Dodging too-rich preflight meals and snacks is much easier at these five airports where fresher, healthier selections are always on the menu. By Maureen Callahan, MS, RD
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.
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, gates 10, 26, and 31.
Runner up: Because it customizes sandwiches, Great Wraps offers the potential to build lighter sandwiches. Best bet: The Hummus Falafel Wrap. Made with falafel, hummus, tomatoes, onions, cukes, and red peppers it serves up a mighty 14 grams of fiber and 26 grams of protein to keep you full on your flight. If you’d like to lighten up its 580 calories and 15 fat grams, ditch the pepper jack cheese. Locations: Concourse A, Middle Food Court.
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
Quick & Healthy: While Au Bon Pain can be found at many airports, its presence in Dallas is huge. One of our favorites is the Chicken Caesar Asiago salad (260
calories, 490mg sodium). Ask for yours with the Light Olive Oil Vinaigrette (110 calories, 10 g fat, 420mg sodium). One more
plus: many locations will let you design your own sandwich from healthy picks like multigrain bread or baguettes, all natural
chicken, oven roasted turkey, and guacamole. Locations: Terminal A, Gates 13, 25 & 38; Terminal B, Gate 20; Terminal C, Gates 22 & 33; Terminal D, Gate 27
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 280-calorie small “Health Kick” with skim milk, a mix of two popular dry cereals, dried cranberries, and walnuts for 2 grams of fiber, 13 grams of protein, and plenty of vitamins A and C. Location: Terminal C, Gate 6
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, Pre-Security, Center Food Court
Healthy Snacks: For “on-the-go” healthy choices, Cibo Express Gourmet Markets offer prepackaged organic, vegan, heart-healthy and gluten-free options. Locations: Terminal B, Gates B8 & C6; Terminal C, Pre-Security, Gates 3-4, Shuttle Area and Shopping Mall; Terminal D, Food Court
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 from 3 sides such as steamed broccoli, whole grain brown rice, sweet potato mash, or a side salad. Locations: Terminal B, Terminal C
Runner Up: It’s pricier than most, but Boston favorite Legal Sea Foods dishes up grilled fish dinners with two sides, including broccoli or brown rice. Or you could pair a house salad (ask for dressing on the side) with a Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail. Location: Terminal C, central area pre-security
Quick and Healthy: With their fresh, made-to-order salads, Saladworks makes snagging a few servings of produce a breeze. You can customize your own or go with one of the healthy options from
their menu (they’re all under 500 calories). Our favorite is the Nuevo Nicoise. This combo of greens, pasta, tuna, egg whites,
tomatoes, green beans, and nicoise olives serves up a slimming 232 calories with a surprisingly low 4 grams of fat and 325
milligrams of sodium. Dress it with the Lite Parmesan Caesar for 90 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 250 milligrams of sodium.
Location: Terminal 1, Concourse C, Gate 19
Runner up: Argo Tea doesn’t just serve up a long list of libations. It’s also the perfect place to get your whole-grain fix. Try the Chai Curry Chicken & Quinoa salad (440 calories) or Mango Black Bean & Brown Rice (420 calories) salad. We love their Chickpea and Garden Lentils salads too. Locations: Terminal 2, Concourse E, Gate E3, Terminal 3, Concourse L, Gate L2A and Concourse H, Gate H1
Quick and Healthy: Airport eats go local and organic at The Plant. You’ll find salads, smoothies, grain dishes, and sandwiches made exclusively from 100% organic ingredients grown and raised
in the San Francisco Bay area. Satisfy a burger craving sans guilt with their vegan Plant Burger, made from lentils, bulgur
wheat, beets, and cashews. Location: Terminal 2, Boarding Area D, Gate 51B.
Runner up: With its homemade fresh and frozen yogurts, Fraiche elevates healthy snacking to a whole new level. Choose from non-fat, low-fat, and whole milk fresh yogurt or fat-free, low-fat, or soy frozen yogurt. Then crown it with tasty, wholesome toppings like local honey, freshly cut fruit, toasted nuts, or homemade granola. Location: Terminal 3, Boarding Area F, Gate 81.
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.