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Healthy Airplane Food: Annual Airline Snacking and Onboard Food Survey with Health Ratings for 2007

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Don't know if you should get the bag of chips or the animal crackers? The Diet Detective rates several airlines' snack offerings to help you make the healthier choice while traveling.

United Airlines

The airlines are constantly changing what they serve, and we're on the case, trying to distinguish Calorie Bargains from Calorie Rip-Offs. Since last year's survey, Delta increased its score, but United, American, JetBlue, and US Airways all dropped slightly in the ratings. This year we've also added rankings for Southwest, Northwest, and Midwest Airlines, as well as updated the menus and included food items in addition to snacks.


Here are a few of the various airlines' snack and on-board food service offerings, along with Diet Detective's comments, ratings (Health Score: 5 stars = highest rating, 1 star = lowest rating), calories, and exercise equivalents. Only the snacks have the calorie information because most of the airlines could not give us detailed ingredients lists to analyze the nutritional content of the other foods. However, we are able to give you the "best bets" on many of the meal offerings.

United Airlines


Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Very helpful

Health Score: (****1/2) United still has the best variety and most healthful snacks. However, the sandwiches and salads are not nearly as health oriented.

Best Bet: Go for either the Rightbite or the Smartpack. The Smartpack is all natural, trans-fat free, and vegetarian-friendly, but it has a lot of food and can be high in calories, so share it. For breakfast (on five-hour-plus flights), go for the yogurt and mixed fruit; skip the cake, Danish, and crackers. As far as the sandwiches go (on five-hour-plus flights), try the roast beef if you're willing to skip the cheese, and if you're really trying to watch your diet, ditch half the bread. The Ciabatta roll is higher in calories than a wrap (300 vs. 200). The turkey breast looks like the best choice, but the mayo (in all the wraps) adds 100 calories, and you can't remove it. In terms of salads, pick the Hawaiian Chicken. Even though the macadamia nuts are high in calories, they offer nutrients, and the dressing is lower in calories than the other salad choices.

Total Calories: 895 (Smartpack), 550 (Minimeal), 650 (Quickpick), 580 (Rightbite)

Exercise Equivalents: (Amount of walking to burn off the calories) 231 minutes (Smartpack); 142 minutes (Minimeal); 168 minutes (Quickpick); 149 minutes (Rightbite)

Snack Choices


  • SunGold Creamy SunButter (1.5-ounces, 266 calories)
  • Bear Naked All-Natural Fruit and Nut Granola (1/2 cup, 280 calories)
  • Vermont Village Cannery Organic Peach Applesauce (4 ounces, 80 calories)
  • Cowbell White Cheddar Cheese (0.75 ounces, 75 calories)
  • Pita Shack Multigrain & Honey Lavash crackers (0.9 ounces, 120 calories)
  • Hero Strawberry Preserves (1/2 ounce, 64 calories)
  • Bali's Best Latte Candy (1 candy, 15 calories)
  • Emer'gen-C Fizzing Drink Mix - Tangerine (1 packet, 20 calories)


  • Bumble Bee Sensations Lemon & Pepper Seasoned Tuna Medley (3 ounces, 110 calories)
  • Late July Organic Crackers (1 package, 100 calories)
  • Wild Garden Hummus (1 jar, 73.5 calories)
  • Stacy's Multigrain Baked Pita Chips (1 ounce, 130 calories)
  • Fino Selections Gouda cheese (1 ounce, 101 calories)
  • Newman's Own organic California raisins (0.5 ounces, 45.5 calories)
  • Mini-Toblerone (12.5g bar, 66.5 calories)

For detailed calorie information on the Minimeal and Quickpick, go to

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