Eating Healthy at the Airport: Diet Tips for Busy Travelers

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When traveling, it can be difficult to make health-conscious dining choices in the face of all the temptations at the airport. Every terminal has its own dining options, but all of these transit hubs stick within the same genre of satisfying and convenience-oriented foods — some healthy, some not.

“Traveling wears you down, which can make it harder for you to make good food choices. But there are plenty of good options out there,” said Joy Bauer, nutrition expert on the Today Show. Even with a limited food and drink selection at your disposal, opting for the right kinds of snacks is an achievable task in the airport, and making these positive choices will keep you filled and fueled for a long day of travel.

Read on to learn some tips on healthy eating choices at any time of day in the airport.

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Breakfast

In the early morning, it’s especially easy to grab a bite to eat without a careful inspection of the nutrition facts — in the end, though, this could come back to haunt you. When faced with fast food chains and delis, NBC News warns travelers to avoid greasy, salty breakfast products containing bacon and sausage on calorific white breads and bagels. Instead, delight in some egg whites on a whole grain bagel or toast — this will provide you with all the protein and fiber you need without filling you up on saturated fats and empty calories.

If you find yourself at a cafe, stick with standard house brews and low-fat milks in your beverage — you’ll get your caffeine kick without all the sugars and fats you’d find in a fancy, dessert-like coffee drink dolloped with whipped cream and syrups.

For added nutritional benefit, try a fiber-rich whole-grain bagel with reduced-fat cream cheese, along with some fresh fruit or a low-fat yogurt — but watch out for pre-packaged parfaits, which can be loaded with 20 to 30 grams of sugar per container. You’ll want to avoid cinnamon buns and other pastries for the same reason, notes WebMD.

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Lunch

Lunch presents yet another opportunity to surrender yourself to the KFC across the terminal, but try feasting instead on a light sandwich, wrap, or salad. Most fast food chains and cafes will have a reasonable selection of these items. The trick here, advises NBC News, is to avoid refined white breads and fatty dressings, which add substantial amounts of calories without providing any nutritional benefits. You can treat yourself to a hydrating and filling side of fruit or fruit salad, and for an extra bit of salty indulgence, enjoy baked chips or low-sodium crackers on the side.

Most airport delis and cafe chains will offer lighter sandwiches and fare for health-conscious eaters. Remember to stay hydrated with water and other low-sugar beverages as you prepare to fly!

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Dinner

When you’re in a rush to your gate but want to grab a convenient bite on the way, try finding the healthiest options at one of the fast food chains you pass, recommends USA Today. Rather than selecting a burger or fries, stick with a large salad or a grilled lean meat entrée. Most chains offer grilled chicken sandwiches, but order the sauce on the side, as many of them are mayonnaise-based. To round out your meal, order a side salad — again, dressing on the side — or some fruit.

Alternately, you may prefer a cafe’s panini or baguette sandwich option with a side soup or salad for dinner. In this case, stick with whole grain breads and lean, protein-rich meats like turkey and chicken. Avoid ordering a calorific cream-based soup on the side, instead sticking with a stock-based vegetable or chicken option.

Some airport terminals even offer specialized lighter fare options such as sushi and vegetarian shops. If the mood strikes you, check out these options and opt for a light, satisfying meal that will keep you fueled for your flight. And remember: Anywhere you decide to pick up dinner, enjoy a water, juice, or low-sugar alternative to accompany the meal.

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Snacking, desserts, and drinks

If you’re really in a hurry, every airport terminal has several small bookstores or kiosks where you can pick up totable snacks such as whole fruits, unsalted nuts, low-sugar granola bars, and low-fat yogurts. Steer clear of diet saboteurs such as soft pretzels, pastries, cookies, and deceptively sugary granola bars.

While snacking — and along with all your meals — be sure to drink a lot of hydrating fluids, particularly water. Staying hydrated at the airport is just as important as making healthy food choices. Air travel can be very dehydrating, warns Everyday Health, so try to carry a water bottle and drink low-sugar fluids with every meal.

For the same reason, it’s important to avoid whiling away your time at an airport bar: Alcohol has highly dehydrating effects, and this will almost certainly affect your already suffering stamina during a long day of travel.

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