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Healthy Airports Taking Flight

From yoga to therapy pups – and more nutritious fare – airports are catering to health-conscious travelers.

(Photo: Gary Hovland)

U.S. Airports changed after 9/11, mostly in ways that travelers haven’t appreciated. One bright spot has been airport food, according to Susan Levin, director of nutrition education for the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

“Luckily, what we’ve seen is that restaurants and vendors in airports are getting much healthier,” Levin said, “offering a lot more variety and catering to the demand for healthier foods, high-fiber foods and options like vegetarian and vegan meals.”

Things have improved so much that the PCRM hasn’t felt the need to conduct its annual ranking of airport food the past few years. Topping the organization’s most recent list were:

Los Angeles International Airport, which boasts a Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program, whose registered therapy dogs roam passenger areas to reduce anxiety and promote good cheer.

Newark Liberty International Airport, with D_Parture Spa locations in Terminal C that offer relaxing chair massages.

San Francisco International Airport, with its “Wag Brigade” of therapy dogs (and one therapy pig) and a yoga room.

Philadelphia International Airport, where its Quiet Room welcomes passengers of all worldviews to enjoy a place of healthy silence.

Denver International Airport, with chair and table massage and reflexology treatments available in A Massage spa, plus Express Spa, offering personal-care and massage options for those on the go.

Wherever you’re headed, to combat the stress and germs associated with travel, Levin recommends filling up on antioxidants and fiber and limiting fat intake.

“Just make sure it’s a lot of plants, as minimally processed as possible,” she said. “If you can grab whole fruits, that’s great, or salads with beans or a burrito that has beans and rice. Avoid the cheeses and the meats and even the healthy fats like guacamole.” If you’re stuck for healthy options, hit an Italian restaurant and ask for a veggie pizza without the cheese, choose a veggie burger (no cheese or fries) at a burger joint or find a grab-and-go hummus snack with pita bread or vegetables.

And don’t forget your refillable water bottle. “This is a great trend in airports I’ve noticed,” Levin said. “It’s my favorite thing, the water bottle refilling stations that are becoming more popular, these nice little facilities that have the filtered water.” These allow you to fill up in the airport’s secure area and carry your water onto the plane.

Well-fed and ready to hydrate, you’ll feel better on your flight and at your destination.

Read more articles about travel-related health topics. AAA.com/LiveWell

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