At home, your go-to juice bars and salad spots may be so engrained in your life that your car practically drives there on autopilot, but traveling can throw off anyone’s healthy eating game—especially at the airport where your options are limited. Sometimes, all that’s there is fast food.
So, what’s your best bet when you’re stranded in the food court? Considering you’re about to be trapped in a small seat for several hours, it’s not the best time to fill up on anything bloat-inducing, like fried food or greasy Chinese—even though that’s what’s easiest to find. But it’s still important to eat something, otherwise you’re going to be so hangry later that you’ll be begging the flight attendant for extra mini bags of pretzels.
Here, registered dietitian Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN reveals her go-tos at the most-popular airport restaurant chains. Steal her recs so you can board feeling your best.
As a kid, your go-to Wendy’s order may have been a chocolate Frosty (with a side of fries for dipping), but for a more health-conscious grown-up order, Bannan points to two salads on the menu, which she says are her fave picks: the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad and the Southwest Avocado Salad.
“Each one is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins A and C, protein, and calcium,” she says. Another option: Go for the half salad size and couple it with a baked potato with broccoli, both of which are good sources of fiber.
Eating Mexican before a flight doesn’t have to be a gamble—if you know what to order. Bannan’s tip: Go for the burrito bowl. “I suggest choosing two types of beans—pinto and black—for plant-based protein and fiber, lots of veggies—romaine lettuce and a double order of fajita veggies—guacamole for healthy fats, and your fave salsa,” she says.
As far as what to leave out of your bowl, her advice is to nix the meat, rice, and cheese. “It will save you 500 calories and there’s already so much great flavor without it that you won’t even miss it,” she says.
On the surface, Jamba Juice may look like the healthiest option available, but some of the smoothies are loaded with sugar. With that disclaimer out of the way, Bannan is super into the Watermelon Hydration Bowl. “It’s an excellent source of fiber to support gut health and iron to help support magnesium,” she says.
You know just by looking at most of the meat options covered in a saucy glaze that they’re secret sugar bombs, but not all of them are off the table (so to speak). “The Broccoli Beef is a better-for-you option, even more so if the beef isn’t the predominant food on your plate,” she says. “It has nine grams of protein and two grams of fiber, but is only 150 calories, so it’s pretty nutrient-dense. Couple it with steamed brown rice for four more grams of fiber.”
Despite catching flack for their questionable ingredients in the past, Subway has long made an effort to cater to more health-conscious eaters, which is why they have a whole “Fresh Fit” menu with options all under 400 calories. “From this line, I like the six-inch Turkey Breast and also the Oven Roasted Chicken Breast, which are both high in protein and fiber,” she says. “I’d load more veggies on there and swap out the mayo for guac to up the intake of healthy fats.” Ummm, when is there not a time for guac?
While some airports have limited healthy options, these are the healthiest airports in the world. And if you want a whole guidebook on how to live your healthiest life ever while traveling, check out these 35 hacks.
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