I’ve traveled more in the last year for work than in the first five years of my professional life combined – crazy, huh?
And although I am NOT the kind of girl that typically throws temper tantrums, there is one thing that really gets my blood boiling: trying to find a healthy (vegetarian) meal at the airport. By the end of my trip, I’m more than ready to get back to ‘normal’ eating, and the idea of fried-this or meaty-that (plus overpriced-this-and-that) makes me cranky. Do not approach CaitlinHTP when she has a suitcase in one hand and is staring blankly at a O’Charley’s menu.
After all my travels this year, I’ve finally figured out a method that actually works. The only caveat is that this method is time-consuming, but I usually have a half hour to kill before boarding, anyway.
STEP 1: Scout your options. The key to finding a healthy meal is definitely walking the entire concourse or food court. I usually do a complete walk-through, looking over the menus and noting healthier choices (and prices).
I consider things like whether the buffet has brown rice, if the bread, wrap, or pasta is whole wheat, and if I can find a non-dairy vegetarian protein source. Side note: even if I ate meat, I would probably still seek out vegetarian options at the airport because, odds are, the meat in the airport is not organic or sustainably/humanely raised. Airport eating is definitely a time to utilize that ‘flexitarian’ mindset if you are so inclined!
STEP 2: Seek out veggies. It’s actually VERY easy to find whole fruit at the airport, which is great. Unfortunately, I am usually lacking in veggies by the time I arrive to the airport, so I search for veggies over fruit (or both, if I need to buy a snack for later, too). I’ve learned that you can always get a dark green salad at the more upscale restaurants – just place a to-go order at the hostess stand, and you’ll have your salad in hand in five minutes or less. I ask them to toss on extra raw veggies if they have any, too (like carrots or tomatoes).
Another great place to get veggies is at the Italian buffet in the food court. They usually have a cucumber and tomato salad or grilled or steamed veggies that are less oily or buttery than the ones at the Chinese buffet.
STEP 3: Mix and Match. Once I’ve walked the entire concourse and located some green veggies, I think back over all the healthy choices and decide which makes the most sense. Odds are that you are not going to buy all the parts of your healthy lunch at one place – I usually get veggies from one buffet, the ‘entree’ from another, and fruit from a coffee place. Also, remember that your lunch or dinner won’t always look like a ‘real’ meal – I’ve opted for steamed veggies with a fruit and protein powder smoothie before, or a salad with Starbucks oatmeal + banana. As long as it fills you up and gives you the required energy, it’s all good.
So, what did I get in the US Airways terminal at JFK this morning?
This lunch was AWESOME. I had a dark green salad with tomatoes and shallots with vegan (!!) Shanghai dumplings and coconut water. I went to two different restaurants to create this meal, but it was well worth it. Total cost: $16 (ouch – the coconut water did me in).
The dumpling were to die for. I probably would’ve overlooked them, assuming they were caked in oil and make with white pasta, but they came with a stellar (mainly organic) ingredient list. Mom and I were very impressed – we split the package since it was two servings.
So – there you have it… how I eat healthy in the airport. Yes, it takes a little bit of walking and thinking (and maybe some extra cash), but it’s worth it in my eyes.
What are your tricks for eating healthy in the airport? Of course, I always try to pack something, but it’s especially hard to coordinate that on the way back!