This post was most recently updated on September 12th, 2014

Top 5 Tips for Healthier Eating at the Airport. Photo credit: Playbeasy

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, many Americans put on a
few extra pounds, what with all the egg nog, cookies, and cocktails being
served at holiday parties this time of year. If you’re flying this holiday
season, what’s on the menu at most airports will likely add to seasonal weight
gain. As you walk to your gate to catch your flight, chances are you’re walking
by restaurants that that serve high-fat, salty, sweet processed food.

Yet who’s in a mood for a salad in December? Not me.
Thankfully, airports are doing more to offer healthier food that goes beyond a
plastic bowl of iceberg lettuce. Plus, it’s always good to keep a few snacks on
hand. Here are five ways to keep calories down while on the go and still eat  food that’s flavorful and enjoyable.

Worth the Delay

Busy holiday travel is bound to have delays, so relax and
enjoy a nutritious meal while you wait. Some airports rank better than others
when it comes to serving healthy food. Colorado has the lowest obesity rate in
the nation, so it’s no surprise Denver
International Airport
dishes up nutrition for travelers. For example,
“Itza Wrap! Itza Bowl!” near the B gates sells Pan-Asian cuisine,
such as a Thai rice and vegetable bowl with tofu. Or try noodles, wraps,  and salads (if you’re in the mood). My
personal favorite airport meal happened this past spring at Chicago O’Hare
International Airport. Make your way to Terminal 1/B11 to chef Rick Bayless’s Tortas
. There’s going to be a line, but the food is worth it because
it’s fresh, delicious real food that takes time to prepare. I savored the
roasted crimini and shiitake mushroom sandwich with chipotle, garlic, goat
cheese, black beans, and arugula. Could airport food really be this delicious?
Oh yeah.

Pack a Mini-Picnic

Yes, TSA won’t let you bring liquids and gels through
security, but you can bring fruit, nuts, unbuttered popcorn, peanut butter and
crackers, bagels, baked goods and protein bars along.  True story: I have packed little picnics for
our flights around the United States. I wrapped cheese and salami (back when I
used to eat salami) in a very small, hard cold pack (not a gelatinous one) in a
plastic bag that I kept in my large purse, and had another plastic bag filled
with chunks of baguette, apple slices and nuts. Protein helps you feel full
longer while carbohydrates stabilizes blood sugar. We noshed on our little
picnic during our three-hour flight and I didn’t have to spend money on
expensive snacks elsewhere.

Avoid Fried, Greasy

It sounds like a no brainer, but the calories in one single
fried meal can throw off your total calorie intake for the day, which ranges
between 1,500 to 2,000. A slice of Sbarro’s pepperoni pizza, for example, can
be over 700 calories. You can find burgers and pizza at any airport, but take
the time to look for the menu items such as wrapped sandwiches, which often
include a variety of vegetables, or vegetable-based soups (not creamy soups,
which are often higher in fat). Greasy, fried foods are also more likely to
upset your stomach, which may be a problem when encountering turbulence on a

Power Up with H2O

Staying hydrated while traveling is really important,
especially if you’re stuck on long flights and sitting for extended periods of
time in airports and on planes. Skip artificially-sweetened sodas, energy
drinks, smoothies and coffee, and just go for plain, old water.  Your body will thank you for it. Classic H2O
fills you up and helps regulate calories, so you are less likely to overeat.
Water also reduces the risk of feeling sluggish or getting headaches, which
often happens when traveling, and maintains normal bodily functions.


Don’t Save Everything

The American
Dietetic Association
reminds travelers that when food isn’t eaten or
refrigerated within two hours, the risk of foodborne illness, such as
salmonella or other infections, rises. So cut your losses and toss what you
didn’t eat. That unfinished turkey wrap you bought in Boston and has now
arrived with you to Los Angeles? It’s been over five hours. Throw it out. That
strawberry smoothie you picked up in Detroit but didn’t finish before landing
in Miami? Chuck it. Holding on to aging leftovers is just not worth the risk
during the holiday season.

Ready to book your flight? Head on over to CheapOair!

Photo credit: Playbeasy

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