How to Avoid Crappy Food When Flying

We say we want to eat healthy when traveling but good-for-you food can be hard to find and frankly, a little dull. Plus traveling can be such a pain we like to reward ourselves and given a choice of candy or carrots, which treat would you choose?

The good news is, not all junk food is bad, not all healthy food is dull, and crappy food can be avoided. [Video at the end]

LISTEN: Travel pro Rick Seaney tries to eat healthy (and tries and tries)

Disclaimer: We are not doctors, nutritionists or even restaurant reviewers. If food is an issue, consult a health care professional. This is for those who try to avoid crappy food when possible and might want a little guidance.

Myths about Food and Travel

First, let’s bust some myths. Many of us believe (or want to believe) the following:

  • Calories consumed on planes or in airports do not count
  • Dieters always get a pass for travel days
  • You cannot bring food from home on a plane

Not true, not true, not true.

Avoid the Crappy Food: Fast Food

Many food-conscious travelers already know this stuff, but it may be news to some.

  • Fast food burgers, chicken: Tasty, of course, but the key here is moderation. Plus most fast food places serve salads or plain burgers; skip the fries (sorry) and you’ll consume a lot fewer calories than the mega-sandwiches.
  • Pastries: This stuff is delicious but may not be ideal for those on a diet. One popular airport-and-mall bakery franchise offers a pecan/caramel treat that sources say packs a hefty 1,080 calories but it also offers donut-hole-type snacks for as little as 260 calories.
  • Pizza: More food we love. According to one popular airport pizzeria’s site, a sausage-pepperoni slice can run as high as 850 calories while plain cheese averages about 400 or so calories.

Avoid Crappy Food: Bring Lunch from Home

The video below has all kinds of ideas for brown-bagging it. Here are just a few:

  • Homemade sandwiches, little tubs of hummus plus chips, fruits and vegetables, nuts, granola bars, kale chips.

Fresh from home is tastier than pre-packaged airport/airplane offerings and if you fill yourself up with good stuff, you may be less likely to eat crappy stuff. Best of all, food from home is free.

Avoid Crappy Food: Airport Restaurants

Maybe airports aren’t yet a foodie destination but some could be. There’s been an explosion of good airport dining options in recent years, a far cry from the days of soul-less, cafeteria-style stuff.

Some examples of good food at good airport restaurants around the world from a variety of sources. If you’d like to travel to these places, click the city to find a cheap flight.

  • Hong Kong: This award-winning airport has a wide array of Asian and Western options including Chinese, Greek, Italian, French and numerous establishments serving vegetarian dishes. Try the fish balls or get a taste of home at McDonald’s. See more restaurants here.
  • London Heathrow: So many restaurants but we like the sound of Leon because one reviewer wrote, “Fast food that’s good for you might be a confusing concept, but a quick look at what’s on offer [at Leon] proves it’s not an impossible dream.” Rhubarb  sounds good too; it offers “a welcome alternative to the ‘stodgy’ full-English breakfast.” See more here.
  • Los Angeles: Try Petrossian for caviar; it’s only about 40 calories per tablespoon and heck, how much can you afford to eat? Plus there are lots of salads at Lemonade. See more here.
  • New York (JFK): Deep Blue Sushi has – well, sushi – and Piquillo is recommended for paella and ceviche. See more here.
  • Frankfurt: Okay, so maybe Deustch doesn’t top the list of healthy options thanks to all those wonderful sausages (reviewers say they’re really good) but sauerkraut is kind of light. See more here.
  • San Francisco: Napa Farms Market offers a changing seasonal menu but usually includes a yogurt bar, rotisserie meats and fresh berries, while fans of Cat Cora’s Kitchen love the oysters and artichokes. If you overdo it, you can always visit the airport’s yoga room. See more here.
  • Sydney: The airport’s website lists a bunch of ‘healthy eating’ options including Little Bok Choy and Soul Origin. See more here.

OK, now tell us what we missed.

VIDEO: Our thanks to Food Babe for some of these ideas.

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Updated: February 24, 2016