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Eating on the Fly

family in airportWith thousands of Americans traveling by air this holiday season, PCRM checked out the healthfulness of food at some of the nation’s busiest airports. The seventh annual Airport Food Review found that although some airports scored lower than in years past, more than 80 percent of the restaurants surveyed offered at least one low-fat, cholesterol-free vegetarian entrée.

From July to October 2007, nutrition experts from PCRM reviewed food establishments at 15 of the busiest U.S. airports. Each airport’s score was determined by dividing the number of restaurants offering at least one healthful option (a low-fat, high-fiber, cholesterol-free entrée) by the total number of restaurants. Facilities that do not serve entrées, such as snack food kiosks and coffee shops, were not evaluated.

Healthy food is easy to find at the top-scoring airports: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport.

Terminals at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, which received a score of 94 percent, are packed with restaurants that offer at least one low-fat, zero-cholesterol entrée. Healthful offerings include the veggie noodle bowls and veggie sushi at Blue Bamboo Xpress, the spinach enchiladas at Cantina Laredo, and the black bean burgers at Bennigan’s.

A few airports’ scores tumbled drastically from the last time they were reviewed. San Francisco International Airport lost 19 points from its 2006 score and dropped to seventh place. Orlando International Airport tumbled from first to 10th place this year, losing 24 points off its 2006 score of 97 percent. These declines stem from menu changes at restaurants that previously offered at least one healthful option, as well as the addition of eateries that serve only high-fat entrées laden with meat and cheese.

Reagan National Airport, which was evaluated by PCRM’s nutrition experts for the first time, scored far below most of the other airports, with just 42 percent of its restaurants offering at least one healthful option. The few bright spots include Matsutake Sushi’s vegetable combination roll, Cosi’s veggie chili, and DC Samuel Adams’ vegetable sandwich (minus the cheese).

“The biggest health issue for travelers is not air safety. It’s the cholesterol-laden burgers, fried chicken, and battered fish sticks eaten during layovers that present a much greater long-term threat,” says PCRM dietitian Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.

Airport

Score

Healthy Restaurants/
Total Restaurants

1. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

94%

89/95

2. (tie) Chicago O’Hare International Airport

93%

81/87

2. (tie) Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport

93%

56/60

3. (tie) Los Angeles International Airport

89%

50/56

3. (tie) Newark Liberty International Airport

89%

49/55

4. Denver International Airport

84%

41/49

5. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

82%

46/56

6. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

81%

47/58

7. San Francisco International Airport

77%

46/60

8. John F. Kennedy International Airport

76%

62/82

9. Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

75%

33/44

10. Orlando International Airport

73%

29/40

11. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

72%

52/72

12. Miami International Airport

67%

31/46

13. Reagan National Airport

42%

10/24

 



 

PCRM Online, January 2008

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