Top U.S. airports for healthy dining

1. Baltimore/Washington     
2. Seattle-Tacoma     
3. Los Angeles     
4. Washington Reagan National     
5. Newark    
6. New York LaGuardia     
7. Detroit   
8. Denver     
9. San Francisco
10. Washington Dulles

Source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

The latest trend in U.S. airports isn’t connectivity, free WiFi or speedier security clearances.

“We’re seeing a vegetable renaissance taking place in U.S. airports,” said Susan Levin, director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Say what?

Dieticians at the Washington-based nonprofit collect restaurant menus from the busiest U.S. airports, based on data from the FAA, then rank the culinary offerings.

The just-released 2014 rankings, compiled by registered dieticians who serve on the Physicians Committee, reported that at least one healthy breakfast, lunch or dinner entree is available at 75% of the nation’s 23 busiest airports.

The healthful option must resemble a meal by including at least two of the four food groups on the Physicians Committee’s Power Plate: fruits, vegetables, whole grains or legumes.

An airport receives a point if its menu includes at least one cholesterol-free, plant-based, high-fiber entree.

The final percentage score divides the airport’s number of restaurants serving health-conscious fare by its total number of restaurants.

Survey methods include in-person visits, Internet research and phone calls to restaurant managers to confirm menu items.

Health-conscious travelers are in luck if their flight plans include Baltimore/Washington Airport (BWI).

That airport received the highest score in the 2014 survey and tied Newark for the most improved airport in terms of nutritious fare available to visitors in the terminals.

BWI took the lead with 92% of its restaurants (36 out of 39) offering nutritious fare.

BWI travelers can recharge at Airspace Lounge with a vegetable and hummus plate or stop by the Silver Diner for quinoa, Santa Fe roasted vegetables or the warm roasted veggie salad made with 10 locally sourced vegetables.

At Newark, which came in at No. 5 overall,  travelers can opt for antioxidant-packed fare at sub shops, pizzerias and traditional diners.

Seattle-Tacoma followed close behind BWI, with 43 of its 48 restaurants (90%) featuring at least one healthy item.

“The demand for healthful meals is creating an artisanal food movement, ripe with beet burgers, quinoa bowls and Brussels sprouts salads,” Levin said.

“I’m excited to see a menu shift toward immune-boosting, disease-fighting foods.”

Although Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport came in last, 65 of its 126 restaurants are moving vegetables, whole grains and legumes to the center of the plate, the report said.

“The good news is that plant-based options are on the rise at this airport, making it possible to find a vegetable plate, fruit cup or salad in almost every terminal,” Levin said.

Menu items that garner healthful points this year at all airports include dark leafy green salads, grain bowls, roasted vegetable wraps, Mediterranean or Mexican-inspired vegetable plates and gluten-free, macrobiotic sushi.


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