DONATE
FOR PHYSICIANS
HEALTH AND NUTRITION
ETHICAL RESEARCH & EDUCATION
MEDIA CENTER
LEGISLATIVE FOCUS
CLINICAL RESEARCH
EDUCATIONAL LITERATURE
MEMBERSHIP
SHOP

Connect with Us

 

 

The Physicians Committee



2014nutrition-matching

21-Day Vegan Kickstart

Nutrition CME: Free CME courses for health care professionals

The Cancer Project

Healthy School Lunches: Improving the food served to children in schools

Nutrition MD: Helping health care providers and individuals adopt healthier diets

Nutrition for Kids


2002 Airport Food Review

A Report by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
2002

Is the food in America’s busiest airports healthier than last year?

Yes and no, according to PCRM’s second annual airport restaurant survey. PCRM looked at the 10 busiest U.S. airports to see if the chances of finding a healthy meal have improved from last year. The average percentage of healthy options remained about the same, with some airports improving and others dropping by as many as 20 percentage points. PCRM reviewed the airports’ availability of low-fat, high-fiber, cholesterol-free meals. Only restaurants that served breakfast, lunch, or dinner entrées were rated, so places like yogurt and coffee shops were not surveyed if they did not carry an entrée.

Compared to last year, there was an improvement at the lower end. For example, the lowest score last year was 33 percent (Detroit) followed by 40 percent (Atlanta). The lowest score this year was 42 percent (Chicago). However, the average score among all the airports has not changed much. This year, the overall average was 56 percent, compared to last year’s 57 percent. Three airports improved their scores (Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Atlanta), two remained the same (San Francisco and Las Vegas), and four saw a decline in their score (Los Angeles, Phoenix, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Chicago). Houston replaced Detroit this year as one of the ten busiest airports.

The survey was conducted in July 2002. If a restaurant offered at least one healthy entrée, it received one point. PCRM dietitians either used restaurant menus found online or interviewed the manager of each restaurant about the availability of a healthy option. To get a percentage score, the total number of airport restaurants was divided by the number of restaurants offering a healthy entrée. Below is a list of the airports in order from best to worst.

1. San Francisco International Airport: For the second year in a row, San Francisco International Airport is flying high at the top of the list. If you’re looking for a great place for that all too common airport delay, look no further. Sample cuisines from around the world without ever getting on a plane by trying the vegetarian noodles at Golden Gate Bar & Snack Bar, the grilled eggplant sandwich at Emporio Rulli, the minestrone soup at Café Metro, or the veggie burrito at The Hangar. Here, it’s almost impossible to have a layover without healthy options.

2. Denver International Airport: Denver moved up from fourth to second place this year. Even though 79 percent of Denver’s restaurants offer a healthy option, that’s still far below San Francisco’s 96 percent score. From the portabella mushroom sandwich at Lefty’s Mile High Grille to the Teriyaki Veggie wrap at Itza Wrap! Itza Bowl!, you’ll find plenty of satisfying, cholesterol-free choices. You can also try the veggie taco at Que Bueno!, the veggie burrito at Cantina Grille, or the veggie sandwiches at Oasis Café, Colorado Sports Bar, or Creative Croissant. Just remember to say “no cheese please” on those items—all that cheese adds plenty of saturated fat and cholesterol.

3. Los Angeles International Airport: LAX moved up from fifth place to third, even though its percentage dropped 6 points from last year. Nevertheless, it still has a great selection of healthy options. You can pick up a veggie sandwich at Boudin Sourdough Bakery or Home Turf Bar or a vegetable roll at Sushi Boy. With the introduction of the BK Veggie, Burger King’s veggie burger, LAX’s healthy options increase, due to the four Burger King restaurants in this airport.

4. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport: Dallas took a huge leap forward from number seven to number four this year. The healthier options include Burger King’s veggie burger, Au Bon Pain’s veggie sandwich, the mixed vegetables and rice at Manchu Wok, the spaghetti with marinara sauce at Mr. Gatti’s, and the bean burrito (hold the cheese) at Taco Bell. You can also try the delicious and slightly spicy black bean patty sandwich at Chili’s.

