The Diet Detective: What's in Airline Food

This is the annual DietDetective.com airline survey. Each year I contact the media relations departments of the various airlines requesting nutrition information for the foods they serve economy-class passengers on domestic flights.

Once again, several of the airlines simply find it too much trouble to e-mail their food vendors and get that information.
 
However, JetBlue was very helpful! And, guess what? They're also a pretty good airline. American, United and Continental were also helpful, while Delta was not at all. It was a struggle to get anything from them, so I assume they are just not that interested in the health of their customers.

As for the least helpful airlines, it was a tossup between Virgin American and US Airways. It took more than 20 phone calls and e-mails to get any information from Virgin, and in the end, all they came back with was info on their high-calorie snacks. Virgin American, Delta and US Airways -- shame on you. Are these airlines aware that both food and your health are very important to you?
 
Since last year, Continental's health rating has slipped. It seems that their simple, healthy menu didn't work, or perhaps now that they're charging for food (new this year) they figure that people will want more calories for their money. JetBlue is most improved, offering more than just snacks - finally. US Airways is by far the worst. And moving back to the No. 1 spot from the year before last is United.
 
Interestingly, there is a new law going into effect that will require restaurants around the country with 20 or more units to disclose nutritional information on their menus. I think airlines should be next. Meanwhile, we are still able to give you the "best bets" among many of their meal offerings.
 
Here are the snack and onboard food-service offerings from several of the more popular airlines, along with Diet Detective's comments, ratings (Health Score: 5 stars = highest rating, 1 star = lowest), calories, exercise equivalents (amount of walking required to burn off the food consumed) and personal choices.
 

United Airlines

(800-864-8331, www.united.com)
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Very helpful.
Health Score: (****)
Best Bet: On flights longer than two hours go for the Tapas; it has some great foods, including almonds, olives, hummus and bruschetta -- nice, and guess what? It's their top-selling snack box. The Lite is also very good and balanced at only 430 calories. For flights longer than three hours, United has a plethora of choices, but I really like the Turkey sandwich at 600 calories including the sauce and chips -- skip those if you want to save the calories. (It's also their best-selling freshly prepared snack box.) The Chicken Caesar Salad and the Fruit Tray are also good choices. All the meals are served with dressing on the side, so try to use only half. As far as the individual snacks are concerned, wow, those are some pretty high-calorie items! For breakfast, your best bet is the Smoothie or the Yogurt Parfait -- nice and healthy. Or you can have the Ham and Swiss Croissant -- it's not too high in calories. Skip the Continental Breakfast -- at 783 calories it's a bad start to your day.
 
Snack and Meal Choices:
 
Snack Boxes
 
Tapas $8.49
Oloves Marinated Olives (40 calories), Milas Artichoke and Red Pepper Spread (48 calories), Wild Garden Hummus (63 calories), Rondele Peppercorn Parmesan Cheese Spread (79 calories), Fratelli Laurieri Spread Al Rosmarino Crackers (90 calories), Jacobs Cream Crackers (68 calories), Partners Olive Oil and Sea Salt Crackers (50 calories), Emerald Natural Almonds (100 calories), Fantis Ouzo Candy Mint (15 calories). Total = 553 calories, 144 minutes of walking.
 
Classic $7.49
Snyder's of Hanover Mini Pretzels (50 calories), Keebler Townhouse Crackers (60 calories), Nabisco Oreo Cookie (100 calories), Jelly Belly Assorted Flavors (46 calories)
Del Monte Vanilla Yogurt Raisin Fruit Snack (120 calories), Austin Zoo Animal Crackers (120 calories), Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (100 calories), Dairyfoods Cheddar Spread (70 calories). Total = 666 calories, 173 minutes of walking.
 
Lite $6.99
Bumble Bee Sensations Lemon Pepper Tuna 2.9 ounces (110 calories). Stacy's "Simply Naked" Pita Chips (130 calories), Asher's Dark Chocolate Covered Pretzel (110 calories), Musselman's Unsweetened Apple Sauce (80 calories). Total = 430 calories, 112 minutes of walking.
 
