Navigating Healthy Eating at the Airport

nutrition Sep 20, 2021
After a year of being shut indoors, we are all antsy to start traveling. As much as flying on an airplane can be a pain, I think most of us would be plenty thankful to do so.
But traveling can be stressful, catching connecting flights, getting through security, or even driving cross country all comes with its challenges. When you add additional Covid protocols, thinking about what to eat and how to eat healthy is the last thing you want to do.
It can be so tempting to give in to the Wild West of the airport. At every terminal there are fast food options, or sit down restaurants where the salads have 1600 calories, or the smell of Cinnabon tempting you to derail your diet. Even in the book stores you’re bombarded with candy, chips, and soda.
However, if you keep your eyes open and get creative, traveling doesn’t have to derail your goals.

Do's and Don'ts Of the "Convenience Stores" 

Even if you're taking a quick, short flight, chances are you may stop by a newsstand or convenience store like option. As tempting as it can be to get the salty chips or the giant Toblerone, we know that "junk" foods won't leave you feeling satisfied for long, and the added salt content can make flying uncomfortable.
If looking for a quick convenience option, look towards unsalted nuts, low-sodium jerky, protein bars, and don't forget the fruit bowl that is usually sitting near the counter. As with your every day diet, you want to look for food as close to the original source as possible, and since you’ll be up in the air, you’ll want to watch your salt intake to prevent bloating and dehydration.
If there is a small cold deli near you, you can add a Greek yogurt, mixed fruit bowl, or some hard boiled eggs. If they have salads, these may be a better option than the restaurant salads, as you can often control the dressing amounts and they are smaller portions.

Your Best and Worst Options From Starbucks

Traveling can take your every day coffee order, and make it feel like a special occasion. Instead of your usual Americano, the airport can make you justify a venti caramel frappe with extra whip cream (and the calories that come with it). However, often on travel days, we're less active than we would be on other days, so remind yourself that it may be more difficult to hit your calorie burn goals while flying and adjust accordingly.
If you are traveling in the morning and the pastries are calling your name while in the coffee line, look for alternatives such as oatmeal, or the Starbuck's egg bites. Other options could be an egg white and veggie sandwich, but avoid the salty sausage or bacon based sandwiches, if you can if you're trying to hit lower calorie targets.

Keeping on Track at Restaurants

During the times where you find yourself with a few hours to spare, and you can’t bear to sit at your terminal any longer, a restaurant might be calling your name. If there are several choices, take your time and scope out the menus before committing to going into a place, and try to avoid the chain restaurants, as chances are their food quality tends to be a little lower, so they overcompensate with salt, sugar, and fat.
On top of the extra calories, have you considered how the 3 IPAs will dehydrate you causing you to get up several times during your flight? Is that bowl of mac and cheese going to sit well with your stomach at 30,000 feet? Make the same, smart choices you would make in your everyday life, but remember that traveling will increase stress, and dehydration and adjust accordingly.
Additionally, while in the airport, make sure to drink a lot of water. If you can bring an empty water bottle through security, and fill it up in the terminal to save yourself some money (and plastic), even better.
Keep hydrated, eat light, and avoid temptations, and you can keep on track while traveling. 

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