Guide for choosing healthier airport eats

If you’ve traveled by air recently, whether for business or pleasure, you know how difficult it can be to find something healthy to eat at the airport. In this age of terminal food courts and meal-less flights it’s tempting to load up on ‘belly fill’ while getting a whole lot of calories and fat along the way – sometimes as much as a full day’s worth. But with a little knowledge and advance planning eating well while at the airport is no big deal. Here are some handy tips:

DIY snacks

The processed foods that are the mainstay of airport dining don’t satisfy hunger for very long.  That’s because processed foods like white bread, bagels, chips and pasta, digest very quickly. And sugary foods like candy and donuts can actually promote hunger. Solution: Go for foods that are naturally filling, especially those that are high in fiber or lean protein. Good choices include:

 Snack or meal replacement bars (high fiber or high protein)
 Low fat versions of cheese (string, slices, wedges) or cottage cheese
 High fiber crackers or cereal (packed in a sturdy plastic container)
 Raw (not dry roasted) nuts (but keep the portions to about 1/4 cup) and soy nuts
 Fresh or dried fruit
 Greek yogurt (it’s richer tasting and has more protein than traditional yogurt)
 Chopped vegetables or a garden salad (vinegar-based dressing on the size)

Steer clear of pre-made sandwiches

Seemingly healthy sandwiches can be loaded with fat-laden condiments like mayonnaise, bacon, cheese and dressings that pack upwards of 800 calories and more than 20 grams of fat.  Case in point: that overstuffed tuna sandwich at the takeout deli has about 700 calories and 43 grams of fat!  The fish isn’t the problem; what’s bad is that it’s swimming in full-fat mayo. Solution: Pack your own sandwich or find a deli counter that makes sandwiches to order. Best picks are sandwiches with lean protein such as roast beef, turkey or chicken, topped with fresh chopped veggies and mustard rather than mayo. At McDonalds, zero in on their healthy menu items such as a grilled chicken sandwich with BBQ sauce, a fruit smoothie, or a fresh salad.

Snack sensibly

Bags of nuts are a staple at airport newsstands and indeed these can be a healthy choice; nuts are a great source of fiber and heart-healthy fat, and a single serving has only about 130 calories.  But beware of those jumbo-size bags that can contain a whopping 10 servings!  Solution: Pack your own nuts as single servings in snack baggies.  One serving of nuts is about 1 ounce, but the number of pieces varies by nut: Figure one serving equals 23 almonds, 30 peanuts, or 49 kernels of pistachios. Pistachios are a great choice because cracking each one open lets you enjoy them longer. Fresh fruit and chopped veggies with salsa or hummus also make smart, filling on-the-go snacks.

Stay hydrated

Dehydration can make you tired – and hungry. In fact dehydration, whether on the ground or in the air, can mimic the symptoms of hunger and cause you to overeat when all you really need is a drink. Solution: Water is nature’s perfect thirst quencher and it’s totally calorie and fat free. You can easily jazz up a bottle of water with a packet of sugar-free water enhancer that comes in variety of fruity flavors.

Sip something steamy

What if your flight is delayed, your stomach is growling and there’s nothing healthy in sight?  Solution: Grab a tall skim latte.  The warmth will soothe your nerves and the milk has some protein to help fill you up.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a nationally known registered dietitian based in New York and the creator of a proprietary high-fiber nutrition program for weight loss, wellness and for treating various medical conditions. Tanya authored the bestselling weight loss book The F-Factor Diet, and she is the first dietitian with a national line of high-fiber foods, which are sold under the F-Factor name. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website