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LAX Offers Nutritious Options to Diners on the Fly

November 05, 2000|KATHLEEN DOHENY

You're at Los Angeles International Airport with an hour until takeoff, and you're hungry. You'd like something to eat now, and maybe something to take on the plane so that you can pass up the airline fare later.

It's easy enough to find food at LAX, with 60 restaurants and food concessions (plus gift shops that sell candy and other snacks) scattered among the nine terminals. The question: How to find something that's nutritious and not loaded with fat and calories? A poster outside the eateries at Terminal 1 sums up the dilemma: "On Vacation. Off the Diet."

It's as if the high-fat, sky's-the-limit mentality kicks in as soon as you pass the security checkpoint.

"People make excuses [while traveling]," says Netty Levine, a registered dietitian at Cedars Sinai Medical Center who often counsels travelers. A typical lament she hears from her clients who are trying to lose weight or maintain a loss but fall short in the airport: "I was late. I didn't have time to look around for something healthy. So I just grabbed a pizza." Often it's a four-cheese pizza with pepperoni and sausage.

It does take time to find healthy food, especially if you are departing from a terminal you haven't used recently. So, armed with the LAX restaurant tenant list--it's on the Internet at recently traipsed through all nine terminals in search of healthy fare. The good news: Fresh fruit, whole or cut up in takeout containers, is available at several concessions. The bad news: Chocolate--high-quality stuff like Godiva and See's--is everywhere.

Many restaurants don't make nutritional data available, so I jotted down what I thought were the best choices and conferred later with Levine. Here is a rundown of the best options, terminal by terminal, if you want to avoid junk food and arrive at your destination feeling well-nourished, along with some additional advice about how to eat healthy on the run. (To match terminal numbers to airlines, see the Web site.)


Best bet--The Naked Juice counter, which sells much more than juice. Grab a smoothie protein drink (150 calories, 1 gram of fat) and some fruit. Apples, bananas and oranges are available. (Yes, the going rate of 99 cents apiece is exorbitant, but it's a snack that will keep a long time, and you'll be glad to have it if your flight winds up stuck on the tarmac.) Also available: cartons of yogurt (160 calories, no fat) and Wetzel's Pretzels, which can be healthful if you choose wisely. Bypass the Cookies 'N Kreme pretzel, with its icing and chocolate cookie crumbs, and order the buttered Wetzel's Original, with 320 calories and 4 grams of fat. (Without butter, it's 280 calories.)

Alternate choice: The Boudin bakery, which sells prepackaged sandwiches. Look for turkey on a crusty roll, mayonnaise on the side.


Best bet: Wolfgang Puck, which will package your order for the plane. Levine recommends the Chinois chicken salad if you get the dressing on the side; the mixed baby greens with balsamic vinaigrette salad, again with dressing on the side; or the roasted vegetable pizza (order it cheeseless if you really need to cut down on fat). Nutritional breakdowns weren't available.

Alternate choice: The waffle on the Cheers Bar's breakfast menu. Skip the butter and go easy on the syrup.


Best bet: Jody Maroni's sells fresh fruit by the piece. It advertises a chicken sausage sandwich as lean, but one link has 200 calories and 14 grams of fat, making it about 63% fat.

Alternate choice: Java Java sells plain bagels, which are low in fat.


Best bet: Chili's Too has a "guiltless" chicken salad that has 5 grams of fat if you keep the dressing on the side. The "guiltless" grilled pita chicken sandwich has 9 grams of fat.


Best bet: Creative Croissants offers more than buttery croissants; it also sells whole fruit and fruit and vegetable takeout containers.


Best bets: Ruby's has a Chinese chicken salad. (Skip the dressing or order it on the side.) The Old Town Bakery sells fruit.


Best bet: Wolfgang Puck's, with the same menu as in Terminal 2.


Best bet: California Pizza Kitchen (also in Terminals 1 and 5) if you order wisely. Skip the crunchies on the Oriental chicken salad, Levine advises, and go easy on the dressing. Or try the vegetarian pizza, light or no cheese.


Best bet: The Daily Grill and its adjacent express takeout facility. Try the hot turkey au jus sandwich on a French roll with spicy mustard. (You don't have to dip it in the juice.) Or the cold turkey breast sandwich without the mayo. The vegetable sandwich, without its pesto mayonnaise, cheese and avocado, isn't a bad bet either. And the Daily Grill express, adjacent, has takeout containers of cut fruit.

Alternate choices: TCBY Yogurt has nonfat frozen yogurt. The McDonald's here (and at Terminals 1 and 5, but not at Terminal 7) sells the chain's grilled chicken sandwich (300 calories, 5 grams of fat if you hold the mayo).

Wherever you travel, "get the plainest food," Levine advises. If you're ordering pasta, for instance, get plain pasta, steamed vegetables and a little Parmesan cheese. Skip the meat sauce if you're trying to cut calories and fat.

The operating hours of the LAX restaurants vary, says Ken Colwes of concessions management. A few outlets open as early as 6 a.m.; most stay open until 10 or 11 p.m., with some operating until 1 a.m. The phone number of each restaurant is listed on the Web site tenant list.


Healthy Traveler appears twice a month. Kathleen Doheny can be reached at

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