A La Carte

  • Pringles $2.99 -- 2.6-ounce can (450 calories, 117 minutes of walking).
  • Cranberry Walnut Bread $2.99 (410 calories, 106 minutes of walking).
  • Chocolove Chocolate Bar $2.99 (480 calories, 125 minutes of walking).

Breakfast (before 10 a.m. on flights 3 1/2 hours or longer)

  • Yogurt Parfait $5.49 (300 calories, 78 minutes of walking).
  • My Smoothie $2.99 (120 calories, 31 minutes of walking).
  • Ham & Swiss Croissant $5.49 (338 calories, 88 minutes of walking).

Continental Breakfast $6.29
Cinnamon raisin bagel (180 calories), cream cheese (313 calories), strawberry jam (30 calories), yogurt and fruit (90 calories), nut trail mix (170 calories). Total = 783 calories, 203 minutes of walking.
 
Lunch / Dinner Salads and Sandwiches (10 a.m. -- 8 p.m. on flights 3 1/2 hours or longer)
 
Fruit & Cheese Tray $6.99
Cheeses (220 calories), dried cranberries and almonds (120 calories), crackers (50 calories), apples (30 calories). Total = 420 calories, 109 minutes of walking.

Turkey Sandwich $8.99
Sandwich (310 calories), sundried tomato aioli (140 calories), Kettle cooked chips (150 calories). Total = 600 calories, 156 minutes of walking.
 
Ham Sandwich $8.99
Sandwich (520 calories), stone-ground mustard mayo (120 calories), Kettle cooked chips (150 calories). Total = 790 calories, 205 minutes of walking.
 
Thai Chicken Wrap $9.49
Wrap (480 calories), Thai aioli sauce (140 calories), Kettle cooked chips (150 calories). Total = 770 calories, 200 minutes of walking.
 
Chicken Caesar Salad $9.49
Salad (160 calories), croutons (30 calories), Caesar dressing (130 calories). Total = 320 calories, 83 minutes of walking.
 

JetBlue Airways

(800-538-2583, (www.jetblue.com)

Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Very helpful. They're always nice and cooperative.
Health Score: (*** 1/4)
Best Bet: If you're really hungry, try the nuts. They have protein and good fat and will satisfy you. Eat them one at a time. The animal crackers are OK but not very nutritious. Try to stick with no more than one snack. Just because they offer more doesn't mean you have to take them, especially if you're not hungry. In terms of the meal boxes, the Shape Up is the clear winner -- pick that over all the others.
 
Snack Choices: (each distributed separately)

  • Doritos Munchies Mix -- 1.75-ounce bag (250 calories, 65 minutes of walking).
  • Linden's Chocolate Chippers (135 calories, 35 minutes of walking).
  • All Nuts roasted cashews (170 calories, 44 minutes of walking).
  • PopCorners Kettle Corn Chips (140 calories, 36 minutes of walking).
  • Stauffer's Original Animal Crackers -- 1-ounce bag (100 calories, 26 minutes of walking).
  • Terra Blues Potato Chips -- 1-ounce bag (130 calories, 34 minutes of walking).

 
Meal Boxes (Available on flights over 3 hours and 45 minutes)
 
Wake Up $6.00
Bauli Classic Croissant (173 calories), Bonne Maman Gourmet Strawberry Jam (40 calories), Justin's All-Natural Almond Butter (90 calories), Cheez-It Crackers (210 calories), Dole Fruit Cup (90 calories), Horizon Chocolate Milk (180 calories).
Total = 783 calories, 203 minutes of walking.
 
Beef Up $6.00
Old Wisconsin Salami (90 calories), Late July Organic Crackers (90 calories), Oakfield Farms Cheddar Cheese Spread (70 calories), New York Style Bagel Chips (130 calories), Belle Crème Gourmet Cheese Spread (70 calories), Brothers All Natural Fuji Apple Fruit Crisps (28 calories). Total = 478 calories, 124 minutes of walking.
 
Shape Up $6.00
Wild Garden Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus (63 calories), New York Style Pita Chips (130 calories), Sheffa Zesty Snack Mix (118 calories), Emerald Natural Almonds (100 calories), Sun-Maid Raisins (45 calories), Brothers All Natural Asian Pear Fruit Crisps (28 calories). Total = 484 calories, 126 minutes of walking.
 
