Gimme 5 – Eating (for Success) in Airports
I travel a lot for work and when I travel, my good eating habits tend to go right out the window. Over the last 18 months or so, I have tried to focus on eating more healthy all the time, not just when I travel. When I went to Florida for a family vacation a couple of weeks ago, I had a rather rude wake up call about my efforts in this area. Most everywhere we went, the food was fried or greasy or in the carb category. Basically, the menus consisted of everything that I wanted to avoid AND have been trying hard to avoid for the last 18 months. Over this week of family/vacation travel, I thought about how eating and traveling can work with a healthy eating focus and I came up with a few tips for eating (for success) in airports.
1. Scope it out – don’t just stop at McDonald’s, Gordon Biersch or TGIFridays because it its the first thing you see or is close to your gate – check out a map to find a healthier alternative. One of my healthy favorites is the Jamba Juice store in the Charlotte airport. On this trip we found a new restaurant in the Phoenix airport in the US airways terminal (which is the award-winning Terminal 4). The BarFly had opened the day before we sat down for a meal before taking the red-eye. The BarFly menu contained interesting salads and grilled steaks – which we a better choice than fried shrimp! Although it was probably 1,00o calories, their Mac ‘N Cheese was fantastic – it was a grown up version of Mac ‘N Cheese with bacon or pancetta. To find this restaurant – we traveled the length of the terminal to check out all of the food choices and then we decided on a place that had more menu choices than hot dog, hamburger, or fried “anything.” What ever your method of scoping out the restaurants, it will be better than just stopping at the first restaurant you find.
2. Be Picky – If you can find one of your favorite food places or a restaurant with healthy choices on the menu (for example, salads that go beyond the house salad of iceberg lettuce and an unripe tomato wedge) you will have a higher likelihood of finding a healthy food choice! I tend to prefer Starbuck’s Coffee or Peet’s Coffee, because I can usually get yoghurt or fruit in addition to my favorite beverage. If I’m not picky about the place I eat, I usually find that the chili-dog at the airport bar looks great and goes with the beer I just ordered…
3. Drink water – Drink water when you are in the airport. Drink plenty of it! Go ahead…go ahead and drink tons of water while there is a big, convenient, and (usually) clean bathroom close by. It sure beats having to go in the tiny, cramped, and usually smelly airplane bathrooms! Besides you want to stay hydrated when you travel – it cuts down the chance of getting sick!
4. Small portions/take it with you – Eating successfully with a focus on healthy food usually involves eating less food altogether. I try to order something small if possible. If there isn’t any thing small to order small, consider ordering something that is easy to eat half of and then take the other half with you for a mid-flight snack. Half of a Muffuletta sandwich from the New Orleans airport is likely to be much tastier than anything the airline snack boxes have to offer! If I know I am going to arrive past 9 pm at my destination, I usually order a chicken caesar salad from Peet’s Coffee & Tea (in the San Francisco airport) and eat that for dinner. Unless I have gotten upgraded to a first class seat, I usually try to take something on the plane with me and avoid the snack boxes.
5. Choose one healthy item – If you are in a hurry, it can be rally hard to find a healthy choice. Most places have a few healthy choices. You can usually find yoghurt, fruit, popcorn, hummus and veggies, or hard-boiled eggs. Some places offer healthy sandwich choices – one of my favorites on the go is a Caprese salad sandwich. The best Caprese sandwich I ever had was running to catch a plane to San Diego and there was a cart vendor outside the SFO gate with several sandwich choices and I just grabbed one because it looked good. Well, it turned out to be one of the healthier sandwich choices and it was fabulous! You can always find one healthy item among all of the unhealthy choices!
When trying to eat healthy in an airport – take a moment to think about it – just don’t get the first thing you see. If you do I guarantee you, you will pick something that sounds tasty but is NOT healthy. At least that’s how I am – because I will always end up with a carmel apple rolled in pecans from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory or something equally tasty, but not so good for you. Yeah, I know there was an apple somewhere in there under all that carmel… but I’m not sure that counts as healthy.
What is your favorite tip for eating healthy in airports? If you have tips for eating healthy while traveling, please share it in the comments below.