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Landing a Healthy Airport Meal

You may be flying the friendly skies, but if your next trip leaves you sitting around a U.S. airport for any length of time, you'll probably end up grabbing an unfriendly meal. Unless, of course, you're delayed in San Francisco International Airport, where fresh, local produce is still a hot commodity.

In May, PCRM dietitians surveyed the 10 busiest U.S. airports for the availability of healthy entrées. We defined a healthy entrée as a breakfast, lunch, or dinner item that was low in fat, high in fiber, and cholesterol-free. A restaurant was rated as "healthy" if it served at least one entrée that met these requirements. The number of healthy restaurants was then divided by the total number of restaurants to give each airport a final percentage score.

The result of the survey appeared in more than a dozen newspapers and on more than 40 television stations. The report was also featured in Business Journal and, and on CNBC's PowerLunch and CBS's The Early Show with Bryant Gumbel. They all asked why San Francisco came out on top. "San Francisco offered healthy, vegan entrées at nearly every restaurant and relied on local eateries instead of McDonald's or Burger King. This way, San Francisco avoided most of the nutritional pitfalls other airports encounter," explains staff dietitian Jen Keller, R.D.

Unfortunately, many airports scored well below an acceptable limit. "Most airports did poorly because all they had to offer hungry travelers were burgers, French fries, hot dogs, or pizza," says Amy Lanou, Ph.D. "Hopefully airports will take notice of this survey and increase the number of healthy, vegetarian entrées."

And that's just what's happening. Food service employees from Los Angeles International Airport called to find out how they could improve their score, and San Francisco vows to be at 100 percent the next time PCRM conducts the survey. Ms. Keller recommends that if you'd like to see healthy, vegetarian options offered at the airports you frequent, consider talking to the director of airport food service. "Many of the airports we surveyed had no idea how few good options they had. If the airports knew there was an increasing demand for vegan meals, they would be more likely to offer these healthy options to travelers."

PCRM's Airport Food Ratings 2001
Availability of Healthy Food Choices at
the Ten Busiest Airports in the United States


1. San Francisco International Airport 96% 24 out of 25
2. Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport 66% 27 out of 41
3. Chicago–O'Hare International Airport 64% 18 out of 28
4. Denver International Airport 61% 14 out of 23
5. Los Angeles International Airport 60% 21 out of 35
6. Phoenix International Airport 58% 25 out of 43
7. Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport 50% 28 out of 56
8. Las Vegas International Airport 45% 13 out of 29
9. Atlanta International Airport 40% 17 out of 42
10. Detroit Metro Airport 33% 9 out of 27



Autumn 2001 (Volume X, Number 4)
 Autumn 2001
Volume X
Number 4

Good Medicine

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