Power Up $6.00
Heinz Salsa (20 calories), Stoned Classics Tortilla Chips (140 calories), Mama Mellace's Sweet and Salty Mixed Cashews (140 calories), Pennysticks Pretzel Sticks (100 calories), Robert Rothschild Gourmet Raspberry Honey Mustard Pretzel Dip (180 calories), Jack Link's Beef Jerky (50 calories). Total = 630 calories, 164 minutes of walking.
 
Cheer Up $6.00
Trio of Premium Cheeses: Swiss, Smoked Cheddar and Hot Pepper, Dried Apples and Cranberries, Crackers. Total = 260 calories, 68 minutes of walking.

American Airlines

(817-963-1234, www.aa.com)
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Very helpful.
Health Score: (*** 1/8)
Best Bet: Your best bet is the Cheese & Cracker Snack Tray. Just skip the cracker packages. The Premium Nut Blend is a strong nutrition choice, but make sure to split it with at least two other people. If you're traveling alone and don't have a lot of willpower, take a third of the nuts and give the rest back to the flight attendant. Nuts are very high in calories, but the remaining choices don't offer much in terms of nutrition, and they're just too high in calories. If you're on a longer flight, the Boston Market Chicken Caesar Salad with chips and dressing is a pretty good meal choice. Also, it's nice that the dressing is on the side (use it sparingly). Make sure you split the Boston Market Deli Chicken Pesto and the Boston Market Turkey Carver -- they are way too many calories for one person. Skip the breakfast.
 
Snack and Meal Choices
 
Breakfast
 
Breakfast Café Snack Tray $5.29
Stacy's Simply Naked bagel chips (130 calories), Rondele original plain cheese spread (110 calories), Ocean Spray Craisins (100 calories), Emerald natural almonds (100 calories), Biscoff cookie (29.8 calories). Total = 469.8 calories, 112 minutes of walking.
 
Breakfast Café Croissant Sandwich $6.00
(320 calories, 83 minutes of walking).
 
Snack Box
 
Cheese & Cracker Snack Tray $4.49
Two Pepperidge Farm two-cracker packs (95 calories), 0.75 ounces of cheese (75 calories), one 1-ounce box of raisins (90 calories), and one 1-ounce bag of mixed nuts (170 calories). Total = 430 calories, 112 minutes of walking.
 
A La Carte
*   Premium Nut Blend $4.49 (487 calories, 126 minutes of walking).
*   Megabite Chocolate Chip Cookie $3.29 (450 calories, 117 minutes of walking).
*   Lay's Stax Potato Crisps $3.29 (5.75 ounces, 900 calories, 234 minutes of walking).
*   Milk Chocolate M&Ms (440 calories, 114 minutes of walking).
*   Biscoff Snack Pack (576 calories, 150 minutes of walking).
Lunch/Dinner
 
Boston Market Chicken Carver with chips $10.00
Chicken, Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and Dijon-mayonnaise served on an artisan roll with Miss Vickie's chips (630 calories, 163 minutes of walking).
 
Boston Market Deli Chicken Pesto $10.00
Chicken topped with pesto aioli, mesclun greens and tomato on sliced multigrain bread. Served with sweet garlic dressing on the side and Miss Vickie's chips(1,300 calories, 338 minutes of walking).
 
Boston Market Turkey Carver $10.00
Sliced oven-roasted turkey breast, Swiss cheese, creamy Parmesan spread, tomato and leaf lettuce on artisan-style bread with Miss Vickie's chips(1,060 calories, 275 minutes of walking).
 
Boston Market Chicken Caesar Salad with SunChips and dressing $10.00
Romaine lettuce, chicken and Parmesan, Romano and Asiago cheeses. Served with creamy Caesar dressing and SunChips on the side. (470 calories, 122 minutes of walking).
 
