10 foods you should never, ever buy at the airport

Your options are limited, but you can still make healthy choices if you know what to look for.

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Foods you should never buy at the airport
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Foods you should never buy at the airport

Soft pretzels

“A big old soft pretzel is not a meal,” says registered dietitian Marjorie Nolan Cohn, owner of MNC Nutrition in Philadelphia. Those fluffy carbs might smell enticing, but carbo-loading before a long flight will leave your tummy rumbling again by takeoff. Look for something with protein and fiber that will keep you satisfied until you land, or better yet, pack a meal from home. Nolan Cohn recommends making a sandwich at home to save money or packing leftovers like pasta salad or grilled chicken in an old, washed plastic container, such as a cottage cheese tub.

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Guilty pleasures

Try not to lump your waiting time at the airport in with the “treat mentality” of the rest of your vacation, says registered dietitian nutritionist Libby Mills, founder of Dig In Eat Up. “Even though it might be the kickoff to vacation, you want to save those calories for something unique when you arrive,” she says. Skip the specialty coffee drink and stick with plain coffee if you need a caffeine fix, or leave room for ice cream at the beach instead of gobbling a bag of cookies at the airport. Don’t miss these other 15 secrets to staying healthy on vacation.

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Parfaits

You’ve seen yogurt touted time and time again as one of the healthiest snacks you can get, thanks to its satiating protein. But that fruit and yogurt parfait isn’t the healthy and fresh choice that it seems. “Yogurt has its halo over it as a healthy food, and obviously it is, but in context of what additives are in it,” says Nolan Cohn. By the time you turn plain yogurt into a sugary flavored yogurt topped with granola and fruit (which, unlike fresh berries, is full of added sugar), it isn’t a healthy choice anymore, she says. Skip the parfait and choose a regular yogurt from the fridge, or try these 19 nutritionist-approved travel snacks you can buy anywhere.

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Sugary yogurts

Even yogurts that aren’t covered in granola or chocolate chips can be a stealthy sugar bomb. Fruit-on-the-bottom varieties are “not really fruit—it’s more like jelly,” says Nolan Cohn, and the dessert-like flavors and toppings can have almost as much sugar as the treats they’re named after. A cup of unflavored Greek yogurt is a safe bet, but if you need something less tart, vanilla varieties tend to have a bit less sugar than the fruity ones, she says. Try these other 13 healthy tricks for actually losing weight on vacation.

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Granola bars

Granola bars are often designed to look like a smart choice, but there’s more than meets the eye. “Some are like candy bars in a really strategic marketing package to make it look like something way healthier than it is,” says Nolan Cohn. Granola bars can be packed with added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other decidedly unhealthy ingredients, especially if they’re covered in a waxy (and melty) coating. That said, a shelf-stable, portable snack is convenient when you need to take the hunger off during your travels, so hunt down an option with 12 or fewer grams of sugar, she says. Check out these other 10 ways to eat healthy on vacation.

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Coffee

A cheap, low-calorie cup of coffee might seem like the perfect treat while you’re waiting, but you might regret it once you’re seated. “Coffee has caffeine and can agitate the nerves, which might not make for the most relaxing flight,” says Mills. Plus, if coffee goes through you fast, you could end up making multiple bathroom dashes, she points out. Try a calming herbal tea instead, Mills suggests.

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Large bar tab

While a glass of wine as you wait for your flight won’t do much harm for most people, you’ll want to keep your drinking to a minimum. Not only could it dehydrate you before an already dehydrating plane ride, but alcohol isn’t good for deep sleep. You might crash quick, but the alcohol will wake you up and keep you out of deep REM sleep as your liver works it out. “A less restful trip, especially if you’re going overseas, may be counterproductive to enjoying yourself fully when you arrive,” says Mills.

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Double-decker sandwiches

You might not have too many choices at a quick-grab sandwich station, but keep your calories in check by avoiding excessive fillings, says Mills. “If it has triple layers of meat or bread, that’s a tipoff that you’re getting triple servings,” she says. “‘Crispy,’ breaded,’ and ‘fried’ … are words on a menu that are tipoffs of an extra serving of carbohydrates, plus the extra fat.” 

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Water bottles

You might not want to rely on the bottled water from the airport terminal—and not just because of its sky-high prices. Normally we’d never discourage some good-for-you hydration, but hear us out if you have a small bladder. “You’re guzzling water before getting on the plane, then sharing a toilet with how many people?” says Nolan Cohn. Because hydration is important, especially when you’re stuck in a dry plane cabin, she recommends sipping extra water the night and morning before your flight so you aren’t dehydrated when you board. Especially if your flight is more than a couple hours, though, don’t ignore your thirst in the name of avoiding the bathroom, she says.

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Anything your stomach isn't used to

When you’re about to sit in close quarters for hours on end, you’ll want to avoid foods that don’t tend to sit well with your digestive system. Steer clear of foods that normally might upset your stomach, such as certain types of fiber or greasy foods. “A hamburger and French fries or fried chicken before you get on a plane might not be the best idea,” says Nolan Cohn. “They have a higher potential for triggering diarrhea or GI issues.”

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The post 10 Foods You Should Never, Ever Buy at the Airport appeared first on Reader's Digest.

RELATED: Airport tips to always remember

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12 tips that can get you through the airport as quickly as possible
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12 tips that can get you through the airport as quickly as possible

Apply for TSA PreCheck status

Signing up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry can help save you valuable time, as you can keep your shoes, belts, and light jackets on as you go through security. You also don't have to remove your laptop or any liquids from your bag. 

It will help get you through an expedited line over Thanksgiving weekend as well as each time you travel afterward, making it a valuable investment.

Check in ahead of time.

Give yourself as few tasks to do at the airport as possible. Instead of waiting to pick up your boarding pass, check in ahead of time, either online or on your phone.

You can go paperless at most airport and use an electronic pass on your phone to board.

Download your airline's app.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and British Airways are just a few of the airlines that have developed mobile apps to give travelers real-time information on flight delays and gate changes.

That way, if your gate has changed and you're short on time, you’ll know before you even get to the airport.

Wear slippers.

If you're going to have to take your shoes off at security, make them easy ones to remove.

Slippers are a good choice because they'll keep you warm and cozy on your flight without taking too much time to remove at security.

Buy a TSA-approved laptop bag.

Certain laptop bags are specially designed to be approved through TSA security, meaning you won't have to take your laptop out separately when passing through.

Simple cases like this one from Case Logic ($27) are perfectly reasonable. 

If you're bringing gifts, leave them unwrapped.

If you're exchanging gifts over the holidays, ship them ahead of time to avoid having to take them through the airport. Or if you're going to bring them with you, leave them unwrapped, as TSA agents may have to unwrap them.

"Wrapped gifts are allowed, but we recommend waiting until you land to wrap them," it says on the TSA's official blog. "If there's something in the gift that needs to be inspected, we may have to open it … It also slows down the line for everybody else when we have to do this."

Pack shoes foot-to-toe at the bottom of your bag.

Packing your shoes in the bottom of your bag will help to put some weight on the wheels of your luggage and make it easier to remain balanced, especially if you're rushing to your gate. 

Arrive early.

This one seems like common sense, but make sure you leave yourself more time than usual during holiday travels. Brian Ek, a travel expert for Priceline.com, told Fox News that he encourages fliers to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight and three hours for international flights that are leaving early in the morning or late at night.

For normal business-hour flights, he recommends giving yourself another 30 to 45 minutes, just to be on the safe side. 

Keep a bag of essential items ready to go.

Skip the time it would take to transfer your shampoo into a 3.4-ounce bottle and have a bag of toiletries ready to go.

Grab samples of your favorite products, or get travel-size toiletries and store them in one bag so you can simply grab it and go each time you pack.

Have a booking app set up on your phone.

Canceled flights are an unfortunate reality when traveling during the holidays. To help ensure you get the best place to sleep if this does happen, have a booking app set up on your phone so that you can make last-minute hotel reservations or rent a car.

If your flight does get canceled, take advantage of your time and start calling the airline over the phone while you wait in line.

Look for lines toward your left.

According to CNN, looking for lines toward your left side can help you spot the one that's shorter. Studies show that Americans are more likely to turn right than left when entering a building. 

If your flight is delayed, relax at an airport lounge.

Even if you're flying economy, it doesn't mean you can't access airport lounges. Most lounges sell day passes so that anyone can experience last-minute pampering and relaxation. 

You can also get a Priority Pass, which gives you access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world. 

Finally, check your credit card to see whether or not it gives you lounge access. Some, like American Express Platinum, have access to Delta and Centurion lounges. 

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