The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) recently released its 2011 edition of the Airport Food Review. This annual report examines the number of healthy food options at 15 of the nation’s busiest airports, and this year demonstrated some positive trends.
The review identifies the percentage of restaurants in each airport that offer at least one low-fat, high-fiber, cholesterol-free vegetarian entrée. Ten of the 15 airports surveyed saw an increase in percentage this year, one remained the same and four decreased in healthful options. (See the full rankings below.)
According to PCRM staff dietitian Joseph Gonzales, R.D., airports seem to be taking notice of the public demand for healthier food options. The average score on the review has risen from 57% on the 2001 inaugural report to an 83% average in 2011. But the primary goal of the report is to educate consumers. “When consumers hear about this,” Gonzales said, “they put two and two together and say ‘I should try to look for those options.’ We would hope that we create awareness.”
Gonzales also points out that the report is focused on entrées only, so snack kiosks and coffee shops -- where you might be likely to find nuts, fresh fruit, or juices -- are not reflected in the report. These healthier options may help you to avoid the candy and chips that pervade every airport newstand.
What advice does Gonzales have for those traveling through airports that don’t offer suitable choices? "Bringing your own food is always preferred. They will let you through security with a meal, as long as it isn't soup or something liquid.” He recommends bringing easy-to-eat items like nut butter sandwiches, trail mix, meal replacement bars, and fresh fruit - “apples or oranges, things that don’t bruise easily” - in your carry-on luggage.
Detailed Review from the PCRM 2011 Airport Food Review
Following is a summary of what PCRM nutrition experts found at each airport, ranked
from best to worst:
1. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (100 percent): Detroit tops the list for
the third year in a row. It’s the only airport in the history of PCRM’s report to receive a
perfect score—twice. Every restaurant at the airport offers at least one healthful entrée,
such as a veggie burrito (hold the cheese) at Diego’s Mexican Cantina, the black bean
burger at Slapshotz, and the hummus and veggie platter at the Heineken Bar.
2. San Francisco International Airport (96 percent): San Francisco lags slightly
behind Detroit in second place for the third year. But its score continues to ascend—up
from 95 percent last year. Hungry travelers can enjoy the organic smoky split pea soup
with a hummus and veggie wrap at the San Francisco Soup Company or a beet salad, tofu
wrap, quinoa bowl, or udon noodles at Plant Café and Pinkberry.
3. Washington Dulles International Airport (92 percent): Dulles was last year’s most
improved airport. It gains just three points this year and climbs from fourth to third place.
Options for health-conscious passengers include the grilled veggie sandwich (hold the
cheese) at Harry’s Tap Room and pasta with marinara sauce at Famous Famiglia.
4. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (86 percent): Minneapolis gained a
point this year, moving up from sixth place last year. Diners seeking cholesterol-free
meals can enjoy the organic oatmeal (ordered with soymilk) or the roasted beet and pear
salad (hold the cheese) at French Meadow Bakery and Café or the smoked tofu burrito or
wrap with Cajun, Thai, or teriyaki flavors at 360 Gourmet.
5. (tie) Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (83 percent): DFW drops a point
from last year, but moves up to fifth place. Health-conscious travelers can find healthful
options, including the poblano, potato, and zucchini taco (hold the cheese) at Urban Taco
and the falafel wrap or three-bean chili at Ufood Grill.
5. (tie) Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (83 percent): Las Vegas continues
its impressive climb, gaining six points and moving from 11th to fifth place. In 2010, it
gained 11 points and moved up from its 2009 position in last place. A smoked tofu
burrito is available at 360 Gourmet and a vegan wrap with hummus is available at more
than 10 of the restaurants operated by the HMSHost, including Bar One, Home Turf
Sports Bar, and Wipeout Willy's.
6. (tie) Denver International Airport (82 percent): It was a turbulent year for Denver,
which dropped six points—after a gain of eight points last year. Filling, low-fat choices
include the veggie burger at the Boulder Beer Tap House, the portobello mushroom
sandwich (ask for no cheese) at the Colorado Sports Bar, and the Colorado Sunshine
Wrap or the tofu wrap at Itza Wrap! Itza Bowl!
6. (tie) Miami International Airport (82 percent): Miami International Airport gained
a point from last year, moving from eighth place to sixth place. Visitors can try the
hummus platter at Beaudevin and the Unique veggie burger or the Asian veggie salad
bowl at The Counter.
7. (tie) Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (81 percent): Phoenix gains a
point, making a slight recovery from last year’s seven point drop. Just 46 of the airport’s
57 restaurants offer a healthful, cholesterol-free entrée. Low-fat meals include the
chopped Mediterranean salad, hummus appetizer, and bruschetta (hold the cheese on
each) at Barfly and the veggie rice bowl or burrito (hold the cheese on both) at Blue
7. (tie) Charlotte Douglas International Airport (81 percent): Charlotte is this year’s
most improved airport. It made a huge jump from 12th place last year with a score of 72
percent. The airport still has room for improvement, but many of its eateries do offer a
healthful, cholesterol-free meal option. Health-conscious passengers can choose the veggie burger at Stock Car Café and the portobello mushroom and red pepper sandwich
(hold the cheese) at the Carolina Beer Co.
8. Orlando International Airport (80 percent): Orlando maintains its 2010 score of 80
percent, but still climbs from ninth to eighth place. Hungry travelers seeking hearthealthy fare should try the vegetarian lentil chili at McCoy’s Bar and Grill or the
vegetarian sandwich at ZaZa's Cuban Café.
9. (tie) Los Angeles International Airport (76 percent): This celebrity hotspot drops
from eighth to ninth place this year, losing five points from last year’s score. Healthful
highlights include the Vegetarian Works pizza (hold the cheese) at Malibu Al’s,
vegetable sushi rolls at Sushi Boy, and the roasted pepper and eggplant sandwich at
9. (tie) Baltimore/Washington International Airport (76 percent): BWI declined
slightly from last year’s score of 79 percent. Thirty-one of the airport’s 41 eateries now
offer low-fat, cholesterol-free entrées. The Silver Diner remains the best bet for savvy
travelers. It offers a portobello vegetarian stir-fry with tofu, veggies, and wheat noodles
in teriyaki sauce, as well as a summer salad and a veggie chili with kidney beans,
mushrooms, carrots, and squash.
10. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (75 percent): This airport made the
second biggest gain this year—eight points—helping it move out of its last place position
in 2010. Hungry passengers should search for meals such as the Asian peanut-tofu wrap
at Hudson Aero Mart and Hudson Euro Café or the balsamic garden panini with squash
and zucchini (request no cheese) at National Airport Grill. Many other eateries only offer
burgers and other greasy bar food.
11. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (71 percent): Atlanta’s
airport—the world’s busiest—fell to last place this year. Terminals are clogged with
restaurants serving hot dogs, fried chicken and pizza. But travelers looking for healthful
meals can find a few choices, including spicy tofu made with vegetarian broth at Asian
Chao, burritos or tacos with black beans, pinto beans, or tofu crumbles and grilled
veggies (hold the cheese) at Moe’s Southwest Grill, or Bistro Del Sol’s Mediterranean
Trio: hummus, tabouli, and stuffed grape leaves
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/saaby