Delta Air Lines (404-773-0305, www.delta.com)
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Not helpful at all -- I had to contact them repeatedly -- they are back to their old ways.
Health Score: (***)
Best Bet: Of the breakfast options (on flights of 3 ½ hours or more) your best bet is the Breakfast Snack, which has light yogurt and a fresh banana. In terms of snack boxes, the Travel Treat is a good option because of the tuna and the raisins, and it's also low in calories. Delta also offers a fruit and cheese plate that's available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The cheese is very high in calories, but it's still a nice option if you skip the crackers; at least you're getting some nutritional benefit from what you're eating. Skip the turkey, egg salad and Canadian bacon croissant at all costs. For lunch/dinner options, there is the veggies and ranch -- nice, low in calories, but watch that ranch dressing! Also, I don't think this will be very filling. The roast beef (eastbound) and turkey sliders (westbound) are both high in calories.
 
Snack and Meal Choices:
 
A la Carte Snacks
*   Pretzels (45 calories, 12 minutes of walking).
*   Peanuts (70 calories, 18 minutes of walking).
*   Biscoff Cookies (120 calories, 31 minutes of walking).
*   Pringles $3.00 (375 calories, 97 minutes of walking).
*   Peanut M&M's $2.00 (480 calories, 125 minutes of walking).
*   Bentley's Popcorn $2.00 (180 calories, 47 minutes of walking).
Snack Boxes
 
Travel Treats: $5.00
Bumble Bee Chicken Salad with Cranberries (110 calories), Pepperidge Farm Wheat Crisps (230 calories), Rondele Peppercorn Parmesan Cheese Spread (70 calories), Walkers Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookie (90 calories), Sun-Maid Raisins (45 calories). Total = 545 calories, 142 minutes of walking.
 
Flight Delights: $5.00
Pita chips (130 calories), Hummus (63 calories), Dried Apricots (70 calories), Glazed Almonds with Cranberries (112 calories), Chocobillys Chocolate Chunk Cookies (130 calories). Total = 505 calories, 131 minutes of walking.
 
Breakfast
 
Fruit & Cheese Plate $6.00 (Available breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Aged Cheddar, Havarti and Smoked Fontina, Green Grapes, Pecan Halves, Dried Apricots and Crackers. Total = 475 calories, 123 minutes of walking (estimated by Diet Detective Staff Nutrition Expert).
 
Breakfast Snack $3.00
Breyers Light Yogurt (assorted flavors) (250 calories), Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey Granola Bar (90 calories), Fresh Banana (90 calories). Total = 430 calories, 112 minutes of walking.
 
Turkey, Egg Salad and Turkey Canadian Bacon on Croissant $7.00
Boar's Head Mesquite Wood Smoked Turkey (60 calories), topped with Egg Salad (175 calories) and Grilled Turkey Canadian Bacon (261 calories) on a Croissant (345 calories). Total = 841 calories, 218 minutes of walking.
 
Lunch / Dinner
 
Fruit and Caramel $3.50
Braeburn (47 calories), and Granny Smith Apples (47 calories), Red Grapes (30 calories), and a Caramel Dipping Sauce (138 calories). Total = 262 calories, 68 minutes of walking.
 
Mile-High Turkey Sliders $8.00
Three Multigrain Slider Buns (300 calories), filled with Boar's Head Ovengold Turkey (83 calories), Romaine Lettuce (4 calories), sliced Roma Tomatoes (15 calories) and Turkey Bacon (321 calories) with Jalapeño Ranch Dressing on the side (237 calories). Total = 960 calories, 249 minutes of walking.
 
Veggies and Ranch $3.50
Carrot Sticks (11 calories), Celery Sticks (2 calories) and Red Pepper Slices (12 calories) with Tomatoes (6 calories) and Cucumber Slices (0 calories) and a side of Ranch Dressing (109 calories). Total = 142 calories, 37 minutes of walking.
 
Italian Roast Beef with Fontina on Focaccia $8.00
Boar's Head Italian Style Roast Beef (91 calories) on a bed of Baby Spinach (3 calories), topped with Fontina Cheese (83 calories) and Red Onion (6 calories). Served on Sun-Dried Tomato Focaccia (360 calories) with Basil-Pesto Spread (138 calories). Total = 681 calories, 177 minutes of walking.
 
