Choosing healthy in junk-food heaven airports

Of the nightmare scenarious involving kids and air travel (and there are many), we’ve got at least one covered.

Lara Field, a pediatric dietician at Comer Children’s Hospital at The University of Chicago Medical Center, shared some tips on how to steer clear of airport junk food and start your vacation off on a well-fed foot.

“Traveling with kids can be hard enough that sometimes there’s the temptation to just get in line at McDonalds,” says Field, who has a 2-year-old. “Yes, it’s an airport, but there are better options.”

So next time you’re tempted to keep the kids quiet and happy with a burger and fries, reach for one of these tips. For more information, check out Field’s blog, FEED.

1. Be prepared.

The biggest food mistakes are made when hunger takes over your ability to make conscious food decisions, Field says. And airports are full of pitfalls — fast food restaurants, bakeries Stash a variety of low-fat, high-fiber snack bars in your carry-on to prepare for hunger emergencies; homemade trail mix is a kid favorite.

2. Focus on Color

Rate your plate: Does it have more than two colors? Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, which will keep you feeling fuller, longer. So load up on them when you can, and try to spruce up anything else with color. When choosing a sandwich, load it up with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, green pepper, or sliced cucumbers.

3. Main dish only!

Many fast food establishments lure you in with additional sides like potatoes, chips and high-calorie soda. Those “side item” calories add up quickly and before you know it, your meal just gained an additional 300-400 calories. Stick to a main course.

4. Avoid the Tan Foods

Airline fast food establishments are heavy on “tan” foods — breads, cinnamon rolls, muffins and pastries. These foods are often full of fat and calories and deficient in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Limit your portions of these tan foods by taking off half of the bun to your sandwich or saving half of your muffin for another day.

5. Take a walk

Waiting for your plane if your flight is delayed? Avoid sitting at the crowded terminal, instead go for a brisk walk. You can burn 100 calories in a 20-minute walk. Plus, it will burn off some of your kids’ pent-up energy, too.

6. Think smart on board, too

If your airline is one of the few still offering in-flight meals, remember that making smart choices still applies at 35,000 feet. The vegetarian option is almost always your best bet. “Don’t be fooled by kids meals,” Field says. “They’re almost always one fried food after another.”

Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Since 1984, the Chicago Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for Chicagoland families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.
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