December 20, 2011

I'm spending a lot of time traveling this holiday season. My husband and I flew across the country to visit family last week, and we're making the trip again for Christmas—which means I'm pretty familiar with the meal options at the airport. Airports don't have the best reputation for healthy food options, but it's not impossible to find something healthy if you know what to look for. Here are my top picks for airport food.

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Breakfast: Oatmeal
By now you know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It gets your metabolism engine revved up, and if you load it with fiber and protein it can ward off midmorning hunger. Starbucks Perfect Oatmeal is a hearty, whole-grain, made-to-order breakfast with your choice of brown sugar, dried fruit, or nuts. Without the toppings, it has just 140 calories, 2.5g fat, 4g fiber, and 5g of protein, which means it keeps me full for hours. To cut back on sugar, I typically nix the brown sugar and dried fruit, and replace them with a banana, which I slice up and add to my oatmeal. Sometimes I'll even pack a single serving of nut butter to add to my oatmeal for even more staying power.

Where to buy: Starbucks, Cosi

Lunch: Bean-based soup
Soups generally are a filling option for a mid-day meal. Bean-based soups, such as chili or black-bean soup, have the bonus of fiber and protein that satisfies and keeps me going for hours. My favorite airport picks come from Chili's to Go and Au Bon Pain. The Chili & House Salad combo from Chili's to Go comes with a good-size serving of hearty chili and fiber-rich salad. I save some calories by asking for the dressing on the side, which I use for dipping every few bites. I also like Au Bon Pain's French Moroccan Tomato-Lentil Soup, which is loaded with beans and bold garlic and curry flavors. It's delicious.

Where to buy: Chili's to Go, Au Bon Pain

Dinner: Veggie pizza
To be clear, the majority of airport pizza is loaded with calories and fat. But there are a few places that serve healthier options. I tend to look for slices piled high with nutrient-rich vegetables and not loaded with cheese and meat, which add calories and saturated fat. The vegetarian pizza from California Pizza Kitchen comes with mozzarella, broccoli, eggplant, corn, red onions, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Even with all of those veggies, make sure you avoid eating too much of a good thing. Some pizza slices are more than a quarter of a pie! Just be sure not to super-size your slice!

Where to buy: California Pizza Kitchen, Sbarro (look for their thin-crust pizza!)

Snack: Nuts and fresh fruit
I couldn't pick just one! Nuts are easy to find at the airport or on the plane, so I reach for them when the urge to snack strikes. Nuts are loaded with healthy fats and protein, but they are high in calories, so don't overdo it. I keep my calories in check by looking at the serving size info on the package and then pairing my nuts with a piece of fresh fruit.

Where to buy: Most newsstands or snack shops

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