Continental Airlines (800.523.3273, www.continental.com)
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Helpful.
Health Score: (** 1/2)
Best Bet: In terms of snacks, if you have a family of five or six (not very likely) and wanted to split the almonds, it's really the only snack choice that has real nutritional value. You should avoid the chips and pretzels, and the beef jerky is very high in sodium. That doesn't leave too many snack options. All the snack packs are very high in calories. I realize they're meant to be shared, but even so, there is no one standout among them. There are elements in each that are OK; however, if I had to choose, the Savory is probably the best -- just watch that fruit-and-nut mix. In terms of meals, for breakfast, the yogurt is not too bad. For lunch or dinner, the Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad is the obvious best choice so long as you watch the dressing -- that could put it over the top. The fruit-and-cheese plate is not bad if it's a meal, not just a snack, and the same for the other choices except for the burger. Also, pass on the dessert: It's not worth it.
 
Snack and Meal Choices:
 
A La Carte Snacks (Available on most flights between 2.5 and 6.5 hours.)
 
*   Blue Diamond Roasted Salted Almonds, $4.50 -- 6-ounce can (1,020 calories, 265 minutes of walking).
*   Snyder's of Hanover Pretzel Dips (dipped in Hershey's White Cream) $3.50 -- 4.5-ounce bag (585 calories. 152 minutes of walking).
*   Wild Ride Original Beef Jerky $3.50 -- 1.8-ounce bag (162 calories, 42 minutes of walking).
*   Milk Chocolate M&M's $2.50 -- 3.4-ounce box (476 calories, 124 minutes of walking).
*   Pringles Original Potato Crisps $1.50 ¬-- 1.4-ounce can (230 calories, 60 minutes of walking).
 
Snack Boxes
 
Select Snack Box $7.00
Multigrain Tortilla Chips (1.25 ounces, 180 calories), Azar Fruit & Nut Mix (3 ounces, 330 calories), Organic Chocolate Chip Granola Bar (1.2 ounces, 140 calories), Crackers (0.53 ounces, 68 calories), Hormel Salami (1 ounce, 110 calories), Peppercorn Parmesan Cheese Spread (1 ounce, 79 calories), Oloves Marinated Olives (1.1 ounces, 153 calories), Plain Hummus (1.76 ounces, 63 calories). Total = 1,123 calories, 292 minutes of walking.
 
Classic Snack Box $5.00
Azar Fruit & Nut Mix (3 ounces, 330 calories), Chex Mix Chocolate Chunk Bar (1.06 ounces, 120 calories), Crackers, Gourmet Cheddar Cheese Spread (0.75 ounces, 50 calories), Chips Ahoy 100-Calorie Thin Crisps (0.81 ounces, 100 calories), Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (1 ounce, 130 calories). Total = 798 calories, 207 minutes of walking.
 
Savory Snack Box $6.00
Stoned Classics Tortilla Chips (1.25 ounces, 180 calories), Mild Salsa (1.5 ounces, 14 calories), Wild Garden Hummus (1.76 ounces, 63 calories), Oloves Marinated Olives (1.1 ounces, 153 calories), Azar Fruit & Nut Mix (3 ounces, 330 calories), Organic Chocolate Chip Granola Bar (1.2 ounces, 140 calories), Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (1.2 ounces, 160 calories). Total = 1,040 calories, 270 minutes of walking.
 
Mini Snack Box $4.00
Kind Almond & Apricot Bar (1.4 ounces, 170 calories), Yogurt Raisin Fruit Snack (1 ounce, 120 calories), Crackers (0.53 ounces, 68 calories), Gourmet Cheddar Cheese Spread (0.75 ounce, 50 calories). Total = 408 calories, 106 minutes of walking.
 
Breakfast (Available 5 a.m. -- 9:30 a.m.)
 
Hot Breakfast Sandwich $4.50
Jimmy Dean sausage, egg and cheese sandwich, accompanied by apple wedges and condiments (473 calories, 123 minutes of walking).
 
Parfait $3.50
Yoplait vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries, oats and honey granola (276 calories, 72 minutes of walking).
 
Muffin $2.00
Otis Spunkmeyer blueberry muffin (200 calories, 52 minutes of walking).
 
