Airport Food Courts: How To Find Some Healthy During Travel

Most airport food courts are sort of sad.

airport food courts
PHOTO: L. Balois/Flickr

These are just a few reasons why

Many are dark, with low ceilings and dirty plastic tables with uncomfortable seating.  Airport food courts also tend to be full of morose, irritated travelers who have been up since the crack of dawn and don’t want to give a crap about what they’re eating.

It’s a travel day, after all, and many people trade healthy for quick and comforting. That trade is not a great one. As tempting as it is to give yourself an excuse to eat junky burgers and expired pre-made salad.

High-fat food can slow your digestion, leading to gas and bloating on the plane. Overly salty choices, coupled with the dehydrating airplane air, can blow you up like a balloon. Sounds great, right?


What to eat on an airplane, and what to avoid 

Healthy carry on food packs you can carry on an airplane

Five tips on how to self-care in the air

You can find healthy in airport food courts

Some airports are providing healthy food options, which is fantastic. But many of us are still stuck with the same old stuff at a cramped table littered with someone else’s napkins.

I’ve collected some of the most popular airport food court cuisines (if you want to call them that, because that word sounds a bit fancy for Sbarro and the like) and am going to give you my picks so you can choose healthily.

In other words, I will do all the work for you, and you just have to choose what you like.  Of course, bringing food from home is your best choice – just saying – but if you don’t, and the airport food court is your only option, here you go.

Just an FYI – I’m looking for balance, lowest sodium (no small feat, I can assure you), and total calories. I am trying to get you the most amount of food for the best nutritional value.

Here’s how to find healthy at airport food courts


Found at MCO, JFK, BOS, PHX, ATL, and more.

Eat This:

Sbarro Skinny Slice and a large tomato and cucumber salad with ½ pouch balsamic dressing = 425 calories, 1245mg sodium (sugar values not available, sadly)

Don’t Eat This:

Two slices of pepperoni pizza = 960 calories, 1960g sodium  (sugar values not possible)

Red Mango


I love how the 24oz  ‘honey badger fat burner’ smoothie has 102g of sugar and 590 calories. That is scary. The only thing that’s burning is another hole in your belt.

It’s the sugar we’re focusing on at this joint, and most choices are unacceptably high.

They have sugar-free sorbet, but sugar alcohols replace the sugar in them, and these can cause bloating and gas. And remember – nonfat frozen yogurt isn’t necessarily healthy for you by any stretch of the imagination. They usually dump a ton of sugar into it.

Eat This:

The small original Greek = 120 calories, 150mg sodium, 27g sugar

Don’t Eat This:

You guessed it. Pretty much everything besides a small yogurt cup. The smoothies and milkshakes are full of sugar. And don’t be tricked into believing that the kid’s offerings are any healthier for your little ones than a chocolate bar. They’re full of sugar. Eat a real yogurt.

Panda Express

Found at PHX, ATL, ORD, AUS, MEM and more

What is it with Panda Express? It’s everywhere, so people must like it. Despite a lot of their entrees topping 1000mg of sodium, and many have lots of sugary sauces on them. Choose wisely, my friends!

Eat This:

Grilled teriyaki chicken + ½ order brown steamed rice = 510 calories, 545mg sodium, 9g sugar

Not This:

Kung Pao chicken with fried rice = 770cals, 1700mg sodium,  9g sugar

Dunkin Donuts

Found at pretty much every airport in America

 America might run on Dunkin, but you won’t be running very far if you don’t choose smart at this place! It’s easy to assume that donuts and muffins aren’t healthy, but what about DD’s food? They mostly have stuff you’d eat for breakfast, but not everything on the menu is for the am.

Eat This:

Egg and cheese on English muffin = 240 calories, 490mg sodium, 2g sugar

Not This:

Bacon ranch chicken sandwich = 660 calories, 1620mg sodium, 6g sugar

And a Dubious Achievement special mention to the mostly frozen caramel coffee coolata with cream. It has 990 calories, 180g sodium from god knows where, and a heart-attack-inducing 130g sugar. That’s equal to 4 ½ snickers bars! Yummy!


Found at LAX, OAK, LAS, PBI and more

California Pizza Kitchen was one of the first ‘real’ restaurants to populate airport food courts. On offer are their famous pizzas, of course, as well as other menu faves.

Somehow, they achieve the ultimate adulteration of healthy avocado into spring rolls for over 1000 calories an order. Plus, their gluten-free pizzas trump all of their hand-tossed pizzas in calories. Isn’t that fascinating!

The CPK ASAP menu differs slightly from the CPK menu, and there are no nutritional for all of the CPK ASAP menu items. This left me little choice but to guess at my ‘eat this’ option.

Eat This:

Kid’s grilled chicken breast with broccoli

Arugula salad – no nutritionals, but get them to throw a chicken breast on it if you can.

Not This:

Pretty much the rest of the menu. Most of their foods have sodium levels well into the 1000’s, which I don’t recommend when you’re flying.  Sorry CPK ASAP, I’m sure your food tastes good, but it’s not healthy.

Burger King

Found at most US airports

 What would a list of airport food court offerings be without the ubiquitous Burger King?

Eat This:

Whopper JR with a side of apple slices = 358 calories, 460mg sodium, 13g sugar

Not This:

Triple Whopper. Really. 1160 calories, 1050 mg sodium, 12g sugar

Dubious Achievement Award: The five-piece chicken strips, which have 2920 mg sodium. That is scary.

Safe and Healthy Travels,


UPDATED October 20, 2017


Abby Langer

Registered Dietican, Brand Ambassador, Consultant,


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