Q&A: How to Eat Healthy at the Airport

How to Eat Healthy at the AirportHave you ever been stuck on a plane? Or in an airport? Me too.

That is why I am loving today’s question:

Q. I frequently travel for work. I find it especially hard to find good food to eat at the airport. What foods can I bring with me to make it easier? 

Also, are there any healthy options at the airport I should look for? Any suggestions?


How to Eat Healthy at the Airport

A. Thanks for the great question! I gave some thought to what works for me and I also asked a pilot friend who likes to eat healthy to weigh in.

I vividly remember sitting on the tarmac in Montreal during an ice storm for what felt like hours as our plane got de-iced not once, not twice, but five times. That wait resulted in a missed connection at Heathrow and a 38-hour stretch without any sleep. Some snacks would have been good. Just saying.

And then there’s the layovers. I did a 13 hour overnight layover in JFK’s Terminal 5. You can only ride the little train so many times. And the benches are cleverly engineered with steel armrests to prevent stretching out and sleeping. Every other passenger is cranky, hungry and tired. Some snacks would have been good then too.

I like to think that I’ve become wiser since those experiences and am better able to feed myself while travelling. You can too. With a little organization, you can bring great snacks with you. Or, with some creativity, you can navigate the airport offerings and pick the healthiest stuff available.

Here are great options to pack ahead and bring with you:

  • Refillable water bottle to refill after security.
  • Quinoa salad with chopped veggies
  • Whole fruits with the skin on (ie. bananas, oranges, apples- leave them whole to go through security)
  • Lara bars (My personal favourites are apple and lemon)
  • Small, sealed bags of trail mix, nuts, pumpkin seeds, or dried fruits
  • Dark chocolate bar for a sweet craving
  • Pre-made oatmeal containers– The cafe barista or airline attendant can give you hot water- they have it ready for tea.

Healthy picks from Airport Shops and Cafes:

If you find yourself hungry and without snacks in an airport, take heart. There is no need to order a slice of pizza or get a hot cinnamon bun. You can do better. Here’s some ideas:

  • Get a large water bottle– you’ll have to ditch it at security, so hydrate well before then.
  • Many airport cafes offer fresh fruit such as bananas and apples. Overpriced? Yes. But still a great source of energy.
  • Energy bars and bags of trail mix, dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
  • Smoothies– Amidst the offerings of pop and sugary juices, there are often pre-packaged smoothies made with veggies and fruit. If you want juice, stick with orange or apple juice to avoid the sugar overload of lemonade, iced tea or fruit cocktails.
  • Yogurt– Look for small bowls of yogurt in the refrigerated section of cafes. Sometimes they offer a bowl of yogurt, granola and berries.
  • Pre-packaged salad. Be careful about bringing this on to the plane with you- the salad dressing will be confiscated.
  • Bar of dark chocolate

When I asked a pilot about his suggestions for eating healthy at the airport, he pointed out that each airport has its own strengths. You can easily research your eating options before you get to the airport.

He also recommended looking for sushi bars and juice bars, which are becoming ever more popular at airports. If you’re in an airport restaurant, he recommended ordering a salad and adding protein- such as grilled chicken or fish. Lastly, in a pinch, he recommended checking out the airport book store or gift shop for protein bars.

Need more inspiration? Check out these awesome links:

http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/food-and-beverages

http://consumerist.com/2007/12/28/a-big-list-of-foods-that-you-can-bring-through-airport-security/

http://showiteer.com/lifestyle/travel/9-easy-snacks-to-take-through-airport-security-without-getting-arrested/

http://www.independenttraveler.com/travel-tips/safety-and-health/healthiest-airport-food-and-airport-food-to-avoid

http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/2013/05/30/healthy-airport-snacks/2369003/

http://www.feedyourawesomemachine.com/the-very-best-healthy-travel-snacks/

Do you have any other suggestions to add? I’d love to hear them!

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