2014 Airport Food Review Finds 75 Percent of Airport Restaurants Serve Healthful Plant-Based Meals

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Physicians Committee Encourages Travelers to Look for Flexitarian Menus, Portable Fare

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We’re seeing a vegetable renaissance take place in U.S. airports.

Here’s a helpful tip for holiday travelers: 75 percent of restaurants at 23 of the nation’s busiest airports offer at least one cholesterol-free, plant-based, fiber-packed meal, according to a new report from registered dietitians at the nonprofit Physicians Committee.

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport ties with Newark Liberty International Airport for the most improved airport this year and takes the lead with 92 percent of its restaurants offering nutritious fare. Seattle-Tacoma International and Los Angeles International follow close behind with a score of 90 and 88 percent, respectively. Even though Atlanta comes in last, roughly half of its airport eateries are moving vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to the center of the plate.

“We’re seeing a vegetable renaissance take place in U.S. airports,” says Physicians Committee director of nutrition education Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D. “The demand for healthful meals is creating an artisanal food movement, ripe with beet burgers, quinoa bowls, and Brussels sprouts salads. As a dietitian, I’m excited to see a menu shift toward immune-boosting, disease-fighting foods.”

Healthful dining trends remain consistent with the 2013 survey, which identified 76 percent of airport eateries offering at least one cholesterol-free, plant-based, fiber-packed entrée. The 2014 report includes five additional airports—Philadelphia, Boston, JFK, LaGuardia, and Seattle—so the national average still reflects a growing trend for healthful fare. In 2001, just 57 percent of airport restaurants offered at least one plant-based option.

Menu items that garner healthful points this year include dark leafy green salads, ancient grain bowls, roasted vegetable wraps, Mediterranean- or Mexican-inspired vegetable plates, and gluten-free macrobiotic sushi. Healthful snacks and meals-to-go include portable fruit cups, steel-cut oatmeal bowls, vegetable crudités, and cups of lentil soup or black bean chili.

The scores for the 2014 report are as follows:

Airport: Score (Healthful Restaurants/Total Restaurants)

1. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport: 92%
2. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport: 90%
3. Los Angeles International Airport: 88%
4. Reagan National Airport: 87%
5. Newark Liberty International Airport: 86%
6. LaGuardia Airport (tie): 84%
6. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (tie): 84%
7. Denver International Airport: 83%
8. San Francisco International Airport: 82%
9. Dulles International Airport: 80%
10. Boston Logan International Airport: 79%
11. John F. Kennedy International Airport (tie): 78%
11. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (tie): 78%
11. Philadelphia International Airport (tie): 78%
12. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport: 74%
13. Charlotte Douglas International Airport: 73%
14. Las Vegas McCarran International Airport: 72%
15. Miami International Airport (tie): 69%
15. Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (tie): 69%
16. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport: 67%
*Dallas can customize plant-based options at almost every restaurant
17. Orlando International Airport: 66%
18. Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport: 65%
19. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: 52%

Airport Rankings

The Physicians Committee collects airport restaurant menus from the top 30 busiest airports in the United States, based on data from the Federal Aviation Administration. Inconclusive data eliminates an airport from the final rankings. An airport restaurant receives a point if its menu includes at least one cholesterol-free, plant-based, high-fiber entrée. 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 with restaurant managers to confirm menu items.

The rankings and a healthful airport travel guide are available at http://www.AirportFoodReview.org.

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For a copy of the report or to request an interview with a Physicians Committee registered dietitian, please contact Jessica Frost at 202-527-7342 or jfrost(at)pcrm(dot)org.

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