Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Tue June 14 2016

Down and Dirty With Airport Food Courts

Airlines & Airports | VANE Airport Magazine | June 14, 2016

Down and Dirty With Airport Food Courts

Most airport food courts are sort of sad. Many are dark, with low ceilings and dirty plastic tables that are uncomfortable to sit in. Like, “eat your greasy burger and get out” type of uncomfortable. Airport food courts tend to also 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 on a short layover.

That trade is not a great one, as tempting as it is to give yourself an excuse to eat junky burgers and frozen yogurt. 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?

Some airports are really upping their food game, which is awesome. But many of us are still stuck with the same old stuff eaten at a dark, 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 I’m going to give you my picks so you can choose healthy. 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 food court is your only option, here you go.

READ MORE: Salivate Over These Amazing Airport Restaurants

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 nutritionals.


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, 1,245mg sodium (sugar values not available, sadly)

Don’t Eat This:

2 slices of pepperoni pizza = 960 calories, 1,960g sodium  (sugar values not available, sadly)

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

It has sorbetto that is sugar free, 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

Not 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 kids 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, JFK, AUS, MEM and more

What is it with Panda Express? It’s everywhere, so people must like it. This is despite a lot of its entrees topping 1,000mg 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, 1,700mg 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, 1,620mg sodium, 6g sugar

And a Dubious Achievement special mention to the large 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 four-and-a-half 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 its famous pizzas, of course, as well as other menu faves.

Somehow, the eatery achieves the ultimate adulteration of healthy avocado into spring rolls for over 1,000 calories an order. Plus, its 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 nutritionals for all of the CPK ASAP menu items. This left me little choice but to guess at my “eat this” options.

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 its food has sodium levels well into the 1,000s, which I really don’t recommend when you’re flying.  Sorry CPK ASAP, I’m sure your food tastes good, but it’s not healthy.

READ MORE: Is A Better Airport Experience Coming to A Hub Near You?

Burger King

Found at most U.S. 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. 1,160 calories, 1,050 mg sodium, 12g sugar

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

Safe and Healthy Travels.

This blog originally appeared on Vane's website.

For more information on United States

For more Airlines & Airports News


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Discover Club Med All-Inclusive Vacations

Hotels & Resorts