If you’re usually over conscious about your health or try to keep your weight gain in check, here’s something that you already know: the menus at most airports will not precisely make it easy for you, no matter the time of year you’re flying! As you walk to your gate to catch your flight, chances are you’re walking by restaurants that serve high-fat, salty, sweet processed food. And while many people want to eat nutritious food when they travel, few travelers can drum up much enthusiasm for a pre-packaged, wilted salad. Thankfully, airports are doing more to offer healthier food that goes beyond a plastic bowl of iceberg lettuce. Here are a few helpful tips for getting healthier airport food without sacrificing taste.

Do Your Research

Not all airport snacks are created equal; before you head to the airport, check out their official website. Odds are they have a handy directory that includes all the places you can visit, shop, and eat. If you know where your gate is, figure out the nearby places to chow down that offer healthier options than a candy bar. While all your indulgent favorites will still be available, try to explore options that provide you with protein and fiber. This will help you fill up faster on food that’s actually good for you — and knowing where to eat can be half the battle of healthy airport eating!

Pack a Mini-Picnic

It’s true that TSA won’t let you bring liquids and gels through security, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring along some delicious and nutritious snacks to keep you going as you travel. Among the healthy and satisfying snacks you can bring along to the airport there are fruit (fresh or dried, although watch the sugar content in dried fruit), nuts, unbuttered popcorn, peanut butter and crackers, protein bars, and even dried meats and cheeses. Make sure to include a healthy serving of protein in your airport picnic: protein helps you feel full longer while complex carbohydrates stabilize blood sugar. As if that isn’t incentive enough to go for a healthier eating option at the airport, just think of all the money you’ll save by skipping out on those overpriced snacks!

Avoid Fried Foods

There’s a reason people can’t help themselves around fried, greasy food: it’s oftentimes delicious. And while people logically know that smart meals don’t involve deep-fried Twinkies or greasy slices of pepperoni pizza, it’s hard to resist temptation when you’ve been stuck in an airport for hours on end — which is why it’s best to be prepared to steer clear of those deeply unhealthy options. If you know there are some foods you just can’t say no to, steer clear of those spots entirely. Instead, opt for foods that aren’t fried but can still satisfy your hunger. And if you’re feeling tempted, keep in mind that fried, greasy foods can lead to upset stomachs, heartburn, and discomfort — not exactly what you want to be dealing with on a turbulent, 8-hour flight.

Power Up with H2O

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: hydration is key to staying healthy and feeling your best, especially when you’re traveling. Drinking lots of water will help you feel full longer, and can keep you energized and alert on those long flights. Bring an empty reusable bottle from home and refill it at water fountains frequently. And remember, beverages like coffee, smoothies, and sugary sodas do not count as an alternative. These drinks can actually end up dehydrating you, and if they have a lot of sugar in them you could end up feeling sluggish and battling an unwanted headache. If you need some caffeine before your flight, stick to coffee and tea and avoid those chemical-laden energy drinks.

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Ditch Old Food

It may be hard to let go of things, but when it comes to old food don’t be afraid to say goodbye! While many travelers like to hold onto their snacks for as long as possible in case they get hungry later, this can backfire (particularly if you’re carting around perishables). While some foods like crackers, nuts, beef jerky, and dried fruit are built to last, others should be tossed after a few hours. That salad you bought in Albuquerque that’s starting to look a little browner than you’d like? Saving money by booking good flight deals is one thing, but clinging to that chicken sandwich you bought 6 hours ago just to save a few bucks is not worth it. Don’t feel obligated to cart it to your plane or hotel. The odds of you getting an upset stomach (or worse, some nasty illness) increase the longer food sits out unrefrigerated. Eat fresh food while it’s still good, and then toss it before you continue on your journey.

Punch Up The Protein

Unsure about what to get at your favorite fast-food kiosk, but still want to stay healthy? Luckily, there are some great (and simple) hacks that will let you get the most out of your airport food without feeling too guilty about what you’re consuming. If you must have a burger, go for a bunless option or ask them if they’ll put your patty on a salad instead. Vegetarian burger options can have hidden fat and calories, so don’t always defer to those as the best options. If you’re a fan of Mexican food, you’re in luck! This is one of the healthiest fast food options out there. You can load up on beef or chicken, a heaping helping of veggies, and even add a little guacamole for some healthy fats. Just steer clear of the carb-laden wraps, sour cream, and cheese that can turn your healthy meal into a belly buster. You’ll satisfy your cravings and stay healthy at the same time!

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