Cheese and Fruit Plate -- 5 a.m. -- 8 p.m. $6.25
A selection of Muenster, Cheddar, Gouda and brie cheeses, crackers, red grapes and pecan halves (457 calories, 119 minutes of walking).
 
Lunch /Dinner (Available 9:30 a.m. -- 8 p.m.)
 
Angus Cheeseburger $6.25
Premium Angus beef with melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion, served with traditional condiments (680 calories, 177 minutes of walking) estimated by Diet Detective Staff Nutrition Expert.
 
Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad $8.25
Grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes and button mushrooms over spinach and romaine lettuce, topped with crispy onions and served with Italian vinaigrette. Chicken packaged separately for a vegetarian-friendly option (345 calories, 90 minutes of walking).
 
Three Amigos Cold Sliders $5.25
Small sandwiches: Jennie-O smoked turkey breast on a wheat roll, Hormel ham on a wheat roll and sharp Cheddar cheese on a classic roll, served with a variety of spreads (660 calories, 171 minutes of walking) estimated by Diet Detective Staff Nutrition Expert.
 
Asian Noodle Salad $4.50
A chilled Japanese-style udon noodle salad topped with stir-fried vegetables, sweet chile chicken breast and green onions (551 calories, 143 minutes of walking).
 
Dessert (Available 9:30 a.m. -- 8 p.m.)
 
Eli's Cheesecake Dipper $3.50
Chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick (430 calories, 112 minutes of walking).
 
 
Southwest Airlines (214-792-4223, www.southwest.com )
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Very helpful, really very nice people.
Health Score: (**)
Best Bet: Go for the nuts and skip the pretzels and other items.
Cost: Free.
 
Snacks
 
On short flights:
*   Honey or dry-roasted peanuts (70 calories, 18 minutes of walking).
*   Pretzels (60 calories, 16 minutes of walking).
 
On select flights:
*      Nabisco Airplane Cookie (120 calories, 31 minutes of walking).
*      Ritz 6-pack Cheese Sandwich Crackers (200 calories, 52 minutes of walking).
*      Ritz Toasted Chips (100 calories, 26 minutes of walking).
 
Virgin America (877-359-8474, www.virginamerica.com)
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Horrible. This is the second year in a row that Virgin America believes they don't need to provide the information almost every restaurant and food product must offer to customers.
Health Score: (**)
Best Bet: In terms of snacks, the PopChips and yumBar are low-calorie choices; the others are high in calories and not good choices. Virgin offers a wide variety of meals, but the focus is not necessarily on health and calories. The chicken sandwich appears to be your best bet. For snack boxes, go with the Veggies and Hummus or the Protein Meal.
 
Snacks:
 
A la Cart
*   Chex Mix (420 calories, 109 minutes of walking).
*   Pringles (375 calories, 97 minutes of walking).
*   Emerald Mixed Nuts (425 calories, 110 minutes of walking).
*   Chocolate Chip Cookies (330 calories, 86 minutes of walking).
*   Sweetriot yumBar 65% (190 calories, 49 minutes of walking).
*   PopChips (100 calories, 26 minutes of walking).
*   Snickers (528 calories, 137 minutes of walking).
Snack Boxes
 
Veggies & Hummus
Crunchmaster crackers, pickled and garden-fresh veggies including broccoli, radishes, summer squash and tomatoes. Sweet peppadew hummus and curry dipping sauce. Total = 275 calories, 71 minutes of walking (estimated by Diet Detective Staff Nutrition Expert).
 
Artisan Cheese & Fruit
Artisan cheeses, including Camembert, aged Cheddar, fresh mozzarella, havarti dill and pepper jack paired with seasonal fruits, fresh grapes, assorted sundried fruits and Rustic Bakery crostini. Total = 560 calories, 145 minutes of walking.
 
Power Protein Breakfast
Hard-boiled egg, cinnamon Danish bread, aged Cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, fresh pineapple, grapes and ripe mango. Total = 385 calories, 100 minutes of walking (estimated by Diet Detective Staff Nutrition Expert).
 
Meals:
 
Hearty Meal
Old Wisconsin beef salami slices, Copper Cowbell cheese spread, Late July organic crackers, Mariani dried apricots, BBQ PopChips, Sweet Perry Orchards cashew mix and Walker's shortbread. Total = 530 calories, 138 minutes of walking.
 
