Saturday, February 18, 2012

Healthy Eating On the Road

Finding something healthy and reasonably enjoyable to eat en route while traveling can be a real challenge, particularly if you don't eat animal products. At least that's what I thought when embarking on my latest trip. Of course, the best option when flying is to bring a bevy of options from home, but between the ban on liquids and the restrictions on how many bags you can bring on-board, if you're dealing with a 12-hour travel day, sometimes you have to succumb to the inevitable and buy airport food. I thought I would use my trip as an opportunity to write a blog on "airport survival tactics," however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that both New York's LaGuardia airport and Milwaukee's airport, where I had a layover, had quite the bounty of vegan foods. Thus, when the PB+J and fruit I had packed ran out, I was able to obtain a decent meal in both locations.

At LAG, bypass the Dunkin Donuts and Au Bon Pain and go for the Cibo station, where you'll have options such as a vegan sweet potato salad with cranberries (my choice-- it wasn't bad at all), protein-rich quinoa, asian dumplings with tofu, various fresh fruits, Naked juices, quite a lot of nuts and dried fruits, raw bars made from nuts and seeds, and even several kinds of vegan cookies. (The JFK airport does them one better, with a full serve-yourself salad bar with mostly vegan options.) I was even more pleased by the options in Milwaukee, where after despairingly passing a Chili's I came upon the Alterra Coffee bar, which aside from offering soymilk for their coffee, also boasted several varieties of fruit smoothies made from actual fruit and a hummus wrap. More impressive still was the French Meadow Bakery Cafe, where at least a third of the pastries were both vegan and whole grain (a few were also gluten free.) Also on the menu was a vegan black bean chili served with organic, local whole wheat bread; a sandwich filled with hummus, tofu, and assorted veggies; and an edamame salad. I wound up selecting this establishment to dine at and found the chili to be very fresh and not too spicy, and the multigrain cranberry apple muffin to be moist and tasty. A napkin advertised that French Meadow existed in a half dozen other airports in the midwest.

One certainly can't rely on these types of options at every airport (my final destination, for example, Sarasota-Bradenton, has a Starbucks and a candy shop and little else). However, I find it very exciting that captive environments such as airports, which typically offered only the lowest common denominator of foods, are starting to expand their cuisines to support healthy, plant-based eaters. Making these types of foods available in commodity markets is the first step in making a natural, plant-based diet the national norm, so maybe eventually the Dunkin Donuts and Chili's will become extinct as the public moves back towards eating actual food.

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