Navigating Airport Food with Diabetes


Going on a trip? Flying somewhere for the holidays? What fun. Now all you have to manage is getting through the airport with your sanity and carbohydrate budget intact.

You have just dealt with checking your luggage (will you ever see the contents again?) and the TSA. Now you are in the terminal. You are assaulted with the varied fragrances of the food vendors. Even though you know it is airport food, you are tempted by your nose. The smell of hot dogs always gets me salivating, even though I know better on so many levels.

I remember when traveling used to be fun. I wouldn’t show up at an airport unless I was dressed in a jacket and tie. I even enjoyed making fun of the mystery meat airline meals. Now I feel fortunate if I get a one ounce package of peanuts in flight!

There is so much more stress in traveling than back in the “old” days. Stress often makes you want to eat… something. It is why the airlines do a beverage service with that little pack of nuts or pretzels. It helps keep the passengers calmer and gives them something to do with the itty-bitty tray tables.

It is difficult to manage your diabetes eating when you are not in your own home. It is even harder when you are trapped in a fast food wonderland/nightmare. Everything you really don’t want or need is right there saying, “Eat me!” We know better but…

Airports and shopping mall have pretty much the same assortment of poor choices. In a mall you can escape to a store and buy something. In the airport, you are trapped. Even if you can manage to run the gauntlet of fast food and get to your gate without binging out, count on the person next to you chowing down on some cinnamon bun or fries.

The food choices are pretty bad, not to mention the inflated prices at the airports. I solve this by making a cheese or peanut butter sandwich on a low carbohydrate bread. A bag of nuts and a small apple helps as well. For liquids, I travel with an empty water bottle and fill it at the water fountains at the airport. Have you noticed the prices they charge for bottled water?

I have never had any problems with the TSA and my carry on food or medications. A large tube of toothpaste may send up alarms, my lunch goes through x-ray just fine.
While my homemade lunch might not be gourmet, it is cheaper, fresher, and lower in carbohydrates than what the airport has to offer. When your resolve weakens at the scent of the fried chicken or those cinnamon buns, these things can help. It is also helpful to bring some extra lower carbohydrate bread just in case. I carry lower carbohydrate pitas or sandwich thins with me.

If you are stuck with a long layover or worse a flight delay, you may have little choice but to chow down at the airport. It is NOT the end of the world – unless you expect it to taste good. Airport pizza is as good as cardboard with tomato sauce on it.

Opt for a grilled chicken. Don’t bother to ask the server to leave off the bun. They will only look at you like you are just another crazy tourist but the chances of you getting your chicken quickly, and without the bun, are slim to none. Another option is a salad. Don’t expect it to be great. It was made before you were born and kept all too cold for any flavor. Watch out for the croutons and a high carbohydrate dressing!

As for keeping hydrated, water is the best bet. If you want something with more (not always better) flavor, stick to basic coffee or tea. The fancy coffees and lattes seem to be everywhere and are packed with extra sugar and calories. If you MUST have something fancier, ask for a shot of espresso in your coffee. If a latte or cappuccino is your must-have, ask if it has any sugars or syrups in it.

ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, fly safe and BE DECADENT! –w!

Source: Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic