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Healthy eating at the airport

One of the little-thought-about aspects of international travel is the amount of time one spends at the airport. Between early airport arrival to allow time for security checks and layovers at stops along the way to your eventual destination, you can spend almost as much time in airports as you do on the plane.

Accept the fact that you’ll be hungry during one of those airport hours. And, since what you eat at the airport can affect how you feel later, it’s important to make good choices. Follow these six tips to arrive at your destination feeling ready to conquer your next adventure.

Know what your airline offers

Start by knowing exactly how much and how often you will be fed on the plane. Most airlines will serve at least one full meal and one snack on overseas flights. But for some trips, you may start with a domestic leg and then perhaps a connecting flight somewhere along the way. Knowing when you can expect to eat on the plane can help you decide whether you need to augment with airport offerings along the way.

Do some terminal research ahead of time

Many larger airports publish a list of their restaurants online, some with menus. It’s worth checking them out before you leave to see what the food options might be in your particular terminal. Even if the menus aren’t in English, accompanying photos can give you a sense of the variety you might find. For smaller airports, options may be limited, so plan accordingly by bringing some food of your own.

Skip the typical fast food choices

You’ll be sitting for many hours, so who needs the extra calories? Plus, many fast food options are high in salt, which can cause fluid retention and swelling in your ankles and feet. If you do choose a fast food restaurant, opt for the healthier menu choices like grilled chicken wraps, salads or fruit and yogurt.

Eat like you would at home

Chances are, if you were home, you wouldn’t be loading up on giant pastries, burgers and fries. And, changing your diet radically at the start of a long journey can leave you feeling uncomfortable, sleepy or constipated once you arrive. Choose foods that are most like what you would typically eat at home to avoid shocking your digestive system at the time you most want it to behave.

Order smart at a restaurant

Restaurant portions can be huge and expensive, but there’s no reason to go big. At a sit-down restaurant, the appetizer and side dish menus often hide the healthiest options, and they are also less expensive. Look for dishes that contain a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fiber. For breakfast, whole grain oatmeal will leave you feeling satisfied for hours. Good choices for lunch or dinnertime might include a brothy vegetable or chicken soup, a grilled chicken salad, or a burrito bowl that includes beans or chicken (protein), greens (Vitamin C and fiber), and guacamole (healthy fat).

Stock up on healthy snacks for later

Wander through the airport, and you will probably be able to find quite a few options for good snacks you can eat later on the plane or during a layover in a small airport that has nothing but vending machines. Items that can hold for hours include a small cup of hummus, veggies to use as dippers, an apple, nuts or turkey jerky. Remember that foods containing protein – like hummus, nuts and jerky – can help you feel satisfied longer.

Even with the best set of ideas for healthy airport eating, having a good store of snacks from home is your best bet. Room in one’s carry-on is always in short supply, so pack snacks that count. Try nuts, dried fruit, popcorn, jerky, sunflower seeds, crackers and nut butter, and trail mix. And don’t eat them all in the first hour.

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