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!



  • Freya April 4, 2011, 2:59 pm

    I do exactly the same as you! I think when I was in Dulles last year I walked about 6miles in the airport 😛 It’s expensive but I’d so much rather that than get served crap and go hungry :/

    • Freya April 4, 2011, 3:02 pm

      Oh, and 100% snacks yes!! My bag was rammed with Clif bars and nuts 😛

  • Emily April 4, 2011, 3:00 pm

    It’s REALLY hard, especially in NY! And I’ll tell you – it’s a blessing and a curse that they put the nutrition information on anything and everything here! The last time I was at JFK, we stuck to salad. Then had the blue chips (thank you, Jet Blue!) on the plain. Delish 🙂

    • Caitlin April 4, 2011, 9:33 pm

      I agree that it’s a blessing and a curse 🙂 Stopped me from a Crumbs cupcake because I really, really did not to eat a cupcake that size in the middle of the day.

  • Maria @ Oh Healthy Day April 4, 2011, 3:02 pm

    Sometimes, especially in the small airports, where variety is limited, I often wait to eat on the plane. Virgin America has some very healthy (and not too expensive) snack boxes. Some of them even have organic snacks for purchase on board.

  • Lauren @ Sweet and Twisted April 4, 2011, 3:03 pm

    I would eat those dumplings if I wasn’t in an airport!

  • Kara April 4, 2011, 3:05 pm

    I usually walk all over scouting for a good pizza place and frozen yogurt, lol. I don’t travel much at all and when I do, I have the baby and really, my main goal is survival. I’m not even going to be focused at all at what I’m eating, so I usually get a sandwich since it won’t get cold and I can eat a little bit at a time.

    • Caitlin April 4, 2011, 9:34 pm

      “My main goal is survival” LOL

  • Abby April 4, 2011, 3:06 pm

    Those dumplings sound like the jam! 🙂 I have actually only flown once in my life and I was a 5th grader at the time. lol.

  • Sana April 4, 2011, 3:06 pm

    The last airport I was in, was in Switzerland and it had a FULL grocery store. I dieeee!

  • Holly @ The Runny Egg April 4, 2011, 3:07 pm

    Honestly I almost always bring my own food to eat the airport — or I go to Subway in a pinch. Or I say “to hell with healthy eating” and go to Sonic.

  • megan @ blackberries for jam April 4, 2011, 3:08 pm

    Wow, that is the best-looking airport meal I have ever seen! JFK definitely has some of the better options of airports I’ve flown through. The other airport I was really impressed with is Detroit, where I managed to have very tasty, freshly-prepared vegetarian sushi (for a steep price, for sure). Most other airports just offer crap, so whenever I can plan ahead I usually pack my own food.

    • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday April 4, 2011, 3:22 pm

      I’m one to pack my own food for trips too. It’s one less thing to worry about once I get to the airport.

  • Dori April 4, 2011, 3:09 pm

    They have those vegan dumplings/noodles/other dishes in all the grocery stores here! A really great brand, and so cheap for a full meal. I’m lazy and have a tiny kitchen and never cook, so it is perfect for me.

  • Kristy @ Kristyruns.com April 4, 2011, 3:11 pm

    Whoa. Those dumplings look totally clutch! Nice find! I go for smoothies and find granola or fruit bars usually.

  • Courtney @ The Granola Chronicles April 4, 2011, 3:12 pm

    Sometimes you can get lucky and find hidden healthy gems in airports!

  • Me-Linh @ Sweet and Sweat April 4, 2011, 3:14 pm

    My favorite meal is to go to a whole foods the day before and grab a nice meal there. But when that can’t happen I usually end up eating some kind of ice cream soft serve.
    Bad, I know. But I have a fear of flying!

  • Paige @Running Around Normal April 4, 2011, 3:15 pm

    That sounds delicious! I’ve never had dumplings like that, though. I usually find the closest place with a vegetarian option :-p

  • Lisa Fine April 4, 2011, 3:18 pm

    I find it hard a lot of the time to find airport food too, especially if I’ve been eating poorly beforehand. But, I figure it’s all part of traveling.

    By the way, I love those dumplings! An organic farm I used to work for [Hawthorne Valley Farm in NY] used to have them available to the employees, so I’d eat them all the time. Yum.