Protein Meal
Lemon pepper tuna spread, Crunchmaster multigrain crackers, Wild Garden hummus, original PopChips, Mariani dried apricots and an Almond Roca candy. Total = 390 calories, 101 minutes of walking.
 
Comfort Meal
Barney Butter almond butter, Bonne Maman strawberry jam, Late July organic crackers, Sweet Perry Orchards unsweetened applesauce, Annie's Cheddar bunnies, Seneca apple chips and Sweet Perry Orchards cashew mix. Total = 590 calories, 153 minutes of walking.
 
California Deli Sandwich
Thinly shaved turkey breast, Cure 81 deli fresh ham, havarti dill cheese, farm-fresh tomato and green lettuce in a marble rye hoagie roll. Served with Toblerone Chocolate. Total = 650 calories, 169 minutes of walking (estimated by Diet Detective Staff Nutrition Expert).
 
Homestyle Chicken Sandwich
Chicken salad, vine-ripened tomatoes and crisp lettuce on hearth-baked nine-grain bread. Served with a Toblerone chocolate. Total = 325 calories, 84 minutes of walking (estimated by Diet Detective Staff Nutrition Expert).
 
Thai Peanut Chicken Hand Roll
Fresh chicken breast marinated in a Thai sesame dressing, with sweet bell peppers, carrots, dry roasted peanuts and fresh cilantro in a red pepper flatbread. Served with a Thai noodle salad and Toblerone chocolate. Total = 675 calories, 175 minutes of walking (estimated by Diet Detective Staff Nutrition Expert).
 
Bavarian Roast Beef Sandwich
Thinly shaved medium cooked roast beef on thick sliced Russian rye bread, with fontina cheese, pickled red onions, tomatoes, crisp lettuce and a whole-grain mustard-horseradish sauce. Served with a Toblerone chocolate. Total = 700 calories, 182 minutes of walking (estimated by Diet Detective Staff Nutrition Expert).
 
US Airways (480-693-0800, www.usairways.com )
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Dreadful -- it's a tossup between Virgin and US Airways for least cooperation, and Delta is a close third. It was a real struggle getting any information whatsoever.
Health Score: (*3/4)
Best Bet: The CafePlus is not terrible because at the very least you get the protein from the tuna, and it's low in calories. Maybe you can get rid of the cookies (give them to the flight attendant as a gift). Not much else. The Breakfast box is very high in calories and offers little in terms of nutrition.
 
Snack Boxes (Available on most flights over 2.5 hours, departing between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m.)
 
CaféPlus $6.00
Bumble Bee cranberry chicken salad (110 calories), Freshers cream crackers (140 calories), Bare Fruit cinnamon apple chips (43 calories), Emerald Natural almonds (100 calories), Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies (120 calories), Toblerone Mini (66 calories). Total = 579 calories, 150 minutes of walking (some items estimated by Diet Detective Staff Nutrition Expert).
 
CaféSnack $4.50
Madi K's Almonds roasted salted blend trail mix (140 calories), Pepperidge Farm Distinctive crackers (70 calories), Glacier Ridge Farms white Cheddar cheese (50 calories), Walkers shortbread round cookie (80 calories), Brach's starlight mint (20
calories). Total = 360 calories, 94 minutes of walking.
 
Bites
*   Blue Diamond Almonds $5.00 (840 calories, 218 minutes of walking).
*   Pringles $3.00 (480 calories, 125 minutes of walking).
*   Mini Chips Ahoy! $3.00 (600 calories, 156 minutes of walking).
*   M&M's Pretzel Chocolate Candies $3.00 (360 calories, 94 minutes of walking).
*   Mareblu Naturals - Blueberry Pomegranate Trail Mix Crunch $4.00 (450 calories, 117 minutes of walking).
Fresh Meals (Available on flights 3.5 hours or more)
 
All Day Fruit & Cheese Plate $7.00
Cheddar, Swiss and pepper jack cheeses, seasonal fresh red grapes, strawberries, honeydew melon and assorted crackers (470 calories, 122 minutes of walking).
 
