Annual Airline Snacking and Onboard Food Survey with Health Ratings for 2009
This is the annual DietDetective.com airline survey designed to help consumers separate Calorie Bargains from Calorie Rip-offs. Since the last survey, United Airlines has had a fall from grace, while Continental takes the top spot. American Airlines wins most improved, and US Airways falls to the bottom of the heap. Many of the airlines found it too complicated to provide nutritional information for their non-snack menu offerings. American Airlines was particularly helpful, while Delta/Northwest, US Airways and United made it really difficult to get information. It seems they haven't all read the surveys indicating that 90 percent of the American public wants nutritional information about the foods they eat. In any case, they will eventually have to provide that information as a matter of law. Meanwhile, we are still able to give you the "best bets" on many of the meal offerings.
Here are the snack and on-board 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.
Continental Airlines (713-324-2950, www.continental.com)
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Very helpful
Health Score: (**** 1/2) Continental provides a variety of options and offers free, low-calorie, high-impact meals/snacks to hungry passengers.
Best Bet: For flights of two to three hours, both the Petite Cold Sandwiches are good options, and Continental even offers light mayo. For breakfast, skip the calorie-laden muffin and have cereal with low-fat milk and a banana. On flights of more than three hours you get one of the hot sandwiches listed below, a salad (and a Lite Ranch dressing is offered), as well as a fun-size candy bar.
Cost: No charge
Snack and Meal Choices:
Pretzels, 45 calories, 12 minutes of walking (flights under two hours).
* Country Corn Flakes (70 calories, 18 minutes of walking)
* Honey Nut Cheerios (110 calories, 28.5 minutes of walking)
* Total (70 calories, 18 minutes of walking)
* Honey Nut Chex (120 calories, 31 minutes of walking)
* Banana (90 calories, 23.5 minutes of walking)
* 2 percent milk, 4 ounces (61 calories, 16 minutes of walking)
* Freshly baked muffin (290 calories, 75 minutes of walking)
On flights of two to three hours:
* Turkey (135 calories, 35 minutes of walking)
* Ham (198 calories, 51 minutes of walking)
* Petite Cold Sandwich with a condiment (mustard, 3 calories, 1 minute of walking, or light mayonnaise, 35 calories, 9 minutes of walking)
* Baby carrots (15 calories, 4 minutes of walking)
* Fun-size candy bar (see below for info).
On flights of more than three hours: sandwiches, a salad, and a fun-size candy bar.
* Aldo’s Enchilada Chicken Wrap (180 calories, 47 minutes of walking)
* Buddy’s Jennie-O Turkey Club (250 calories, 65 minutes of walking)
* Pierre Beef Charbroil Sandwich (440 calories, 114 minutes of walking)
* Pierre Breaded Chicken on Kaiser Roll (400 calories, 104 minutes of walking)
* Stefano’s Chicken Wrap (290 calories, 75 minutes of walking)
* Stefano’s Turkey BBQ Bake (310 calories, 80.5 minutes of walking)
* Stefano’s Turkey Dog (270 calories, 70 minutes of walking)
Fresh salad (10 calories, 2.5 minutes of walking) with choice of dressing:
* Lite Ranch, Naturally Fresh (80 calories, 21 minutes of walking)
* Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinaigrette, Naturally Fresh (80 calories, 21 minutes of walking)
* Caesar, Naturally Fresh (120 calories, 31 minutes of walking)
* Pepper Cream, Naturally Fresh (150 calories, 39 minutes of walking)
* Kit Kat (80 calories, 21 minutes of walking)
* Hershey’s milk chocolate bar (67 calories, 17.5 minutes of walking)
* M&M plain candies (108 calories, 28 minutes of walking)
* Twix cookie bar (80 calories, 21 minutes of walking)
American Airlines (817-963-1234; www.aa.com)
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Very helpful
Health Score: (*** 3/4) American is actually improving slowly, but improving. They got rid of the calorie-heavy oversized 3 Musketeers bar, revamped their Breakfast Café by taking away the high-calorie muffin and replacing it with oatmeal (OK, it has brown sugar; but it's still better than a muffin), and the Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bar is now a box of healthy raisins. Good job AA: You can do even better, but progress is slow in the airline business from what I hear…
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 SunChips and dressing is a pretty good meal choice. Also, it's nice that the dressing is on the side (use it sparingly). If you’re flying for three hours or more during breakfast, your only choice (other than the snacks) is the Breakfast Café, which is not too bad.
