Keep your diet grounded when you take flight

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Eating Healthy at the Airport

Keep your diet grounded when you take flight
It's easy for burgers and fries to consume your eat habits when you're constantly in and out of terminals. (Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

Learn how to make the better choice as opposed to mentally saying 'well, I'm flying today' as permission to eat junk.

— Ashley Koff, registered dietitian

Sports reporter Paul Coro travels close to 100 days a year covering the Phoenix Suns for "The Arizona Republic." With so much time spent in airports, it has become increasingly difficult for him to eat right, but Coro tries. "I'm always in a hurry," said Coro, a husband and father who started paying closer attention to what he eats once he reached his 40s. "I don't really have time to sit down at restaurants where there are usually healthier options. Most of the time, I'm going from gate to gate, but I always look for a Jamba Juice and places like that. I figure if all else fails, I can always grab a smoothie. Chances are your travel itinerary is nowhere near as hectic asCoro's, but even if you fly once a year, finding healthy options at the airport is important, but it can be tough.

Eating Healthy Can Be as Simple as Packing a Lunch

In terms of saving money and eating right, the best bet is bringing food from home, whether it's something you prepared yourself, or healthy store-bought snacks. With a little forethought and preparation, you can improve what you eat at the airport.

"Planning ahead is always the healthier option because it allows you to control what ingredients go into your meals and snacks," advised Alyse Levine, a registered dietitian and the brains behind Nutritionbite.

Homemade food tastes better and healthy food from home also trumps what airlines sell and offer on flights, such as cans of overpriced and greasy crisps or boxed sandwiches with processed meat and cheese.

"Fast doesn't have to equal junk," said Ashley Koff, a registered dietitian, author and consultant. Koff is also the resident dietitian on The CW's weight loss and nuptials reality show, "Shedding for the Wedding."

"Learn how to make the better choice as opposed to mentally saying 'well, I'm flying today' as permission to eat junk. Bring fast snacks from home such as homemade trail mix, an apple with peanut butter, veggies and kale chips," Koff advises.

For the plane, think portable. A plastic sealed bag filled with healthy options will have you munching from take-off to landing.

"Whole-grain pita bread, cubed low fat cheddar cheese, small oranges or sliced raw peppers---red, orange and yellow---and snap peas are also smart choices," said Todd DeMann, CEO of Freshology, a gourmet food preparation and home delivery service, which boasts clients such as Jennifer Lopez.

"Packets of dry oatmeal with raisins are a good option. You can ask for hot water in flight to mix it," DeMann added.

Maybe you intended on packing a bag of healthy snacks for your time at the airport but you were so tired, you left the bag on the kitchen counter. Don't fret, airports do have healthy options, although they are pricier than food you bring from home.

"Many airport stores offer healthy grab-and-go selections these days, including fresh fruits like bananas and apples, salt-free nuts and granola bars," Levine said. "So if you are pushed for time, you can probably find one of these options."

Frequent travellers would do well to keep a stash of treats on hand.

"I always have granola bars and Nutri-Grain bars in my work bag," Coro said. "The magazine stores sell almonds, but they're usually £6 a bag. I'd rather eat a granola bar."

Making the Best of a Fast-Food Situation

When your stomach starts to rumble, remember that flexibility is the key.

Fast-food restaurants don't want to lose your health-conscious dollars and are starting to offer healthier menu options.

Levine recommends the egg-white veggie flatbread sandwich at Dunkin' Donuts, which has about 280 calories and four grams of saturated fat.

The King of burgers is even getting in on the act.

"Burger King's tendergrill garden salad has grilled chicken and Ken's Light Italian dressing and is a reasonable choice at 350 calories," she said, adding a caveat.

"Beware of the 18 grams of fat---4.5 grams being saturated---and 1,360 milligrams of sodium."

Not a herbivore? Getting a burger combo isn't the worst option either. Besides, there are always ways to compromise.

"Choose to have water versus a soda or a shake even if you get a burger or fries," Koff said. "Or choose a smaller burger and leave off sauces or dressings that are high in sugars and artificial ingredients, and get mustard or salsa instead."

Separating Hunger From Other Emotions and Needs

Flying is so stressful these days. Between the baggage fees and the touchy, feely TSA officers, travelling by plane is full of triggers that will have you running for the closest McDonald's.

But before you grab that McNuggets meal, take a deep breath.

"Don't confuse hunger---the physiological need for food---with appetite, which is stimulated by what we see and smell," Koff said. "Boredom and feeling deprived if others are having junk food can also increase your appetite."

And sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger. "Stay well hydrated especially while flying," Levine said.

Buy a bottle of water after you clear security or buy a water bottle with a built-in filter.

"This allows you to fill up at the water fountains in the airport, avoiding the extra cost and environmental impact of buying bottled water," said Levine.

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