For many of us, spending time in airports is a regular part of our travel life.  Given their prominence in our travel itineraries, it is important to know how to navigate the various offerings and temptations.

The last thing you want to do is fall prey to the cases of pastries and fast foods that line the gates of every airport.  Traveling is exhausting enough without adding the unnecessary energy crashes that these foods leave you with.

Whether it is 6:00 am or 10:00 pm, it is wise to arrive at any airport armed with knowledge, time, and a well-thought-out plan. This guide will show you what to look for and what to look out for. And be sure to check out the Sea-Tac International Airport Quick Guide in this article for eating healthy when you travel through Seattle!

And be sure to check out the companion article – Resisting the Doughnut While Flying

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Eating Healthy with Airport Cuisine

Airports are not known for their healthy cuisine.  Most are packed with fast-food restaurants and coffee stands with their cases of pastries.

Fortunately, things are gradually changing and healthy options are popping up at airports across the country.   No place is perfect, but there are many that have enough options to meet your needs.

A little insider’s knowledge can help you locate these places and make good choices when you are there.

What to Look For

The health-conscious traveler wants food that will:

  • Provide sustained energy
  • Prevent hunger & cravings
  • Travel well

Choose restaurants that serve:

  • Protein (meat, seafood, tofu) entrees with vegetables, salad, or fruit.
  • Salads with protein
  • Charcuterie—meat, cheese, olives, nuts, fruit
  • Eggs & bacon

Choose express food stands that sell grab & go options such as:

  • Cheese
  • Meat & jerky
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Nuts
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables

Because the perfect option isn’t always available, you will need to adapt what is offered to meet your needs.

Insider Tip:

If you can’t find any of these options, either due to time constraints or availability, grab a burger or sandwich and remove the bread.  Or when ordering a freshly made burger or sandwich, ask for it to be made as a lettuce wrap.

What to Look Out For

Airports are full of what has traditionally been thought of as “comfort” foods.  They seduce you with their promise of comfort, but that is not what they deliver.  What you get instead is a fleeting carb buzz, followed by depleted energy, hunger, cravings, and bloating.

Knowing that travelers are seeking something to revive them after being cramped on a plane where they’ve been physically deprived, airport retailers, offer these so-called comfort foods on every corner.

It’s important to be proactive so that you don’t get caught up in that impulsive entitlement thinking that tells you:  “I deserve this,” when you are about to hop on a long flight or have a layover before your next flight. Foods to Avoid:

  • Sweets—pastries, sweetened drinks, candy
  • Starchy foods—bread, crackers, chips, pretzels, pasta, potatoes
  • Alcohol

When ordering restaurant dishes that include these foods, request that they be removed before your food is served or packed for carry on.  Many places will substitute these items with fruit, extra vegetables, or extra nuts.  All you have to do is ask.

It is better to not have them on your plate or in your bag than to be tempted by them when your energy is low. 

Now that you know what to look for and what to look out for, let’s talk about how to refine your search.

Do Your Research

One of the best ways to learn about the food options and locations at any airport is to go to the restaurant / eatery section of the airport’s website.  There you will find information about locations, hours of operation, and most importantly, a map.  It’s a way to discover places you didn’t know existed and get the update on what’s been added.

Some have menus, but most don’t, so you may have to guess about what is available based on the name and type of eatery (cheese shop, seafood, burgers) and then check it out when you are at the airport.

It is best to do this a day or so before your trip so that you can plan your route and allow enough time to find what you need and do some extra sleuthing on foot.

After you’ve become familiar with your home airport, check out the websites of the airport(s) you will be flying into on your trip.

In order to give you some examples of what can be found at airports, I will highlight some good spots at Sea-Tac airport in Seattle.

Sea-Tac International Airport

Seattle’s main airport, Sea-Tac, has a number of restaurants and express food stands where you can find healthy food that can be eaten at the airport or carried on the plane.

In this guide, I will highlight a few of the places where you can consistently find what you need.  As you read about what is available at Sea-Tac, you will learn what to look for at other airports.

Although all of these spots have healthy options, they are tucked in with foods that are not good choices. 

Many of the restaurants are Seattle favorites—Dish D’Lish, Anthony’s Restaurant, Ivar’s Seafood, and Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.  Others are national chains—Vino Volo and Starbucks.  (Although I must point out that Starbucks was founded in Seattle. )

Let’s take a look at what can be found at these eateries.

Sea-Tac Airport Eating Guide COVER-01

1. Dish D’Lish

This express food stand is a rare jewel.  Not only do they have delicious salads with plenty of protein, they have many pre-packaged, high-quality, healthy foods such as hard-boiled eggs, cheese, fruit, and cooked cubed chicken.

If you’re in a hurry you can grab a salad to carry on, as well as plenty of snacks to put in your Feel Great Travel Snack Kit.

2. Anthony’s Restaurant

This local seafood restaurant offers a variety of options ranging from seafood entrees with vegetables to yummy salads with salmon or prawns.  They also have seafood egg scrambles for breakfast.

Because everything is cooked fresh, it’s best to allow at least 45 minutes for your meal.

3. Ivar’s Seafood

This Seattle favorite serves grilled halibut or salmon Caesar salads, as well as Dungeness crab and shrimp cocktails.  Your food will be cooked fresh and service is usually fast.  Orders can be eaten there or packaged for carry on.

4. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

This cheese shop originates in the famous Pike Place Market.  At the airport there are charcuterie and cheese plates that feature their delicious handmade artisan cheese.  These can be eaten on the spot or carried on to the plane. 

Sea-Tac Airport Eating Guide 01-015. Vino Volo 

Vino Volo is a chain of airport wine and cheese bars.  They can be found at several airports around the country.

They feature artisan cheeses and meats, along with olives, nuts, and fruit.  If time permits, enjoy the beautifully presented plates.  When you are crunched for time, ask that the plate be packaged to-go.

6. Starbucks

This famous coffee house has a few options that are valuable when you are short on time:

Protein Box—This pre-packaged snack contains a hard-boiled egg, cheddar cheese, apples, and grapes.  With 13 grams of protein, it is a great choice.  It also contains sweetened peanut butter and bread, which I suggest you toss before you begin eating.

Smoothies—These smoothies have 16-20 grams of protein, which is great for a snack.  I suggest asking for an additional scoop of protein powder, which will add another 8 grams. However, they also have a fair amount of added sugar.  Although they are not ideal, they may be the best choice when you need a quick hit of protein and nothing else is available.

Lattes—Choose one that is milk and coffee only.  Always avoid flavored sugar syrup.  The extra fat in whole milk will help fight hunger and cravings, providing longer satisfaction.

Combining a Protein Box with a latte is an energy-sustaining snack that you can get in a hurry.

Get my full Airport Healthy Eating Pocket
Survival Guide

Discover How to Eat Healthy even while at the Airport

Send My Free Guide

Future Tripping

It’s a good idea to start collecting information about all the airports you visit.  I suggest starting a notebook where you write down all the options at your home airport and every airport you visit.  It will make planning your next trip much easier.  Before you know it, you’ll have a detailed list of resources that you can rely on.

Creating Demand

Retailers and restaurateurs offer the items that sell.  The more you purchase healthy options, the more likely you are to see them in the future.

Let’s all do our best to ensure that tasty, healthy food is abundant in airports for years to come.


Check out the companion article – Resisting the Doughnut While Flying


Healthy travels! Help me spread the word of how to eat healthy even while at the airport by sharing this guide with others.

-Sandra Christensen