Airport food: The good, the bad, and the ugly

I’m notorious for carrying around a kind of ridiculous amount of food when i travel. I may or may not have two packages of nuts, three different kinds of energy bar, an apple, and a water bottle in my carry-on right now. Ok, fine, I do.snacks

On this recent trip, I’ve found a wide variety of ugly choices (see: the donut debacle) but also bad one, and good ones. So let’s start with the airport. Yes, the smell of auntie anne’s is heavy in the air. a pretzel dog at 9 AM isn’t really bad is it? YES. it is. They have these neat little directories with touch screens here now, which let you see all the options near and far, and get a little info about them. That helps! In general, I’m not giving out “no duh” info, but thinking about things that see like they’re a good idea. This is by no means a comprehensive survey but rather a smattering of observations during my two-ish hours in DFW terminal D between 9 AM and noon: 

Smarter choices (green light!)

  • unsalted nuts, kind bars at the newsstands
  • Au Bon Pain has cut fruit, whole apples, and bananas. Fresh fruit is also very hydrating compared to anything dried or packaged, and as I’ve mentioned, flying dehydrates you like no other.
  • Veggie, egg-white, whole-egg, whole-grain, and “bagel thin” options at Einstein Brothers.
  • jambaFruit & veggie blends at Jamba Juice (not to be confused with the “classic smoothies” made with froyo or sherbet)
  • Oatmeal and breakfast bowls at Jamba Juice (but look out for the ones that sound too good to be healthy— they aren’t).
  • Calorie counts on lots of menus make it easy to take a quick stock of what’s likely to be healthier (although in general, I don’t think calorie counting is ultimately a good diet practice!)
  • Water, water, water, and more water. I didn’t find those groovy bottle-filling stations here, but the fountain works!

Maybe good, maybe not choices (yellow light)

  • naked juices  (read the labels— they have A LOT of sugar (even though it’s fruit-based rather than added), and sometimes A LOT of calories, and/or two servings in a bottle). These might be a good choice, as long as you know what you’re getting and aren’t just subbing it in for water.
  • Many of the granola/energy bars. Just read the labels— some are very nutritious, some have 30+  grams of sugar.
  • “Smoothie King” drinks. A lot of these are sugary and/or made with protein powders, rather than whole fruits, juices, and veggies. Look closely before you leap! 
  • “Enhanced” water. You can buy water that supposedly has special electrolytes and stuff, and other than your wallet, it own’t hurt you, but then again, you can buy vitamin water, which is another word for pure sugar.
  • Yogurts, parfaits, etc. Some are great— and some are mostly sugar. Many of the pre-made fruit/yogurt/granola concoctions you can get at an APB or a starbucks are surprisingly sweet. It’s still better than a cinnabon, though, yes? Yes.

Yikes! (Red light). I probably don’t need to list all the bad choices, and I’d run out of space anyway, but here’s a list of things I saw children eating at 9 AM at the airport today, just to horrify you:

  • Flaimin’ hot cheetos
  • Fried chicken
  • Skittles
  • Ben & Jerry’s waffle cone
  • 40+ounce coke.

So, bottom line? Bring something if you can! If you can’t, it’s worth trying to find something good. There are a surprising number of very good and pretty good options available. It’s tempting to default to “well I’m tired/on vacation/rushed,” and use that to justify junk food— but it doesn’t EVER make you feel better. So do yourself a favor!

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