I by no means live at the airport, but I’ve travelled enough recently to notice that airports in general are seriously upping their game in the healthy food arena. Yes, you might spend an entire paycheck on it, but let’s celebrate the little wins!
Healthy eating tips are no different when traveling, though admittedly, it can prove to be more challenging. What’s the best advice? Pack your own snacks (it’s cheaper too!) But if you can’t, and it happens, it’s also smart to do your homework – check online to see what’s available at your airport/terminal and check the menus ahead of time when you can.
- Aim for protein, a little healthy fat (e.g. nut butters, nuts, avocado), vegetables and fruit
- Steer clear of fried or creamy options as well as baked goods like muffins and pastries.
- Sandwiches, salads and broth based soups will most likely be your healthiest bet.
- When going the sandwich route, skip the wrap and opt for whole wheat or rye bread when possible. Trust me; the wrap is NOT the better choice.
- Skip the chips and fries and opt for fruit on the side.
Whether you DIY or Grab and Go, check out the below tips:
- A sandwich is perfect morning, noon and night. It’s also portable and customizable.
My go to 1 Tbsp. raw almond butter, 1 tsp. agave nectar + half of a sliced banana on 2 slices Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain bread.
- ¼ cup nuts + a piece of fruit like an apple or a banana (or substitute an individual size nut butter packet like Artisana or Justins for the nuts).
- Buying pre-made trail mix at the airport can be deadly, and a bag can run close to 800 calories. If you have the time, make your own:
Try 10 almonds, 10 cashews, 25 pistachios, 1 Tbsp. dried cranberries, 1 Tbsp. pepitas, (Optional 1 Tbsp. dark chocolate chips)
- Kind Bar (preferably from the line of 5g of sugar or less) and a small non-fat or low fat latte
- Greek yogurt mixed with 1 cup of a high protein and fiber cereal such as Kashi GoLean.
- Grab a pre-made crudité and a hardboiled egg or a single serving bag of popcorn like Skinny Pop and Boom Chicka Pop.
- Starbucks, Jamba Juice and Au Bon Pain (plus many others) offer this healthy option. Add some dried fruit (or slice up a banana) and throw in some nuts for additional fiber and fat (both help you feel full longer).
- Cocomama Ready to Eat Quinoa cereal. If you can find them, they’re vegan, gluten and dairy free, and can be eaten straight out of the pouch. Higher in fat, but with adequate protein to keep you satiated, the ingredients are all natural and an excellent oatmeal alternative.
- Cibo Express Market. While you won’t find these gems in every airport, typically they have excellent choices. If you have the chance to visit the one at Terminal 5 at JFK in NYC you’ve hit the healthy jackpot. But in general, you can always find an array of pre-made sandwiches and salads, veggie and fruit plates, (healthier) bars and individual portion sized nuts, popcorn and fruit. When I travel from NYC, this is a little piece of heaven on Earth.
In addition to the tips above for DIY and grab and go, here are some other healthy at-the-airport options:
Au Bon Pain
- If you need a bagel fix, opt for the 2 Egg Sandwich, Egg White and Cheddar, or Egg white, cheddar and Avocado on a Skinny Wheat Bagel for a serious dose of satisfying protein
- Grabbing a salad to go? Opt for the Vegetarian Deluxe, Southwest Chicken, or the Farmstand Steak Salad with a Lite (NOT fat free dressing)
- An 8 or 12 oz broth based soup is always a good choice paired with a side salad and piece of fruit.
- Any item from the Evolution Fresh Greek Yogurt Parfait line
- Protein Bistro Box. For under 400 calories, with this protein powerhouse you’ll feel satisfied, keep your energy up, and avoid temptation
- The Reduced Fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich, Spinach and Feta Breakfast Wrap and the salad bowls are also solid protein rich options.
- Skip the bagel and opt for any of the Egg and Cheese sandwiches from the DDSmart™ Line like the Egg White Veggie Flatbread or the Egg and Cheese on an English Muffin.
California Pizza Kitchen
- Sorry CPK, but you’re a calorie bomb. If you’re here, with no better option in sight, opt for a half portion of the Roasted Veggie or Quinoa + Arugula salads (dressing on the side please), or one of the 7 inch Lunch Size Pizzas.
- Build your own burrito bowl with any of the protein options – choose black beans OR rice and top with extra veggies, salsa and guacamole (skip the cheese and sour cream).
Dana Pitman is a Registered Dietitian and a New York State Certified-Dietitian Nutritionist at Hospital for Special Surgery. Dana earned her BA in psychology from Muhlenberg College, and her MS in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Dana is active in a number of HSS Employee Wellness initiatives, serves as a Health Coach to employees, participates in the Community Education Program and provides individual counseling. She frequently presents on a range of nutrition related topics and is a regular contributor to social media for the hospital as well as outside websites and publications.