Health Food Guru Rates Airline Food

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Wondering which airlines offer the healthiest meal options? Charles Stuart Platkin, the "Diet Detective," has once again pulled together information from America's top eight air carriers and rated the best calorie bargains in the skies.

For the second year in a row, United Airlines proved to be the healthiest airline, with JetBlue, and American Airlines also ranking high on the expert's "Health Score," a one-to-five star rating in which no airline received five stars. On the other hand, U.S. Airways was rated the worst, with Virgin America and Continental rounding out the back of the pack.

If flying a short flight on United, try the airline's top-selling snack box, Tapas, which includes almonds, olives, artichoke spread, hummus and an assortment of crackers. Another well-balanced option is "The Lite" with tuna, pita chips, applesauce and a dark chocolate covered pretzel, which rings in at just 430 calories.

For United flights lasting longer than three hours, Platkin advises trying the turkey sandwich at 600 calories, including sauce and chips.

The expert recommends sticking to just nuts on the "most improved" airline, JetBlue, citing the snack contains protein and good fat. However, Platkin suggests taking it easy on the individually packaged snacks available on JetBlue Airways, which are portion controlled but come complimentary-causing some travelers to go overboard on their snack requests.

American Airlines "snacks are still high in calories with few healthy offerings," said Platkin. The group suggests the Cheese & Cracker Snack Tray at 430 calories, or splitting the Premium Nut Blend with "at least two other people" since the option is 487 calories.

As far as Delta's food options go, the best bet is the Breakfast Snack, which includes light yogurt, a granola bar and a fresh banana at 430 calories. Platkin advises to skip the turkey, egg salad and Canadian bacon croissant "at all costs"-the sandwich measures in at a whopping 841 calories.

Continental ranked low on its health score, bringing in only two-and-a-half stars out of five for replacing health options with "extremely high-calorie a la carte snacks." Two of their regular snack boxes are over 1,000 calories, with a third almost reaching 800 calories. The smaller, "Mini Snack Box," however, is only 408 calories and includes a almond and apricot bar, yogurt raisin fruit snack, crackers and cheese.

Southwest only offers snacks, and as such only received a two-star rating. Platkin advises travelers to "go for the nuts and skip the pretzels and other items."

Virgin America also only garnered only two stars, in part due to the airline's "lack of cooperation" and "terrible attitude with regard to consumer health." The airline did not provide nutritional information to Platkin, but offers a "Veggies & Hummus" snack box (estimated at 275 calories) as well as an "Artisan Cheese & Fruit" snack box (estimated at 560 calories).

US Airways also refused to cooperate with DietDetective.com's requests, which in combination with "poor overall food choices" and "not much variety" brought their score down below two stars. The group suggested the CaféSnack which only has 360 calories and includes trail mix, crackers, white cheddar cheese, a shortbread cookie and a mint.

Platkin did not state exactly how they calculated the "health score," but bias against airlines that were less than cooperative seems to be a factor. To view all of the survey results, visit www.dietdetective.com.

Photo by House of Sims on flickr.

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