  • Gavi @ Gavi Gets Going! April 4, 2011, 3:20 pm

    Like you, I always search for the vegetarian options at airports, or I try to get a simple salad with grilled chicken for some added protein. Mixing and matching is key–for example, if I get a mostly-veggie salad from one place, I’ll buy a nonfat latte elsewhere for some added protein. It IS possible to find healthy food in an airport, but it definitely will cost you (as you found today)!

  • Amy April 4, 2011, 3:20 pm

    YUM! I totally know the wandering-the-terminal-like-an-Israelite-in-the-desert routine. It sucks, but it’s worth it.

  • marie April 4, 2011, 3:21 pm

    I never have time to scout the entire airport and I hate spending $27 on a salad. I usually just keep it simple and grab coffee and a sandwich or a bagel.

  • Khar April 4, 2011, 3:21 pm

    If you have an iPhone, there’s an app called GateGuru where food places (and other services) are listed by terminal and gate. I usually check that to see if there is anything worth a walk.

    • Caitlin April 4, 2011, 9:35 pm

      Awesome!!! Thank you!

  • Anne @thefitbridesmaid April 4, 2011, 3:22 pm

    While not related to the eating part of the airport, I like to do laps of the airport. I can be seen dragging myself and my bag through almost every terminal and turning around when you reach the end. This is especially helpful when you have 1+ hour layover. (Or you miss your connection and suddenly have over 2 hours to kill in the Denver airport, which is what frequently happened to me on my business trips to Idaho).

  • Caroline April 4, 2011, 3:23 pm

    Wow vegan dumplings?!?!? My local airport is so limited for food, sadly. Call me old fashioned, but I like to take packed lunch 🙂 xx

  • shelby April 4, 2011, 3:28 pm

    I’d take that $16 and 30 minutes and enjoy a nice glass of wine before my flight. Ahhhh. 🙂

  • Johanna B April 4, 2011, 3:28 pm

    My challenge is finding both veggie and gluten-free at the same time. I’m leaning heavily toward the veggie and for medical reasons have to have the gluten-free. I don’t eat out a lot for that reason.

  • Rachel April 4, 2011, 3:29 pm

    You could always look at the airport’s website beforehand, and search by terminal to see what restaurants/shops are there.

    The GateGuru iPhone app sounds good too.

  • Jamie April 4, 2011, 3:34 pm

    Caitlin, I just wanted to say congrats on the half marathon…I am so impressed and inspired by your dedication and determination despite injury to still have put your heart and soul into the race! That airport meal looks tastier than anything I’ve ever had at the airport 🙂 have a great flight!

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat April 4, 2011, 3:35 pm

    I’m the same as you in that I walk the entire concourse – multiple times – to size up the options and decide what I want to eat. Sometimes though, I like to avoid getting stuck with limited options all together and pack as much as I possibly can before flying – a sandwich, fruit, crackers, hummus, veggies, bags of oatmeal mixed with protein powder and cinnamon – looks a bit funny but it’s a very tasty option when there’s no Starbucks!

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) April 4, 2011, 3:37 pm

    I avoid airport eating at all cost. I will normally pack something (apples, bananas, bread) because it is so hard to find food in the airport that is vegetarian and dairy free. If I can find a salad with just veggies, I will go for it, but I try to plan the best I can to not have to eat there. Have a safe trip!

  • Ellie@fitforthesoul April 4, 2011, 3:37 pm

    I hear ya Caitlin! haha when everything is fried foods restaurants and really bad choices for my stomach, I can get very extremely disappointed–and it’s hard to make me feel like that. Oh! you know what just popped into my mind?! perhaps~googling the eateries in airports before traveling would save lots of time & $! Basically, knowing way ahead of time 🙂

  • Katie Potter April 4, 2011, 3:52 pm

    I don’t go flying to often but I know the frustration when you do! Last time I felt like it was almost impossible to get anything that was less than a 1000 calories! Thanks for the advice. 🙂

  • Cindy Robinson April 4, 2011, 3:55 pm

    I can be super cranky too, when my willpower is low and I’m faced with unhealthy choices. I threw a temper tantrum in the car on my honeymoon b/c they put mayo on my chicken sandwich AND gave me fries that I didn’t want (well, I DID want them…) and was trying to make good decisions 🙂 My husband didn’t know what hit him….oooops!

    • Caitlin April 4, 2011, 9:35 pm


  • Stace April 4, 2011, 3:56 pm

    This is a great topic. I always end up going with banana and a bar in a convienience store place in the airport. BORING. I should learn to look around better. I try to pack snacks too when I can.

