I by no means live at the airport (and thank goodness), 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 your entire paycheck on it, but let’s keep the focus on the positive.
There’s no special trick to eating well while traveling, though without a doubt it’s a bigger challenge. My best advice is to pack your own snacks. It’s cheaper (yay) but more effortful (boo). Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it’s well worth the trouble. Understandably, there will be times you can’t plan ahead, especially if you’re a DIY newbie. If that’s you, it’s 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. Most airports nowadays at least clue you into what’s available in each terminal.
Whether you DIY or grab and go, here are some solid options:
- A sandwich is perfect morning, noon and night. It’s also portable and customizable. Try 1 Tbsp raw almond butter, 1 tsp agave nectar + half of a sliced banana on 2 slices Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain bread.
- Pack ¼ cup nuts and a piece of fruit like an apple or a banana (or sub 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 mixing 10 almonds, 10 cashews, 25 pistachios, I Tbsp dried cranberries, 1 Tbsp sunflower seeds, (Optional 1 Tbsp dark chocolate chips)
- Pick up a Kind Bar (preferably from the line of 5g of sugar or less) and a tall non-fat or low fat latte
- Pack a plain greek yogurt and mix in 1 cup high protein and fiber cereal such as Kashi GoLean
- Grab a pre-made crudité and a hard boiled egg or a single serving bag of popcorn like Skinny Pop and Boom Chicka Pop.
- Oatmeal. 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.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here’s how to navigate some of the tricky menus you’ll come up against. Many of these restaurants also post nutrition information on their websites. This is a gift. Use it! And keep the following tips in mind:
- 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.
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 in 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.
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 some 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. Pair that with a side salad and piece of fruit and you’ve got a meal.
Any item from the Evolution Fresh Greek Yogurt Parfait line gets a green light. The Protein Bistro Box is another excellent option. For under 400 calories, you’ll feel satisfied, keep your energy up, and avoid temptation. The Reduced Fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich, Spinach and Feta Breakfast Wrap and 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 guac (skip the cheese and sour cream)