“Getting to the airport” is associated with many different anxiety inducers: from waking up at a disorienting hour to dealing with flight delays after you’ve already raced to the airport. Inevitably it’s 6:30 a.m., you’ve been awake for two hours, and your seemingly empty stomach is burning from the stress and the odd schedule of events — all before sunrise. This is about the time when the temptation and the “need” for a starchy bakery muffin or a greasy fast food “croissanwich” feels overpowering. It doesn’t need to be. With a little advance planning and basic understanding of what your body really needs, airport travel does not have to sabotage both your healthful eating and your composure.

The simple idea behind airport eating is to eat strategically throughout the day in order to avoid the stomach pits and the diet pitfalls. In addition to the nutrition tips below, while you are traveling remember to:

  • Wash your hands regularly – steer clear of germs
  • Drink plenty of water- keep your skin and your body hydrated
  • Avoid excessive salt – minimize swelling of hands and feet
  • Take time rest on the plane – it is much easier to make healthful decisions if you are not exhausted
  • Grab 20-30 minutes of exercise if you can – put on your sneakers as soon as you arrive and break a sweat or, if nothing else, walk the terminals before your flight. Moving your body will make a world of difference to your well-being.
  • Avoid taking out your flying frustrations through unnecessary eating — you will only add to your already elevated stress levels.

Below I have laid out two different options for the day at the airport. The first describes meal choices for the “empty handed” and the second is a list of food suggestions if you are able to pack your meals before you go. I have based my recommendations on what I have found to be available at even the most bare-boned of terminals.

Airport choices for the empty handed

BREAKFAST:
Starbucks
Skim or soy latte or café au lait (choose decaf or regular based on whether or not you plan to sleep on the plane)
Or
“Chai Latte” – brewed chai tea with steamed skim or soy (you may find tea more soothing to the stomach and mind at a very early hour)

Burger King
Order an egg, ham, and cheese sandwich, toss the bread and try to take five minutes to sit down and eat slowly with a knife and fork

SNACK:
Generic Airport Concession Stand
Apple with one small tub of peanut butter (usually found near the register or by the bagels)
Or
Snack Stand (e.g. Hudson News)
½ to full Balance Bar

LUNCH:
Sandwich Station/Deli
Any lean meat sandwich made with turkey, chicken, or ham
1 slice of cheese
Lettuce, tomato
1 piece of whole wheat or rye bread

If available:
Small side salad with one package low-fat dressing or half package regular dressing

SNACK:
Generic Airport Concession Stand/ Snack Stand
Plain low-fat yogurt or light yogurt (not frozen yogurt) with 6 crushed almonds mixed in

Best options if you are a “packer”

BREAKFAST:
1 snack size Breakstone’s 2% cottage cheese
1 sliced apple with 2 tbs., peanut butter

SNACK:
1 mozzarella stick

LUNCH:
1 La Tortilla Factory tortilla filled with:
turkey
1 slice Alpine lace Swiss
lettuce
1 tbs. mix of dijon mustard and light mayo

SNACK:
1 small bag of soy chips

IMPORTANT: Whether or not you manage to execute your healthful intentions, when you have arrived at your destination, enjoy a balanced dinner. Start with a salad because your body will need fresh greens, followed by a fresh piece of fish or lean meat with steamed or sautéed vegetables and whole grains. Finish with a soothing cup of tea or a decaffeinated cappuccino. Finally, try to get a good night’s rest.

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