  • Kacy April 4, 2011, 3:58 pm

    That looks delicious!
    I usually just get a veggie sandwich or wrap and I always get an egg sandwich or burrito for breakfast. And maybe a smoothie or froyo. Or chocolate. Airport food is kind of my guilty pleasure.

    • JenATX April 4, 2011, 9:21 pm

      haha I hear ya on this one. I typically eat how I usually do at airports, but every now and then I have to get a candy bar or something when I go into the magazine store! I think it just reminds me of being a kid & begging my mom to buy me a treat at the airport (which she usually did because who wants to travel with a whiney kid?)

      FYI, Quiznos has a veggie sandwich now! I just discovered this at the San Diego airport & I’m pretty sure its on whole wheat bread too

  • Emma (Namaste Everyday) April 4, 2011, 3:58 pm

    I like to bring food if I can, but that’s tricky on international flights! There are some delis sometimes where you can get roasted veggies on whole wheat.

  • Jenny @ Fitness Health and Food April 4, 2011, 4:06 pm

    Caitlin, what a great post! The airport truly is the worst place for healthy eating because of the lack of good options and the ridiculous pricing! I just always bring as many bars, trail mixes, PJ&s, apples, and water as possible so that I spend as little as possible. Though sometimes I do splurge on fresh fruit salad. You certainly found a great dish though! 🙂

    Hope you have happy and safe travels!

  • Ashley @ Ashley's Adventures in Alaska April 4, 2011, 4:08 pm

    Great post and conversation! For my super long trips (like AK to TX) I pack my carry on full of snacks like nuts and Clif bars and such, and grab fruit in each airport. If I need to eat on the plane, Alaska Air has a great snack pack with nuts, nut butters, and such. And… My handy dandy Nalgene bottle travels with me so I can avoid buying bottles of water. 🙂

  • J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) April 4, 2011, 4:08 pm

    That looks really tasty for airport food!

  • Jenny @ Fitness Health and Food April 4, 2011, 4:08 pm

    Airports are the worst for healthy, reasonably priced eating. It looks like you found a good option though!

    I always bring larabars, trail mix, apples, PB & J’s and water. Sometimes I’ll treat myself to a fresh fruit salad though.

    I hope you ahve safe and happy travels! 🙂

    • Baking 'n' Books April 4, 2011, 4:13 pm

      Ditto, the price is ridiculous.

      You’ve got great tips though! Um…avoid temptation to buy ALL chocolate candies for the plane trip…I said all – that doesn’t include “some” 😉

      The worst is when you do find a salad somewhere – and it’s only mounds of lettuce. I hate that!

  • Jordan April 4, 2011, 4:14 pm

    Awesome healthy airport food finds! Those dumplings look delicious!
    Generally I stick to staying snacky in the airport…I rarely have the time to eat an entire meal because I cut my flights so close 🙂 but I usually seek out healthy protein bars or packages of unsalted nuts. Starbucks is also one of my favorite stops in the airport, since they usually have some healthy snack options!

  • Miranda @ Working Mom Works Out April 4, 2011, 4:39 pm

    Great ideas! I sometimes have to do the same thing to find gluten-free options. A little bit here. A little bit there. And amazingly, you can put together something yummy.

    We’re driving to Michigan Thursday night with 3 dogs and 3 kids in tow (I know. We have issues). But a strategically packed cooler is a necessity.

  • Annie@stronghealthyfit April 4, 2011, 4:43 pm

    Great tips! I try to pack food when I travel too. I’ve seen those dumplings before but have never tried them! Glad to hear that they’re good. I love dumplings 🙂

  • Kelly April 4, 2011, 4:47 pm

    Most of the time I try to pack something before getting to the airport since I know airpot leaves little to be desired. But if that is not an option then I usually look for a salad with a grilled protein on top. Typically I can find it even if it means I might have to sell a kidney when I get home.

  • Ash @ Good Taste Healthy Me April 4, 2011, 4:58 pm

    I usually try to eat prior to traveling. If I do eat at the airport I typically end up getting something not overly healthy. I typically fly Jetblue and they have great options usually though (at least in my experience). I was able to get a healthy wrap…but the other time I went to Boston Beerworks. Blueberry beer? :drool:

  • Heather @ Health, Happiness, and Hope April 4, 2011, 5:11 pm

    I’m the “packer” when it comes to traveling. I’ve actually gotten VERY good at planning things out so I’ll have snacks, meals, and whatnot prepared just in case. I grew up with a dad who never like to stop for ANYTHING while traveling (this didn’t work so well with my small bladder ;)), so I learned to work with it! That, and I eventually made my dad come around. 😉

    AWESOME tips Caitlin!

