Flier food rated healthy

Fliers nationwide know McCarran International Airport as the place they can gamble while waiting for a flight.

Now they can add the Las Vegas-area airport to their list of places to get healthy food while traveling.

McCarran landed ninth on a list of airports ranked for healthy food choices by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The airport has miles to go to catch Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, which ranked No. 1 on the 2007 list. But it is a step up from where it was the past three years, dead last among airports the doctor group evaluated.

"If you go back to the days when airlines actually served food, our options were pretty limited," said Scott Kichline, manager of commercial business development at McCarran.

Kichline gave much of the credit to an investment in 2005 of more than $15 million in food service, an amenity that generated $125 million in gross sales at the airport in the last fiscal year.

HMSHost, the Maryland-based company that oversees restaurants at the airport, freshened McCarran's food choices with an emphasis on attracting national chains and more updated culinary concepts.

"I'm certain that has helped us up the ranking," Kichline said. "Even the fast-food concepts have added healthy options."

To make the ranking the physician group surveyed restaurants at 15 of the busiest airports in the country. They didn't include stands without entrees such as coffee shops or kiosks.

To be counted among the healthy a restaurant had to offer at least one low-fat, high-fiber, cholesterol-free breakfast, lunch or dinner.

At McCarran 33 of 44 restaurants, or 75 percent, made the cut.

The surveyors singled out vegetable sandwiches at Prickly Pear Cafe, vegetable burritos at Don Alejandro's Texan Grill and steamed vegetables at Sbarro.

Folks behind the survey say healthy eating on the road is especially important during the holidays, when so many people are traveling to and from events featuring fatty, heavy and nutrition-deficient grub.

"It is not fun to travel and feel ill. It is not fun to travel hungry either," said Susan Levin, a dietitian with the physician group.

After Dallas, Chicago O'Hare, Detroit Metropolitan, Los Angeles International and Newark Liberty International airports topped the list. Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C. was last with just 42 percent of restaurants offering food the group deemed healthy.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or (702) 477-3861.