The Diet Detective: Which Airline Food is Healthiest?

United Airlines & Continental Airlines


Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Very helpful.

Health Score: (*** 1/4)

United has slipped on their snack boxes. Continental and United have merged and now, except for one item, offer the same food choices. Several years ago, United had an amazing assortment of healthy offerings, and was really focused on health.

Now there are only a few decent healthy choices; however, the nice thing is that most of the meal choices for lunch and dinner are relatively reasonable in terms of calories. Except for the nuts, all of the individual snack offerings are poor choices.

Best Bets:

On flights longer than two hours, go for the Tapas, which have some great foods, including almonds, olives, hummus and bruschetta—just toss out the cheese spread. All of the individual snacks are pretty high in calories. I realize they're meant to be shared, but even so, there is no one standout among them.

If you have a family of five or six (not very likely) and wanted to split the almonds, they are really the only snack choice that has real nutritional value. You should avoid the chips and cinnamon rolls. That doesn't leave too many individual snack options. All the snack packs are very high in calories.

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, the yogurt is not too bad for breakfast. Skip the cheese and fruit plate—it gives the illusion of being healthy, but it's not at all, and there is really not much fruit to speak of other than the dried fruit.
For flights longer than three hours, United has several healthy choices, but I really like the Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad at 360 calories, including the dressing. The other choices, including the Asian Noodle Salad, Thai Chicken Wrap and Turkey Sandwich, are OK choices compared to those of other airlines, and in term of calories they are decent for lunch or dinner.

For breakfast, your best bet is the Yogurt Parfait—or, if you're interested in meat, you can order the Ham and Cheddar Rustic Ciabatta Sandwich, which is 318 calories (not bad), and you can get rid of half the roll and save about 100 calories.
Snack and Meal Choices

(Available on most flights over 2 hours)
Snacks (individual)

  • