Avoid These Disgusting Airport Foods at All Costs

There’s nothing worse than getting your bag checked, walking through airport security, and then feeling your stomach rumble as soon as you hit your gate. If you have hours to kill before your flight, you might find yourself in one of the many airport restaurants. But before you go sipping on cocktails and chowing down on a big, juicy burger. Consider how your waistline may be affected. Many of the options at the airport are far from healthy — and some are downright disgusting.

Here are the options you really need to avoid.

1. Smoothies

An assortment of yellow, red and orange smoothies on a table.

These might not be as “natural” as you think. | Breaking The Walls/ iStock/Getty Images Plus

Smoothies seem alright — they’re certainly better than a Big Mac. But what you need to remember is the process those fruits and veggies had to go through to get into the airport in the first place. Eater explains all products going into airport restaurants need to go through an approval process by TSA. This means that “fresh” smoothie of yours may contain ingredients that have been sitting for quite awhile. To top it all off, you can’t forget smoothies are loaded with sugar. Choose a piece of whole fruit instead.

Next: This classic Chinese dish is a real gut-buster. 

2. Lo mein

Chicken Lo Mein stir fry on a plate.

This popular dish will weigh you down. | EzumeImages/iStock/Getty Images

We know grab-and-go Chinese food is delicious, but you need to do yourself a favor and stay far, far away from lo mein. Prevention explains just 1 cup of lo mein without any sauce contains over 200 calories with little fiber and protein. Once you add in the sauce, you can expect a meal well over 1,000 calories. If you can’t leave the airport without some Chinese food, go for steamed veggies with rice — and sauce on the side to control your portion.

Next: These sandwiches aren’t so innocent. 

3. Large lunchmeat sandwiches

Sandwiches with savory fillings on wooden table.

Get yourself something else for lunch. | Claudio Ventrella/iStock/Getty Images

That deli turkey sandwich probably doesn’t look so offensive, but we highly advise skipping it. Deli meats are full of sodium, and they may even be carcinogenic. Also, fresh deli meats should be eaten within three to five days of being sliced, otherwise listeria can grow. Those sandwiches sitting in the to-go cooler may have been there a lot longer than that.

Next: Skip the Cinnabon line, please. 

4. Cinnamon rolls

A tray of homemade cinnamon rolls.

Dare to beat the temptation. | Tomgulden/iStock/Getty Images

If the sweet smell of cinnamon, sugar, and butter wafting through the airport is enough to have you waiting in line at the Cinnabon, you need to refrain. Cinnamon rolls might seem like the perfect treat for getting to your gate on time, but they’re sure to contribute to an expanding waistline.

One Classic Roll from Cinnabon contains 880 calories and 37 grams of fat, and that’s not even the most offensive item on the menu. And you can bet those rolls have been sitting there for quite some time.

Next: Auntie Anne’s isn’t a good choice, either. 

5. Soft pretzels

Soft pretzels and cheese on a wooden board.

Don’t load up on carbs and sodium before that long flight. | Todd Taulman/iStock/Getty Images

Not every soft pretzel is horrible for you — and if you’re short on time, grabbing one with no butter isn’t such a bad idea. But since Auntie Anne’s is commonly found in airports, you’ll probably gravitate toward their greasy, salty pretzels for a snack. If you’re going the sweet route, you should know one Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel contains 470 calories and 12 grams of fat. And a Pretzel Dog has 20 grams of fat. Go for the plain pretzel if you have to have one — but really, you should skip it altogether.

Next: This chicken isn’t so innocent.  

6. Chicken tenders

A platter full of chicken tenders.

This childhood favorite should be left in the past. | Alimusicva/iStock/Getty Images

Whether you’re grabbing McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets or an expensive airport restaurant’s “fresh” tenders, these fried pieces of poultry are really unhealthy. You need to avoid Popeyes’ Spicy Tenders at all costs, as just three contain over 300 calories and 15 grams of fat. And if it’s KFC you’re after, one order of Popcorn Nuggets will set you back 570 calories and 33 grams of fat. Go for grilled chicken or nothing at all.

Next: This cheesy delight isn’t so great at the airport. 

7. Pizza

Pineapple and Ham Hawaiian Pizza.

Reconsider grabbing that slice before your flight. | Bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images

The last thing you want on your long flight is heartburn, and that might be exactly what you’re in for when you order a greasy, fatty slice of pizza. If you have to have this food, at least make sure you avoid any “Meat Lover’s” varieties. And forget the Stuffed Crust, too — one slice of this type of pizza can be nearly 500 calories if you’re ordering from Pizza Hut. Try to pick a veggie slice if you can, and forget the chips and soda that come along with it.

Next: That giant chocolate chip muffin looks good, but don’t do it. 

8. Oversized pastries

Pastries on a white plate.

