Healthy Airport Eats
With airlines skimping on in-flight food, airport terminals are ramping up offerings, ditching mundane choices in favor of high-end gourmet, fresh, and even organic selections. We perused the menu at 20 of the nation's busiest airports to zero in on the ones making the biggest strides when it comes to delivering healthy options. Our top five picks aren't necessarily the most trafficked airports. Instead, they're the ones that make it easy to find deliciously lighter meals. If travel plans allow, it might be worth routing through these five hubs. By Maureen Callahan, MS, RD
1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
The world's busiest airport is currently updating concession contracts. Speculation is there could be a push toward even more fresh, healthier options.
Quick & Healthy: Longtime Atlanta caterer Proof of the Pudding trims the fat and sodium while incorporating the "Super Foods" concept at its three "gourmet fresh" kiosks. Our Pick: Turkey Sandwich with yellow bell peppers and a Red Onion and Balsamic Vinegar Marmalade instead of mayonnaise, although half a sandwich is plenty for one serving. Locations: Concourse A, gates 18 and 28; Concourse B, gate 10.
Runner up: Because it customizes sandwiches, Great Wraps offers the potential to build lighter sandwiches. Best bet: the 7-inch pita (220 calories) with any veggies (from cucumber to spinach) and lean proteins like chicken, turkey, or hummus served cold. Locations: Concourse A, Middle Food Court.
See More: Fast Food Guide
2. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
Dietitians from Henry Ford Hospital's Heart & Vascular Institute periodically award HeartSmart® emblems to healthy menu choices from 40 different vendors.
Quick & Healthy: Quite a few menu items from the Mediterranean Grill pick up HeartSmart® emblems, giving the hungry traveler lots of choice from Tabbouli to a warm Almond Rice Salad made with garden veggies to a Vegetarian Stir Fry. Location: Concourse A, Gate 54.
Runner Up: With good quality sushi and sashimi (there are vegetable rolls if you don't eat raw fish), Sora Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar makes a healthy, if more expensive, choice. Go easy on soy to keep sodium in check. And add a side of edamame for a healthy vegetable nibble. Location: Concourse A, Gate 35.
3. Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW)
Quick & Healthy: While Au Bon Pain can be found at many airports, its presence in Dallas is huge. We like that there are plenty of low-fat, lower calorie options. But, as with most sandwich shops, be prepared for higher sodium levels. One of our dinner favorites: Mayan Chicken Harvest Rice Bowl with Brown Rice (510 calories, 870mg sodium). Best Grab 'n Go sandwich: Roast Beef and Brie on a Farmhouse Roll (half sandwich) for 330 calories, 13 grams of fat and 680 milligrams of sodium. Locations: Terminal A, Gates 14, 25 & 37; Terminal B, Gate 20; Terminal C, Gates 21 & 33; Terminal D & Terminal D Kiosk
Runner Up: Pajama-clad servers at Cereality dish up cold and hot cereals with your choice of milk (skim, 2%, or soy) and add ins. It's a great, light meal. Try the 309-calorie "Health Kick," a mix of two popular dry cereals, dried cranberries and walnuts for 4 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein, and plenty of vitamins A and C. Location: Terminal C, Gate 6.
See More: Healthiest Fast Food Breakfasts
4. New York La Guardia (LGA)
With Delta set to open 13 gourmet cafes/restaurants by next summer and organic and fresh food purveyors setting up shop, food choices are changing dramatically.
Quick & Healthy: Angelina's Metro Market dishes up fresh made-to-order salads, or cobble together your own meal from fresh fruits, yogurts, artisan cheeses, and breads. About half of the choices are organic or have some organic ingredients. Location: Central Terminal (American, Continental, Jet Blue)
Healthy Snacks: For "on-the-go" healthy choices, Cibo Express Gourmet Markets offer prepackaged organic, vegan, heart-healthy and gluten-free options. Location: Lower Food Court
5. Boston General Edward Lawrence Logan Airport (BOS)
Quick & Healthy: Newcomer U Food Grill puts the focus on baking, grilling and steaming (not frying) which definitely helps keep fat in check. Our only complaint: sodium levels are high unless you opt for reduced sodium grilled entrees and sides. The 3-4-U Side Plate lets you make a vegetarian meal of steamed veggies, whole grain brown rice (or sweet potato mash or black beans) and a side salad. Location: Terminal B, Terminal C
Runner Up: It's pricier than most, but Boston favorite Legal Seafoods dishes up grilled fish dinners with two sides, including steamed broccoli or seasonal vegetables. Or you could pair veggies with a Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail. Location: Terminal C, central area pre-security.
See More: Healthy Snacks
Drink Plenty of Water
As concession vendors compete for lucrative contracts to feed the public what airlines no longer will, choices are improving. Expect to see more celebrity chef offerings and new concepts that play into local, fresh, healthy choices. The one stumbling block in all this good news is sodium. Many lighter food vendors are heavy handed with the saltshaker, so be sure to drink plenty of water. It doesn't hurt to go easy on salt the day after you travel either.