Cost: $3- $10
Snack Choices and Meals
Breakfast Café (snack box; Total = 480 calories, 124.5 minutes of walking):
* Breyers YoCrunch strawberry yogurt (190 calories)
* Quaker Oatmeal Express — Golden Brown Sugar (200 calories)
* Sun-Maid Raisins (90 calories)
* Premium Nut Blend (706 calories, 183 minutes of walking)
* Saile & Sabga Gourmet Chocolate Chip Cookie (420 calories, 109 minutes of walking)
* Lay's Stax Potato Crisps (5.75 ounces, 862.5 calories, 223.5 minutes of walking)
* Cheese & Cracker Snack Tray (Total = 430 calories, 111.5 minutes of walking) — includes 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)
* Boston Market Chicken Carver with chips: (630 calories, 163 minutes of walking)
* Boston Market Beef Brisket Grinder with chips (820 calories, 212.5 minutes of walking)
* Boston Market Chicken Caesar Salad with SunChips and dressing (470 calories, 122 minutes of walking)
United Airlines (847-700-4000; www.united.com)
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Helpful. United was not as helpful as in past years.
Health Score: (*** 1/2) United still has the best variety, but their healthful offerings have been reduced. United, have you looked at the calories in those snacks? Yes, there are two energy bars, but still…what happened to your healthy mission?
If you’re traveling more than five hours, they offer snack boxes, fresh salads and sandwiches, but the sandwiches and salads are much less health-oriented than the snack boxes.
Best Bet: For flights longer than two hours go for the Active snack box. Even though it has more calories than the Organic, the Active has better food choices, and if you want to save calories eat only half the chips.
For flights longer than three hours, United has a plethora of choices but not very many that are healthy. For breakfast, your best bet is the low-fat yogurt and fruit. Or you can have the ham and Swiss croissant. At least you'll be getting a good supply of protein, and it's not high in calories. For lunch and dinner, you’d think the turkey sandwich would be a good choice, but it's the highest in calories. The roast beef sandwich isn’t bad in terms of calories, and the salads are both fair choices for a full meal. They’re 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! Stick to the energy bars: At least they're portion controlled. Clearly these snacks are meant to share, but typically we eat whatever we’re given, especially on a long flight.
Snack and Meal Choices:
* Lay's Stax Potato Crisps (900 calories, 233 minutes of walking)
* Toblerone Chocolate Bar (510 calories, 132 minutes of walking)
* Walkers Shortbread Cookies (540 calories, 140 minutes of walking)
* Fisher Salty Nut Mix (630 calories, 163 minutes of walking)
* Clif Bar Oatmeal Raisin Walnut (240 calories, 62 minutes of walking)
* Odwalla Banana Nut Nutritional Bar (240 calories, 62 minutes of walking)
Luxe (Total = 607 calories, 157 minutes of walking):
* Multigrain chips (210 calories)
* Olives (40 calories)
* Crackers (35 calories)
* Cheese spread (79 calories)
* Grissini (70 calories);
* Chocolate-covered pretzels (110 calories)
* Hummus (63 calories)
Organic (Total = 436 calories, 113 minutes of walking):
* Cheese crackers (130 calories)
* Granola (130 calories)
* Apple chips (43 calories)
* Fruit stick (68 calories)
* Chocolate (65 calories)
Classic (Total = 616 calories, 159.5 minutes of walking):
* Kettle Chips (150 calories)
* Salami (80 calories)
* Oreos (100 calories)
* Cheddar spread (70 calories)
* Goldfish (100 calories)
* Crackers (70 calories)
* Jelly beans (46 calories)
Active (Total = 634 calories, 164 minutes of walking):
* Almonds (260 calories)
* Tortilla chips (180 calories)
* Turkey stick (50 calories)
* Salsa (20 calories)
* Thinkfruit Bar (80 calories)
* Raisins (44 calories)
Breakfast: (before 10 a.m. on flights 3 1/2 hours or longer)
* Continental breakfast (Total = 613 calories, 159 minutes of walking): French toast bagel (180 calories); cream cheese (313 calories); strawberry jam (30 calories); strawberry yogurt (90 calories)
* Yogurt parfait (310 calories, 80.5 minutes of walking)
* Cinnamon muffin (470 calories, 122 minutes of walking)
* Blueberry muffin (440 calories, 114 minutes of walking)
* Ham & Swiss croissant (338 calories, 87.5 minutes of walking)
Lunch / Dinner Salads and Sandwiches: (after 10 a.m. on flights 3 1/2 hours or longer)
* Spinach salad (553 calories, 143 minutes of walking)
* Chicken Caesar salad (505 calories, 131 minutes of walking)
* Turkey sandwich with chips (860 calories, 223 minutes of walking)
* Roast beef sandwich with chips (536 calories, 139 minutes of walking)
* Thai chicken wrap with chips (672 calories, 174 minutes of walking)
* Assorted cheese tray (570 calories, 148 minutes of walking)
* Antipasto plate (410 calories, 106 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: (*** 1/2) The individually packaged snacks are portion-controlled; however, you can ask for as many as you want, and many people do. JetBlue is improving slowly. All their snacks are under 140 calories, which isn’t bad. I like the fact that they've lowered the overall calorie count of their snacks and added a Stella D'Oro Breakfast Treat for 100 calories as well as the Fiber Gourmet Cheese Snacks, which are only 50 calories. But JetBlue could be more creative and come up with a few healthier, more innovative snacks. How about a Larabar energy bar? Just a suggestion.
