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Take Off with Healthier Options: Healthy Eating at Airports

By: Dani Mardayat,

As you wait at your gate to board your flight, it's easy to become distracted by the airport vendors hawking gooey cinnamon buns and greasy burgers. Suddenly, you find yourself finishing off an extra large order of fries or even toting a jumbo-sized frozen coffee concoction onto the plane with you. With some know-how and preparation, you can replace the barrage of high-caloric foods with healthier options straight from your pantries and cupboards at home. The next time you take off for your destination, you can munch on fresher ingredients and leaner snacks, leaving you feeling healthy and maybe even saving you a few bucks.

“It's important to be aware of what you can or can't bring to the airport according to the given updated TSA guidelines,” explains Heather Albertson, RD, LDN, CNSC, a clinical dietitian specialist at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Single-sized packets are portable and accessible options to bring with you, provided that each item is 3.4 ounces or less and is sealed in its original wrapping. Healthy examples include cheese sticks, peanut butter, hummus and drinkable yogurts.

For robust snacking, there is no limit on size. As long as the items are sealed, wrapped and unopened, you can bring as little or much as you want. Albertson recommends 100-calorie snack packs, whole grain crackers, trail mix, Chex mix, pretzels and nuts.

Think twice before you pitch your bowl of apples or bunches of grapes.“Travelers often assume they can't take fruit through security, but they can,” says Albertson. “The fruits need to be in whole form with the skin on. Berries and grapes are ok, as well as dried fruits. Fresh fruits can last for several days without refrigeration.”

For those with a larger appetite, Albertson suggests packing sandwiches or wraps that travel easily. Choose a whole grain or wheat bread. Peanut butter and jelly is a classic favorite and a breeze to assemble. Take the single packet of peanut butter and spread it across the slices of bread on the plane. You can also bring a whole banana with you and cut it on the plane to place between your sandwich. A turkey sandwich is a healthy option travelers can supplement with cheese, hummus or mustard. The key is to wrap your foods in a plastic bag you can zip shut. For international flights with longer legs, Albertson recommends travelers to research their respective airlines for the option of having healthier meals set aside for them in advance.

Other foods yielding healthier results include tuna kits that come armed with separated components like crackers and light mayonnaise. Granola or breakfast bars at 200 calories or less are easy to slip into your bag and quick to take out. Healthy brands include Kashi, Nature Valley and Quaker.

Of course, you may be too pressed for time to pack these healthy meals at home. Airports these days do carry healthier options. “The overall message is that if you're buying at the airport, make sure to pay attention and read the label,” Albertson advises. “Avoid saturated or trans fats that you find in baked potato chips, for example. Look for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats instead.”

When it comes to healthy eating at the airport, be prepared and and be aware. Rather than reaching for a glazed doughnut the next time you're waiting to be air bound, dig into your carry-on bag for the healthier treats you brought from home.



For more from Dani, be sure to check out her Featured Foodies profile page.

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