  • Lisa (bakebikeblog) April 4, 2011, 5:26 pm

    great tips! I find that I usually have to bring my own as gluten free options are even harder to find 🙁

    • Caitlin April 4, 2011, 9:36 pm

      Ugh you’re right!!! They need healthier options, including gluten-free, in airports.

    • Amber K April 5, 2011, 11:03 am

      That is so true! I’m going on a trip later this year and I am already trying to figure out how much of my bag will have to be food!

  • Jenne April 4, 2011, 5:28 pm

    A couple years back I had 4 hours to kill on a layover in the Minneapolis airport. Being newly vegan I was concerned about my options. I decided on a veggie sub at Quiznos. It was delicious!!! My sister and I were boarding the plane a few hours later, and I started feeling really “off”. But not until the plane started racing down the runway did the feeling really overtake me. As soon as the seatbelt sign went off I raced to the back of the plane and proceeded to throw-up EVERYWHERE!!!

  • Kate (What Kate is Cooking) April 4, 2011, 5:32 pm

    It can be really hard to find healthy food in an airport! Thanks for the tips 🙂 It’s even harder as a vegetarian. I don’t remember what airport it was, but I swear everything they had had meat in it!

  • Jamie aka "Sometimes Healthy" Girl April 4, 2011, 5:37 pm

    Ohhh I have many airport tricks up my sleeve! I hate flying as it is, so I at least like to be prepared on the food front. I usually bring about 6 packets of oatmeal with me. This ensures that I have enough for the way back. It’s always easy to get hot water from somewhere. I also TRY to pack some sort of easy carby product, such as, believe it or not, Thomas Bagel Thins :-).

    Then, when I’m at the airport, I generally search for salads, veggies fruit or yogurt. I’m usually able to find 2/4 which, added with my oatmeal or bagel, gives me a complete meal! 🙂 PS – I also pack instant hot cocoa. I KNOW – it’s weird, but there is something so comforting about having hot chocolate on a plane.

  • Sophia @ Raven Waves April 4, 2011, 5:38 pm

    I’m going to be in the airport on Wednesday! Woot! Thanks for the tips. I definitely bring my own snacks and try to eat them before they force you to throw them away haha!

  • Kiran @ KiranTarun.com April 4, 2011, 5:42 pm

    I wish all airports had Subways chain. If there’s McD everywhere, why not Subway, right? 🙂

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife April 4, 2011, 5:50 pm

    I love a good smoothie (only fruit) or I bring carrots and an apple to munch on (grab it from a store) plus a good, protein bar :)I am usually in a rush, so never have time to seek out in the airport (I bring beforehand) -but I like your tips!

  • Ashley @ Thefitacademic April 4, 2011, 6:00 pm

    i totally agree about walking the place to see what there is & about packing your own snacks. EVERY time I travel I always bring some of my own food items just in case I end up unable to find something to eat (or to supplement meals). Thanks for the advice!

  • chelsea April 4, 2011, 6:08 pm

    Once at the DC airport my hubby and I walked through 3 ver large terminals, took 2 trains and walked some more just for Chipotle. It was like a 45 min trip, but worth it!!! Sometimes it is just way easier to pack a snack, oh and um cheaper too!

  • Mary @ Bites and Bliss April 4, 2011, 6:11 pm

    I do the same thing but my only other problem is finding something that’s not a bajillion dollars!! Everything so, so expensive there that I can’t stand paying $8 for half a wrap. For that reason I usually just pack loads of food for the entire traveling time, there and back.

  • Erin April 4, 2011, 6:43 pm

    Looks like you are glowing in all of your pictures lately!!

    • Caitlin April 4, 2011, 9:37 pm

      I switched to Bare Essentials makeup and it is amazing. Thank you! It totally hides the fact that I get like, zero sleep. LOL

      • Erin April 5, 2011, 1:26 pm

        OMG now I want to try it!!

        • Caitlin April 5, 2011, 3:29 pm

          The starter kit is only $60 and it comes with three powders, including a bronzer, and three brushes! Pretty good deal.