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.
Cost: No charge
Snack Choices: (each distributed separately)
* Chocobillys Chocolate Chunk cookies (four cookies, 130 calories, 34 minutes of walking)
* Doritos Munchies Mix (1-ounce bag, 140 calories, 36 minutes of walking)
* Stella D'Oro Breakfast Treats (one cookie, 100 calories, 54 minutes of walking)
* Stauffer's Original Animal Crackers (1-ounce bag, 100 calories, 31 minutes of walking)
* Terra Blues Potato Chips (1-ounce bag, 130 calories, 34 minutes of walking)
* All Nuts Jumbo Cashew Halves (1-ounce bag, 170 calories, 44 minutes of walking)
* Chifles Plantain Chips (0.75-ounce bag, 105 calories, 27 minutes of walking)
* Fiber Gourmet Cheese Snacks (0.7-ounce package, 50 calories, 13 minutes of walking)
Delta Air Lines (866-715-2170; www.delta.com) and Northwest Airlines (800-225-2525; www.nwa.com)
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Somewhat helpful. Delta was cooperative in getting us the snack information but left out all of the important meal information. They claim the information is not available. Huh? Sounds like they just don't want to give consumers vital nutritional information.
Health Score: (*** 1/2) Delta's individual snack choices are not very good, but their meal choices on longer flights are reasonably healthy. They can do much better.
Best Bet: If you're traveling 1 1/2 hours or more you can have one of two snack boxes, chips and M&Ms or trail mix. Your best bet is the Flight Delight snack box. For breakfast options (on flights of 3 ½ hours or more) Delta offers a fruit and cheese plate. 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 egg salad wrap at all costs: Between the "layered" cream cheese and the egg salad, you might gain weight right in the middle of your flight. Ditto the blueberry muffin. For lunch/dinner options, Delta again offers a fruit plate, which is not a bad option. The Asian shrimp salad is also a good choice, especially since the dressing is on the side so you can use it sparingly. Another pretty good option would be the roast chicken sandwich with cheese and dressing, but the honey-mustard dressing can be high in calories, so don’t use too much.
Cost: $3 - $8
Snack and Meal Choices:
* Pringles (450 calories, 116.5 minutes of walking)
* Peanut M&M's (480 calories, 124.5 minutes of walking)
* Planters Fruit & Nut Trail Mix (840 calories, 217.5 minutes of walking)
Travel Treats (Total = 670 calories, 173.5 minutes of walking):
* Kettle Chips (150 calories)
* Salami (110 calories)
* White Cheddar (50 calories)
* Gouda (50 calories)
* Late July crackers (90 calories)
* Craisins (100 calories)
* Milano cookies (120 calories).
Flight Delights (Total = 530 calories, 137.5 minutes of walking):
* Pita chips (130 calories)
* Hummus (63 calories)
* Apricots (70 calories)
* Almonds (100 calories)
* Clif Bar (100 calories)
* Toblerone mini (67 calories)
US Airways (480-693-0800; www.usairways.com)
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Somewhat helpful. They neglected to send information about their non-snack items.
Health Score: (** ½) There are some decent choices in the snack box, but overall the choices could use a health tune-up. On flights under 2 1/2 hours they offer only pretzels. Not much nutrition there, but at least they’re not too high in calories.
Best Bet: The fruit and nut mix is very high in calories, so don’t eat more than one or two small handfuls and give the rest away. The chicken salad snack box is not a great choice, but if you must have it, skip the cookies. The salami and cheese box is not much better. These snack boxes are terrible compared with United Airlines’ boxes. Take note US Air, or better yet, contact the previous provider of United’s snack boxes, Go Picnic.
Aside from the boxes, there are a few solid offerings in terms of snacks. Your best bets are probably the Quaker Oatmeal Express or the almonds, if you have someone to share them with or enough willpower to save some for another day. Almonds are healthy, but each one has 7 calories.