5. George Bush Intercontinental Airport: Houston is a newcomer this year to the top ten list, and it landed right in the middle. On the good side, you can get a Veggie Delite sub from Subway, a vegetable platter from El Paseo, and a bean burrito from Lico’s. On the bad side, you’ll be surrounded by fried chicken from Popeye’s and KFC, fried fish from Bubba’s Seafood Grill, and barbecued beef from Harlon’s BBQ. Since you only have a fifty-fifty chance of finding a restaurant near your gate that offers a healthy entrée, it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead and aim for healthier fare.

6. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport: It’s still the busiest airport, and it’s still not offering enough healthy choices. Atlanta’s ranking did improve from last year, moving from number nine up to number six and gaining nine percentage points. That’s mainly because Hartsfield International houses four Burger Kings, which all offer a healthy veggie burger. You can find better options here if you know where to look; for example, try the veggie pita from Miami Subs, the veggie platter from Paschal’s Southern Cuisine, the pasta with marinara from Sbarro’s, or the grilled portabella mushroom sandwich or vegetable stir-fry from Houlihan’s. Steer clear of the chicken sandwiches at Chic-fil-A, the burgers at Sam Adam’s Atlanta Brewhouse, and the personal pizzas at Pizza Hut.

7. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport: Phoenix dropped ten percentage points from last year. Part of the problem is that Starbucks coffee shops carry more than just coffee these days, featuring not-so-healthy sandwiches in all of their locations. Phoenix has four Starbucks. However, you can find healthy sandwiches to take with you on your travels if you know where to look. Try the veggie wrap at Phoenix All Star Sports Bar & Market Fresh Carvery, the veggie burger from Johnny Rockets, or the veggie sandwich from Kokopelli Deli.

8. Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport: Las Vegas didn’t budge from its number 8 ranking for the second year in a row. The odds of finding a healthy option in Las Vegas airport are about 45 percent. This airport has six Burger Kings, so the BK Veggie is a sure bet, as is the bean burrito at Taco Bell, Don Alejandro's Texan Grill, and the veggie sub at Port of Subs.

9. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport: This airport fell far and fast, dropping from number two to number nine. Part of the blame can go to the unhealthy sandwich choices now at Starbucks (cheese and ham, cheese and turkey, or cheese and beef), but the six Pizza Hut Expresses, the three Hot Dog Cities, and the six PS Air Pubs—none of which offer a single cholesterol-free, high-fiber, low-fat choice—all contribute negatively to this airport’s score. Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom didn’t help either. Before you decide to board with an empty stomach, try the veggie sandwich at Split Rock Bar and Grill, the vegetable stir-fry at Wok and Roll, and the vegetable tacos at Maui Taco.

10. Chicago-O’Hare International Airport: O’Hare also saw a huge drop from number three to last place, at number ten. The main offender? The unhealthy sandwich at the 15 Starbucks. If you’re determined to go the Starbucks route, stick with the black coffee (or add soymilk). Otherwise, try the veggie burger or falafel sandwich at Gold Coast Dogs, the veggie sandwich at Wolfgang Puck’s, or the vegetable tofu stir-fry at Panda Express. Choose from these options and you’ll be well on your way to a great flight and good health.

Airport Score Restaurants Offering at Least One Healthy Entrée Total # of Restaurants Health Rank Rank as Busiest Airport

San Francisco

96%

25

26

1

9

Denver

79%

26

33

2

5

Los Angeles

54%

32

59

3

3

Dallas

53%

33

62

4

4

Houston

50%

16

32

5

8

Atlanta

49%

25

51

6

1

Phoenix

48%

19

40

7

6

Las Vegas

45%

20

44

8

7

Minneapolis

44%

20

45

9

10

Chicago

42%

25

59

10

2

 

This site does not provide medical or legal advice. This Web site is for informational purposes only.
Full Disclaimer | Privacy Policy

The Physicians Committee
5100 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Ste.400, Washington DC, 20016
Phone: 202-686-2210     Email: pcrm@pcrm.org