Pastries just aren’t worth it. | Robynmac/iStock/Getty Images

All airports have cafes of some sort, which look a lot healthier than the fast food joints. If you choose the right menu item, you can get a healthy snack. But those oversized chocolate muffins and cheese danishes aren’t any better for you. At Au Bon Pain, one Sweet Cheese Danish will set you back 440 calories and 21 grams of fat. And a Double Chocolate Chunk Muffin is nearly 600 calories and 30 grams of fat. That’s more calories than a Big Mac, so keep that in mind.

Next: Not all salads are good for you. 

9. Salad entrees

A salad with lots of toppings on a white bowl.

Watch out for the dressing and extra toppings. | Philly077/iStock/Getty Images

We mentioned earlier how airport food has to go through a lot of hoops to get to you, making it not nearly as fresh as it sounds. This is one of the reasons the salads on these restaurant menus aren’t worth your money. But that’s not all — many of the salads you can purchase are loaded with high-calorie add-ons and fatty dressings. A Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad contains 720 calories and 43 grams of fat, for example. If it’s Mexican food you’re after, Taco Bell’s Fiesta Taco Salad with beef is 760 calories and 39 grams of fat.

Next: Avoid this fried favorite at the airport — or anywhere. 

10. Donuts

Glazed donuts on dish.

Donuts are full of empty calories. | Styxclick/iStock/Getty Images

We know the smell of donuts hitting the fryer is tempting, but just say no. If you spy Dunkin’ Donuts near your terminal, you may be tempted by their Blueberry Cake Donut — but just one of these is 340 calories and 16 grams of fat. Even your average Chocolate Frosted Donut is still 15 grams of fat, and it won’t keep you feeling satisfied for long. Not to mention those donuts may have been sitting out for hours if you’re taking a late-night flight.

Next: This ballpark classic is easy to find in the airport, but you shouldn’t eat it. 

11. Hot dogs

Hot dogs on a grill.

Hot dogs are full of preservatives and additives. | Liveslow/iStock/Getty Images

You don’t have to wait for the next ballgame to grab a hot dog — you can get one at the airport. It might not seem like the most offensive meal you can grab, but beware — hot dogs are loaded with additives, like corn syrup and salt, for flavor and color. Not to mention processed meats could possibly be cancer-causing and should be avoided at all costs.

Next: Step away from this tempting combo. 

12. Burgers and fries

Burger with meat and French fries on a table.

Leave the burger and fries combo out of your diet. | Lisovskaya/iStock/Getty Images

You know this combo isn’t good for you, but when you’re in a pinch at the airport, you might be tempted to grab your burger and fries and head back to your terminal. You should know, however, that a Five Guys’ Bacon Cheeseburger adds up to 920 calories and a whopping 62 grams of fat — and that’s before you add fries. And Burger King’s Double Whopper with Cheese is even worse than that. If you have to go the burger route, you may actually want to visit McDonald’s. Their classic Hamburger is only 250 calories — not bad.

Next: Skip the Frappuccino.

13. Fancy coffee drinks

An iced coffee on a white table.

A sugary iced coffee will leave you feeling drained … not energized. | Chaiwatphotos/iStock/Getty Images

We know those fancy (and expensive) coffee drinks look tasty, especially when you’re flying on vacation, but you should show some restraint. Many of Starbucks‘ Frappuccinos, like the Red Velvet Cake Creme, have nearly 500 calories and far too much sugar for any one person. Even speciality lattes and cappuccinos aren’t safe, as they can be loaded with sugary syrups. To make your order a tad less offensive, at least ask for sugar-free syrups and no whipped cream.

Next: This Chinese food favorite just doesn’t belong in your diet. 

14. Egg rolls

Four egg rolls cut and placed on a white plate.

You could be eating hundreds of calories in just seconds. | Dreambigpictures/iStock/Getty Images

Need a quick bite to eat as you’re running through the airport? An egg roll makes sense — it’s small enough to grab and chow on the go without being the worst thing on the Chinese food menu. But SFGate reminds us these small bites of deliciousness are still deep-fried, making them loaded with fat. Go for the non-fried spring rolls if you have the option. These will offer you less calories and fat while still being satisfying.

Next: Hungry at the airport? Here’s what you should go for. 

What you should eat instead

Omelet on a white dish.

Eggs and veggies will fill you up without weighing you down for your trip. | Nattakit Khunburan/Getty Images

We get it — you’re hungry and every fast food sign in lights is calling your name. To combat this, Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., tells WebMD you should bring your own protein-rich snacks, like soy nuts or protein bars, to help hold you over.

If you have to buy something, go for a vegetarian sandwich with whole-grain bread, or Mexican food, like tacos. Coffee shops can even have surprisingly healthful breakfast choices if you go for something with eggs and veggies. And don’t forget to stay hydrated while traveling!

Read more: Do You Have an Unhealthy Relationship With Food? Here’s How to Tell