For breakfast the choices are not so great. There’s a fruit and cheese platter or a turkey deli club. Although it's not really a breakfast choice, you can pick the turkey off the sandwich to make a healthy snack. The sandwich comes with a side of mayo (skip it for sure) and a cup of strawberry yogurt (too bad it's not low fat). The cheese and fruit plate is not too bad, either, as long as you toss the crackers. For lunch and dinner, go with the Caesar salad, but skip the dressing and use that lemon wedge they give you instead. It's the dressing and to some extent the cheese that cause the calorie overload. Skip the pastrami sandwich. Not only is it very high in calories on its own, but it’s topped off with Thousand Island dressing and a cookie…please.
Snack and Meal Choices:
Chicken salad box (Total = 825 calories, 214 minutes of walking):
* Chicken salad (140 calories)
* Miltons Multi-Grain Cracker (100 calories)
* McDuffies Shortbread Cookies (240 calories)
* Sunsweet Dried Apricots (70 calories)
* Snackwave Trail Mix (205 calories)
* Belle Crème Cheese Spread (70 calories)
Salami and cheese box (Total = 752 calories, 195 minutes of walking):
* Stoned Classics Tortilla Chips (180 calories)
* Emerald Trail Mix (260 calories)
* Venus Crackers (60 calories)
* Gouda cheese (76 calories)
* Ortega Salsa (10 calories)
* Pepperidge Farm Cookies (100 calories)
* Toblerone (66 calories)
* Blue Diamond Almonds (840 calories, 218 minutes of walking)
* Pringles (480 calories, 124.5 minutes of walking)
* Mini Oreos (530 calories, 137.5 minutes of walking)
* Twizzlers (525 calories, 136 minutes of walking)
* Quaker Oatmeal Express Golden Brown Sugar (200 calories, 52 minutes of walking)
* Maruchan Instant Lunch-chicken (290 calories, 75 minutes of walking)
* Planters Daybreak Blend Apple Cinnamon Trail Mix (560 calories, 145 minutes of walking)
Southwest Airlines (214-792-4223; www.southwest.com)
Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Very helpful, really very nice people.
Health Score: (**) Not much variety, and not much in terms of nutritional value.
Best Bet: Go for the nuts and skip the pretzels and other items.
* Honey or dry-roasted peanuts or pretzels (70, 70, 50 calories; 18, 18, 13 minutes of walking).
Longer flights (of more than 1 1/2 hours):
* 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).
Looking for tips to make your travels healthier? Check out the Diet Detective's Last-Minute Vacation Diet Cheat Sheet.
Originally published: 11/25/2009 | Last reviewed: 11/25/2009
Why do they sterilize the needles, for lethal injections?
Why do kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
Tower: "American 341, for noise abatement turn right 45 Degrees." American 341: "We are at 37,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?" Tower: "Sir, have you ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits a 757?"
Booker, your not alone on packing your own stuff. We all pack snacks and meals, in our own way. Honestly, you never know when you need it. I admit, I pack my own snacks and meals. Also, after I am done with all my services, I give the pilots "the junk food". I only had one pilot who wanted the extra cheese, crackers, and beef salami.
I look at it this way...I always bring my own food! However...when push comes to shove and you're "desperate" something in the stomach is better than nothing. I'm not a "horder" but I'm always greatful to have something to eat than nothing!
There is a lot of flight attendants that work for this company that only thinks of themselves. However, I am not one of those flight attendants. If it is going to be a long day, I personally call catering to get crew meals. I don't do it for me, I do this for the pilots. With that being said, I end up giving my crew meal to you guys. As I said in a earlier post, the extra "junk food" you guys get. There will be times that both of you guys decline the munchies/meals, but I end up making you a care package anyways. You never know when you will need it, especially on a long four day trip. One last thing to keep in mind...In EWR, catering throws away all the extra meals/snacks. That includes the prepackaged foods.
The Jetblue Munchie mix is NOT 140 calories. It is 240 or 250. I wonder how accurate this information really is.
My first year with the company, my CA collapsed on the train coming from IAB to B. She decided not to eat or drink anything while we were in BJX for a short overnight. Before getting off the plane in Mexico, I gave both of my pilots a care package, that all came from IAH. I also gave them another bottle of water. Her reason that she did not eat or drink was because she was afraid that she was going to get sick. As for the rest of the trip, she called out. And a few months later, she quit. From that experience, I always make sure that my pilots are always taken care of. Even if you are a total douche, I will still make sure that you are taken care of too.
Mitch, you are right. The calorie count for some of the products that are listed above is not accurate. The article is making it think your not ingesting that many calories, but in reality you are eating more calories. I just looked up some of the prepackaged food in my calorie book. Also, here is a question...When did CAL let the passengers choose the type of salad dressing that they wanted? "Fresh salad (10 calories, 2.5 minutes of walking) with choice of dressing"