  • kristen April 4, 2011, 6:48 pm

    WOW! airport food is crazy expensive
    I usually try to bring snacks whenever I can. Or I stop at subway and eat the sandwich at the airport

  • Courtney April 4, 2011, 7:29 pm

    I always look for frozen yogurt 🙂 can never go wrong!!

  • The Teenage Taste April 4, 2011, 7:38 pm

    I always have a hard time finding healthy meal options at airports, so I always make sure to pack some protein bars, nut butter packets, and fruit that I can use for makeshift meals.

  • Sarah (Running To Slow Things Down) April 4, 2011, 7:40 pm

    I’ve never actually flown, but I love that you share these tips so that I’ll be better prepared for when I do. I can only imagine how difficult it must be. Whenever I pick friends up from the airport, all I ever seem to see are donuts, chips, and cookies. Not exactly energy food. 😉

    Your lunch looks fabulous! 😀

  • delia April 4, 2011, 7:59 pm

    I really don’t like buying food at the airport. Not only is it usually not very healthy but it’s WAY overpriced. They know we can’t go anywhere else! I always bring lots of snacks, and since my past few trips involved side goals of visiting Trader Joe’s, i was always very stocked in food on the way back. I basically just try to keep myself occupied so that I can eat a nice meal when I get to my destination.

  • Katie @ peacebeme April 4, 2011, 8:28 pm

    I always pack something, but I agree about the way back!

  • Ann @ Day by Day April 4, 2011, 8:49 pm

    I always bring baggies of almonds, dry cereal, etc. and an almond butter/banana sandwich if I’m going to be flying through meal time. Being vegetarian and diabetic, I have to be especially careful in airports. If there aren’t any options I like, I still have to eat, so I’ve always got my back-up sammie.

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey April 4, 2011, 8:50 pm

    Nice job on the meal! I usually try to seek out a slad of some sort. I always keep extra snacks in my bags too, so I can always pump up the meal with some extra snacks!

  • BroccoliHut April 4, 2011, 10:06 pm

    Great tips! I totally do the mix and match thing, much to the chagrin of those with whom I am traveling. I gotta shop my options to create a healthy meal!

  • CH April 5, 2011, 12:08 am

    I love that brand of dumplings! They sell them all over New York, and there is a version at the Whole Foods hot bar that is pretty similar…

  • Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) April 5, 2011, 12:36 am

    I don’t worry too much about eating healthy on vacation … and that is the only reason I am ever in an airport – for vacation!!!

  • Katherine: Unemployed April 5, 2011, 7:03 am

    I hate magazine articles on this topic because they always talk about city/airport-specific offerings. you do a much better job!

  • T Wiseman April 5, 2011, 7:23 am

    If your ever in Canada, Utah, Florida, NY, Texas and i think Oregon try a booster juice, they have vegetarian options where you can get a smoothie and a panini for just 12$ Canadian (no idea what that is in Us dollars) its pretty much the only vegetarian choice around where i live and i die for it favorite smoothie place ever.

    if you want to look ore in to it the website is http://www.boosterjuice.com/

  • Dee April 5, 2011, 9:54 am

    Oh my! I’ve never seen those dumplings before. They look delicious!

  • Sam @ the neurotic yogini April 5, 2011, 1:16 pm

    That’s what I do when I travel too.. just search over everything then pair up a few healthy items to make my meal. 🙂

  • Allison @ Happy Tales April 5, 2011, 4:40 pm

    Ugh, I always hate buying food in the airport… it’s just wayyyy to expensive for me! I do however bring tons of snacks…and even multiple sandwiches! Tupperware is great to tote it in, and then you’ll have the Tupperware to use on the trip, too! Win-win!

  • Alina May 26, 2012, 6:33 pm

    If anyone’s a Canadian flyer, West Jet has some pretty awesome (and not too expensive snacks)! I specifically remember a Bothwell cheese and cracker with grapes plate for like $6!

  • Michelle January 7, 2013, 12:04 pm

    Oh WOW, and there’s NO SOY in them thar, yummy Dumplings, YAY! 🙂 Next time I am ever there I’m gettin’ those! Question for flyers: Are you allowed to bring your own lunchbox of homemade foods on the plane? It seems with today’s hightened security, one would no longer be allowed to bring on their own food. (Only food from within the airport vending machines and restaurants). If that’s the case, then I’m packing my Zojirushi Thermos Lunch Jar like crazy before I fly! 🙂

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