Breakfast French Toast Sandwich Box (Served on flights departing between 5 a.m. and 8:59 a.m.)
Cinnamon swirl French toast bread, yogurt cup, fruit salad, jam, smoked turkey breast, turkey ham, Swiss cheese (705 calories, 183 minutes of walking, estimated by Diet Detective Nutrition Staff).
 
Beef Reuben $7.00
Marble Reuben thick loaf bread, arugula lettuce, roast beef, tapenade-sundried tomato, havarti cheese, Grey Poupon Dijon mustard, Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies, Sun Chip Harvest Cheddar 1-ounce bag (915 calories, 238 minutes of walking).
 
Looking for tips to make your travels healthier? Check out the Diet Detective's Last-Minute Vacation Diet Cheat Sheet. Go to www.dietdetective.com/columns/vacation-diet-cheat-sheet.aspx
____________________________________
CHARLES STUART PLATKIN, Ph.D. is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com. Copyright 2010 by Charles Stuart Platkin. All rights reserved. Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter at www.DietDetective.com
 
EDITOR'S NOTE: OPTIONAL SIDEBAR
 
Bring Your Own Snacks
Even if you ate before you left home, you are still going to get hungry. We often underestimate the amount of time a trip can take. A two-hour flight could mean four or five hours of travel. Keep in mind that you can take most foods through security, but you need to check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for the latest rules about carrying on food and water: www.tsa.gov/311/index.shtm

Here are some ideas for snacks you can bring or buy in the airport:
-    Water: Buy it after the security checkpoint to take onboard. Dehydration can cause or exacerbate hunger, jet lag and fatigue.
-    Cereal: Kashi, Shredded Wheat or other low calorie cereals. Look for portable, low-calorie choices, under 120 calories per cup. You can also look for cereal in a cup--portion controlled 1.5-ounce packs that are easy to store and easy to use.
-    Fruit and salads: Stick with fruits like apples and oranges that can withstand some rough treatment. You can even bring a banana if you put it in a container such as a banana saver ( www.bananasaver.com). Grapes or almost any other fruit can be carried in a plastic container. Also, they often sell cut up fruit or salads in the airport. They're a bit more expensive than bringing your own, but at least they're healthy alternatives to what is served onboard.
-    Energy bars: Although they tend to be high in calories and fat, they are generally better than a slice of pizza or a candy bar at the airport. Choose Larabars; they have nothing but healthy ingredients.
-    Frozen VitaTops: They're healthy, low calorie, and by the time you're ready to eat one, it will be defrosted and taste fresh. ( www.vitalicious.com)
-    Nonfat yogurt: Yogurt is a great portable snack. You can purchase it after you go through security.
-    Sandwiches: Pre-cut them into portion-controlled sections so you can pull them out at different times during the trip without making a mess. Chicken, turkey, cold cuts and cheese (on 100 percent whole-wheat bread) are all great options for sandwiches on the go.
-    Soy chips and PopChips: Yet another portable, low-cal, high-fiber snack. (www.glennys.com, www.popchips.com )
-    Peel-and-eat tuna and salmon cups: Chicken of the Sea makes these easy-to-open cups that give you a quick protein source. With no draining required, this wild-caught tuna or salmon is perfect for on-the-go lunches and snacks.
-    Nuts: They're a good source of protein, and they help fend off hunger. Portion them into 1-ounce bags (about 160 calories each).
-    Dried or freeze-dried fruit and vegetable snacks: Eat dried fruit in moderation; it's high in calories. (e.g., www.sensiblefoods.com, www.brothersallnatural.com, www.funkymonkeysnacks.com)
-    All Natural Fruit Roll Ups (no sugar added): Check out Stretch Island Fruit Company's Original Fruit Strips, FruitaBü and Smoooshed Fruit Rolls ( www.stretchislandfruit.com)
-    Whole Wheat Crackers: Make sure to get 100 percent whole-wheat crackers such as Ak Mak ( www.akmakbakeries.com), Dr. Kracker ( www.drkracker.com), Mr. Krispers (mrkrispers.elsstore.com).
-    Beef jerky: Especially if you're a low-carb fan, but not if you're watching your sodium.

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