low without sacrificing healthy proteins.
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
The Place: Berkshire Farms Market
The Dish: Hummus Platter
The Details: Skip the chips--the grab-and-go hummus platter is both smarter and more satisfying. And according to a study from Louisiana State University, this snack could help whittle your waistline: Hummus-eaters have a waist circumference that's 2 inches smaller than their chickpea-avoidant counterparts, and they're 51 percent less likely to have high blood sugar.
Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
The Place: Sora Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar
The Dish: Chirashi Bowl with Miso Soup
The Details: When in doubt, go for a fish dish: Seafood is generally lean and lower in calories than other animal proteins, so it's a solid choice when you don't want your stomach to start rumbling somewhere over Nebraska. This bowl is piled with salmon, tuna, octopus, and crab. And beneath all that seafood is a generous serving of potassium-rich seaweed salad, which helps keep your blood pressure in check.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
The Place: Genghis Grill
The Dish: Buddha Bowl
The Details: The bran and hull that make brown rice brown are the same parts that make it extra-healthful: Because it's not processed as much as white rice, it takes your body longer to digest, so you can stave off hunger and stop glucose spikes. And since the soy in tofu is low-calorie and high-protein, you'll be less inclined to overdo it on the in-flight snack box.
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
The Place: La Tapenade Mediterranean Café
The Dish: Frittata
The Details: Breakfast pickings in most airports are slim, unless you’re a fan of powdered eggs and plasticky slices of American cheese. Enter La Tapenade’s frittata, which is packed with spinach and artichokes and comes with a side of grapes. Just one egg has over six grams of protein, which is over ten percent of your daily protein quota. Spinach, meanwhile, is both low in calories (just 27 per cup) and high in fiber, plus it’s a great source of magnesium and iron and contains more potassium per cup than a banana. And it’s one of the best veggies for staving off hunger pangs: Thylakoids, the parts of spinach cells that contain chlorophyll, trigger the release of the hormones that send satiety signals to your brain, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
The Place: Ben's Chili Bowl
The Dish: Ben's Salad Bowl
The Details: Whether you order the Con Carne or the Veggie Chili, this chili-salad combo is the way to go. Mixed greens give you a hefty dose of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, while the chili will keep you full enough to curb snacking down the line. And don't be shy with the hot sauce. The capsaicin that gives chiles their heat temporarily spikes your metabolism, boosting fat burning for several hours after you've eaten.
LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
The Place: Cibo Express Gourmet Food Hall
The Details: We couldn’t pick just one item here, because the whole place is a healthy traveler’s dream. Snag your favorite fruit in their well-stocked produce section (they’ve got everything from dragonfruit to pomegranates), choose your favorite veggies at the salad bar, or stock up on protein-rich snacks to see you through your ride, like vegan jerky, bite-sized wheels of brie, and chia-and-flax mini packs for topping Greek yogurt.
Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI)
The Place: Silver Diner
The Dish: Grilled Salmon with Quinoa
The Details: Salmon is a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, while quinoa is a slow-burning complex carb that’ll give you energy without the crash. And at 583 calories and 38 grams of protein per serving, this dish will keep you satiated for hours without destroying your diet.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
The Place: Real Food Daily
The Dish: Basic Bowl
The Details: It’s hard to go wrong with this build-your-own bowl, which allows you to mix and match greens, beans, grains, and vegan-friendly proteins. To stay full without taking a major calorie hit, try protein- and mineral-rich sea vegetables with tofu and brown rice, or pair black beans with sauteed vegetables and quinoa.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
The Place: Vino Volo
The Dish: Blueberry Kale Salad and a glass of red wine
The Details: At only 33 calories, just one cup of kale has 2.5 grams of filling fiber and 9 percent of your daily required calcium and potassium. The antioxidants found in blueberries fight age-related free radical damage, and the berries themselves are rich in fiber and vitamin C. And while it feels like an indulgence, go ahead and reach for the red: Thanks to the healthy polyphenols in grape skins, moderate red wine intake has been linked to a lower risk of vascular diseases, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
The Place: French Meadow Bakery
The Dish: Beet and Pear Salad with Walnuts
The Details: Nitrate-rich beets can lower your blood pressure in as little as two hours--a serious boon before a lengthy flight when your DVT risk is heightened. And previous research has linked pear consumption to better vascular health: Eating 171 grams of white fruit or vegetables daily--about one medium-sized pear--can reduce your stroke risk by 52 percent, Dutch research reports. Plus, walnuts are high in protein and healthy fats, and recent research has shown regular walnut consumption can improve the function of your blood vessels and reduce LDL cholesterol.