Eating at airports normally isn't very fun. Like I mentioned in my last post, I try to travel with as many snacks and meals as possible and also do my best to eat before I have a long travel day. But, life happens and sometimes you've just gotta eat!
This past week I was in Orlando and got to the airport absolutely starving. I'd already eaten most of the snacks I packed and the thought of another cashew or macadamia nut made me want to puke. I needed real food! So began the airport hunt for the best food available.
Now, unless you're at Terminal 2 in San Francisco or maybe in Denver, eating well at airports can be pretty difficult. Not to mention, so many fast food places have begun marketing themselves as "healthy" yet many times they are even worse than just your normal cafeteria food. So, where do you start?!
These were my four options at the Orlando Airport cafeteria. There was a frozen yogurt and smoothie place, Nature's Table, Qdoba and then a chinese food place. Like any person trying to be healthy, my eyes went directly to the Nature's Table place. I walked over and to my surprise, found that it was one of the unhealthiest options there! The entire menu was sandwiches, but they had wheat bread so it was "healthy"....ummm no. The rest of the menu was full of whole wheat pizzas and yogurt parfaits. Again, not good for you. Lesson #1: Just because it says the word "nature" or "healthy" does not mean it's good for you. Read labels, ask questions and use your brain.
Next up, I headed over to the frozen yogurt and smoothie place in hopes of finding a nice protein smoothie with some fruit and veggies. Welp, every smoothie had frozen yogurt as it's base and they used syrup as the "fruit" in the smoothies. Yeah, crazy right. Every smoothie had about 2x the sugar in any candy bar, so I crossed that place off my list too. Lesson #2: 90% of the time, smoothies are one of the worst choices you can make in terms of health food. They are full of hidden sugars and basically equal a candy bar, if not more. Look for smoothies with lots of protein and veggies and minimal fruit, or at least real fruit!
My third option was a chinese food place with a section on their menu that read "healthy choice". So, naturally, I had to check it out. Their healthy choice was a veggie stir fry with teriyaki sauce and a side of brown rice or noodles. The words vegetarian were written in large letters across the top. Now, without the teriyaki sauce or noodles this wouldn't be such a bad option for an airport. Heck, throw some chicken on there and you're golden. But, all of this food was pre-made so there was no way for them to take the sauce off. Lesson #3: Beware of sauces, especially at Chinese food restaurants! These sauces are full of scary additives and way too much sugar. So, not worth it.
Lastly, I headed over to Qdoba. I quickly googled Qdoba gluten free on my iPhone and was able to pull up a complete gluten free menu. Heck yeah! Next, I noticed that the ordering process was set up a lot like Chipotle. You instruct the server on what you want and can basically custom build your mexican meal. I went with a lettuce base, double chicken, veggies, guacamole and two types of salsa on top. Now, don't get me wrong, Qdoba is still full of soy, god only knows where their meat comes from and it has some preservatives, but compared to everything else in the area, it was pretty darn good! You get your combo of healthy fats from the guac, protein from the chicken and then veggies. Lesson #4: Always focus on healthy fats, veggies and proteins when it comes to choosing your meals and seek out places that give you lots of control over what you're served.
Now, eating at an airport isn't anywhere close to as easy as eating at a health food store, but armed with the right knowledge, you can turn any "unhealthy" eating situation into a fairly good one. Do your best to be as prepared as you can with snacks that you bring with you and then focus on healthy fats, proteins and veggies when you're forced into a tight spot like at an airport or work event.
If you travel a lot or find that you're in situations like this often, I'd love to hear from you! What works for you? Where do you struggle? Write your answers in the comments!