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Healthy Airport Food: Where Do National, BWI, Dulles Rank?

You can tell us. Did you bypass the Cinnabon kiosk for veggie chips?

The interior of Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Credit: airport-technology.com
The interior of Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Credit: airport-technology.com

You may have just experienced it.

The busy holiday travel season means crowded airports, possible weather delays and pricey, often unappealing airport food.

Air travelers have reason to cheer: Food selection is getting better. On average, 76 percent of airport eateries now offer at least one high-fiber, cholesterol-free, plant-based menu item, reports Prevention magazine.

That's up from just 57 percent in 2001, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s annual food review of 18 of the country's busiest airports.

The healthiest airport of them all? Prevention says that honor goes to Denver International, where 86 percent of restaurants offer one or more healthy entrées, from veggie wraps and garden burgers to fresh salads and fruit bowls. 

The lowest scorers were Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (68%) and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (just 51%).

Here's what the magazine says about Maryland and D.C.-area airports:

3. (tie) Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (83 percent): National Airport is the most improved this year—gaining 14 points and moving up from 11th place. Travelers on the run can grab an Asian peanut-tofu wrap from Euro Café, a cup of Moroccan lentil soup or Smart Fit salad from Cosi, or stop by National Airport Grill for a grilled vegetable entrée made with squash, zucchini, and baked eggplant. Washington travelers looking to sit down can check out Cibo Bistro & Wine Bar, which offers Italian specialties, including fusilli telefono with crispy eggplant and tomato sauce.

Reagan National tied for third with Los Angeles International Airport. 

4. (tie) Baltimore/Washington International Airport (80 percent): BWI gains 4 percent this year and moves up from 10th place. Silver Diner offers portobello vegetarian stir-fry, an all-season summer salad and a hearty autumn veggie chili with kidney beans, mushrooms, carrots, and squash. Maryland travelers can stop by Chesapeake Café or Rams Head Tavern for a variety of fresh cut greens, including ample servings of seaweed salad.

4. (tie) Washington Dulles International Airport (80 percent): Dulles drops two points this year but rises from sixth to fourth place. Early risers can stop by Capitol Ground Coffee for a quick breakfast or light lunch, which might include a Greek Islands Salad or the GWU Veggie Special, piled high with spinach, tomatoes, and roasted red peppers. Matsutake Sushi serves as a healthful lunch or dinner destination, offering avocado cucumber rolls, pickled radish and asparagus, and steamed veggies with rice.

Because flying is hard on the body, Susan Levin with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, suggests avoiding fatty foods, which further slow blood flow and increase chances of constipation, and anything heavy in sodium, since diuretic foods promote dehydration. Instead, opt for fiber-rich fruits and vegetables with plenty of immunity-boosting antioxidants. 

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