In the dreams of food-lovers around the world, all airports would be a food oasis. I imagine a market hall like you might find in Manhattan or LA when I think perfect airport food. Multiple options, plenty of healthy choices if you want them, and all prepared by skilled chefs. End of that daydream…I just left Newark Airport as I write this and if you’re familiar with it then you know it’s the opposite of a fancy food market. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a travel expert, but my job sends me on the road enough for me to have developed survival skills for frequent travel. Am I perfect? No, this is the person who has dipped potato chips into buffalo sauce in an airport sandwich shop. I may be a dietitian, but I am a human, too. Is that something I do every time I’m in an airport? Not a chance. I frequent them way too often to make that a habit. The point is, if you’re regularly on the road, it’s a good idea to make airports fit as an extension of your everyday, healthy habits, not a place where you forget how you’ll feel if you chug beers and eat salty snacks before every flight.
Start with Hydration
Make it a habit to bring an empty water bottle with you (no liquids in security, don’t say I didn’t warn you) or be ready to purchase a water in the terminal. No excuses on this one. Hydrate well when flying because dehydration is almost inevitable unless you’re focused on avoiding it. This is especially true if you do decide you’re having a drink before your flight. Flying plus alcohol and no water equals feeling absolutely terrible when you land.
Pack a Snack
Sometimes it’s not always reasonable to pack your own snacks, but if you find yourself feeling really on top of things then don’t hold back. From experience, I know containers of fruits and vegetables are easy to store in a purse or bag and they make it through security without issue. Granola bars, packets of dry cereal, trail mix, and cheese sticks are all excellent choices that travel well and are much less expensive if purchased outside of the airport.
Packing snacks isn't always practical, I get it, but that doesn't mean eating well is out of the question. Consider these tips to get your through:
1. Create your own parfait with plain yogurt, lower sugar granola, and fresh fruit. Use a cup from a coffee stand to mix it up. It works and will be much lower in sugar than the pre-made options in the cooler case.
2. Snack boxes are a great option, but sometimes they’re too heavy on the cheese and have limited protein and fruit/vegetables. Build your own with improved portions: cheese stick, fruit cup, hard-boiled egg, and whole grain crackers. You’ll eat less cheese, more fruit, and likely add a whole grain where you didn’t have one before.
3. Explore the “healthy snack” section of the food stand. This is almost sure to exist and there are a lot of great options available now that snack companies are realizing we want (and need!) healthier options. Just a few of my favorites include KIND Nuts & Spices bars, Made Good granola bites, Harvest Snaps pea crisps, and Sahale trail mixes. And fruit. You can't go wrong with an apple or banana.
4. Skip the bottles of “pressed” juice or other smoothie-like drinks. They sure look nutritious and have the claims on their labels to make you believe it’s true, but most are just glorified apple juice. If you’re worried about keeping up your immune system while traveling then choose a piece of actual fruit, eat some veggies, drink plenty of water, and keep your hands washed. Those three things will go a much longer way in preventing you from getting sick than an overpriced juice drink.