5 Excuses for Unhealthy Airport Eating and Why They Won’t Fly

5 Excuses for Unhealthy Airport Eating and Why They Won’t Fly

Woman seated on floor charging phone in an airport

By Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN. Originally published by US News & World Report
Flight delays can occur due to weather, plane maintenance or, in my recent case traveling from Newark, New Jersey, to Monterey, California, an equipment failure. (The maintenance crew failed, too, by forgetting to put the tool back in the shed.) After more than four hours stuck shuttling between the airplane and airport, which eventually added up to more than 20 hours of travel time, I needed to eat.

I often hear folks complain that it’s impossible to eat healthy when you get stranded at the airport, but luckily, that’s not true. Even when you don’t predict travel changes, there are ways to stick to a healthy eating plan while stuck in transit. The first step is identifying what may get in the way of healthy eating. Here are five common barriers to making good food choices – and how to overcome them:

1. Your Emotions
When your flight is delayed, it means your life gets delayed, too. Whether you’re missing important work meetings, are late to a family function or just miss your kiddos’ bedtime, delays stink. That’s when emotional eating may start coming into play. You may feel you deserve to indulge in high-calorie fast food or the several pastries on display that are calling your name.

To overcome emotional eating, the first step is recognizing why you’re choosing unhealthy fare. Whether you feel bad for yourself, miss your family or are just frustrated with the situation, you’ll feel even worse if you choose foods because of emotions. If you simply must treat your poor mood with food, choose something small with as few calories as possible. Better yet, pack several indulgent foods (like a piece or two of dark chocolate) in case of emergencies ahead of time.

2. No Healthy Options
You may think that there are no healthy options at airports, but after traveling to smaller cities throughout the country, let me be the first to tell you that there are. Fruit and nut bars are found almost anywhere, as are coffee shops that carry a few healthy to-go bites. Airport bodegas are also filled to the brim with healthy snacks such as popcorn, jerky, Greek yogurt, hummus, fresh fruit and nuts.

3. Long Lines
Long ago during my clubbing days in New York City, I vouched never to wait in line again. Crowded airports are no exception – even if I have plenty of time to wait. Luckily, many restaurants and bodegas that sell airport food want to serve you as quickly as possible. Remember, the more people they serve, the more money they make! Plus, they have to cater to people trying to catch flights. If you really have no patience for lines, try walking to another area within the airport. You may find a hidden treasure where you least expect it – and you’ll get some exercise, too.

4. Bad Food
I love eating healthfully, but not if it doesn’t taste good. I find premade sandwiches, for instance, have zero flavor. Instead, I tend to frequent places that have fresh salads. If I can’t find a tasty, healthy meal, then I create a meal out of several snacks. Greek yogurt and hummus with pretzels are sold in almost every airport I’ve been to. Together, they provide a healthy dose of protein and a serving of dairy. Compliment the mini-meal with an apple or a banana and a handful of nuts, and that should hold you over for a few hours. During my crazy delays this past week, that’s exactly what I did – and I feel good that I didn’t fall into the unhealthy food trap.

5. The Bar
Cocktails are a clear way to add lots of unnecessary calories when you’re stuck at the airport. But that doesn’t mean you have to steer clear of the bar entirely. Rather, keep alcohol intake and calories under control by ordering light beer or wine, as opposed to mixed cocktails that can have more calories than an actual meal. Rotate between water or unsweetened iced tea and alcoholic beverages to help you slow down. The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination with an empty wallet and a whopping hangover.

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