A report by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) revealed that many airport restaurants are adding healthier options to their menus. A group of PCRM dieticians reviewed the food served at some of the busiest airports in the United States and scored their findings. According to their report, the average score in 2001 was 57 percent. That number has risen to 83 percent, which is encouraging news to travelers.
The score was was determined by dividing the number of restaurants offering at least one healthful option by the total number of restaurants. Airports that do not serve entrées, such as snack food kiosks and small coffee shops, were not included in the review. A restaurant was rated as “healthful” if it served at least one low-fat, high-fiber, cholesterol free breakfast, lunch, or dinner entrée.
WINNER: Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport received a score of 100 percent and topped the list for the third year in a row. The report states, “Despite the variety of healthful options at many airports, high-fat, high-cholesterol foods are still abundant. Terminals at Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta are clogged with eateries serving hot dogs, fried chicken, and pizza. Many restaurants at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport offer only burgers or other greasy bar food.”
Following is a summary of what PCRM nutrition experts found at each airport, ranked from best to worst:
1. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport – 100%
Healthful Restaurants – 59
Total Restaurants – 59
Detroit tops the list for the third year in a row. It’s the only airport in the history of PCRM’s report to receive a perfect score—twice. Every restaurant at the airport offers at least one healthful entrée, such as a veggie burrito (hold the cheese) at Diego’s Mexican Cantina, the black bean burger at Slapshotz, and the hummus and veggie platter at the Heineken Bar.
2. San Francisco International Airport – 96%
Healthful Restaurants – 65
Total Restaurants – 68
San Francisco lags slightly behind Detroit in second place for the third year. But its score continues to ascend—up from 95 percent last year. Hungry travelers can enjoy the organic smoky split pea soup with a hummus and veggie wrap at the San Francisco Soup Company or a beet salad, tofu wrap, quinoa bowl, or udon noodles at Plant Café and Pinkberry.
3. Washington Dulles International Airport – 92%
Healthful Restaurants – 35
Total Restaurants – 38
Dulles was last year’s most improved airport. It gains just three points this year and climbs from fourth to third place. Options for health-conscious passengers include the grilled veggie sandwich (hold the cheese) at Harry’s Tap Room and pasta with marinara sauce at Famous Famiglia.
4. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – 86%
Healthful Restaurants – 57
Total Restaurants – 66
Minneapolis gained a point this year, moving up from sixth place last year. Diners seeking cholesterol-free meals can enjoy the organic oatmeal (ordered with soymilk) or the roasted beet and pear salad (hold the cheese) at French Meadow Bakery and Café or the smoked tofu burrito or wrap with Cajun, Thai, or teriyaki flavors at 360 Gourmet.
5. (tie) Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – 83%
Healthful Restaurants – 82
Total Restaurants – 99
DFW drops a point from last year, but moves up to fifth place. Health-conscious travelers can find healthful options, including the poblano, potato, and zucchini taco (hold the cheese) at Urban Taco and the falafel wrap or three-bean chili at Ufood Grill.
5. (tie) Las Vegas McCarran International Airport – 83%
Healthful Restaurants – 48
Total Restaurants – 58
Las Vegas continues its impressive climb, gaining six points and moving from 11th to fifth place. In 2010, it gained 11 points and moved up from its 2009 position in last place. A smoked tofu burrito is available at 360 Gourmet and a vegan wrap with hummus is available at more than 10 of the restaurants operated by the HMSHost, including Bar One, Home Turf
Sports Bar, and Wipeout Willy’s.
6. (tie) Denver International Airport – 82%
Healthful Restaurants – 46
Total Restaurants – 56
It was a turbulent year for Denver, which dropped six points—after a gain of eight points last year. Filling, low-fat choices include the veggie burger at the Boulder Beer Tap House, the portobello mushroom sandwich (ask for no cheese) at the Colorado Sports Bar, and the Colorado Sunshine Wrap or the tofu wrap at Itza Wrap! Itza Bowl!
6. (tie) Miami International Airport – 82%
Healthful Restaurants – 60
Total Restaurants – 73
Miami International Airport gained a point from last year, moving from eighth place to sixth place. Visitors can try the hummus platter at Beaudevin and the Unique veggie burger or the Asian veggie salad bowl at The Counter.
7. (tie) Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – 81%
Healthful Restaurants – 46
Total Restaurants – 57
Phoenix gains a point, making a slight recovery from last year’s seven point drop. Just 46 of the airport’s 57 restaurants offer a healthful, cholesterol-free entrée. Low-fat meals include the chopped Mediterranean salad, hummus appetizer, and bruschetta (hold the cheese on each) at Barfly and the veggie rice bowl or burrito (hold the cheese on both) at Blue Burrito.
7. (tie) Charlotte Douglas International Airport – 81%
Healthful Restaurants – 39
Total Restaurants – 48
Charlotte is this year’s most improved airport. It made a huge jump from 12th place last year with a score of 72 percent. The airport still has room for improvement, but many of its eateries do offer a healthful, cholesterol-free meal option. Health-conscious passengers can choose the veggie burger at Stock Car Café and the portobello mushroom and red pepper sandwich (hold the cheese) at the Carolina Beer Co.
8. Orlando International Airport – 80%
Healthful Restaurants – 33
Total Restaurants – 41
Orlando maintains its 2010 score of 80 percent, but still climbs from ninth to eighth place. Hungry travelers seeking heart healthy fare should try the vegetarian lentil chili at McCoy’s Bar and Grill or the vegetarian sandwich at ZaZa’s Cuban Café.
9. (tie) Los Angeles International Airport – 76%
Healthful Restaurants – 42
Total Restaurants – 55
This celebrity hotspot drops from eighth to ninth place this year, losing five points from last year’s score. Healthful highlights include the Vegetarian Works pizza (hold the cheese) at Malibu Al’s, vegetable sushi rolls at Sushi Boy, and the roasted pepper and eggplant sandwich at Brioche Dorée.
9. (tie) Baltimore/Washington International Airport – 76%
Healthful Restaurants – 31
Total Restaurants – 41
BWI declined slightly from last year’s score of 79 percent. Thirty-one of the airport’s 41 eateries now offer low-fat, cholesterol-free entrées. The Silver Diner remains the best bet for savvy travelers. It offers a portobello vegetarian stir-fry with tofu, veggies, and wheat noodles in teriyaki sauce, as well as a summer salad and a veggie chili with kidney beans, mushrooms, carrots, and squash.
10. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport – 75%
Healthful Restaurants – 27
Total Restaurants – 36
This airport made the second biggest gain this year—eight points—helping it move out of its last place position in 2010. Hungry passengers should search for meals such as the Asian peanut-tofu wrap at Hudson Aero Mart and Hudson Euro Café or the balsamic garden panini with squash and zucchini (request no cheese) at National Airport Grill. Many other eateries only offer burgers and other greasy bar food.
11. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – 71%
Healthful Restaurants – 64
Total Restaurants – 90
Atlanta’s airport—the world’s busiest—fell to last place this year. Terminals are clogged with restaurants serving hot dogs, fried chicken, and pizza. But travelers looking for healthful meals can find a few choices, including spicy tofu made with vegetarian broth at Asian Chao, burritos or tacos with black beans, pinto beans, or tofu crumbles and grilled veggies (hold the cheese) at Moe’s Southwest Grill, or Bistro Del Sol’s Mediterranean Trio: hummus, tabouli, and stuffed grape leaves.
All information for this story from PCRM Airport Food Review 2011.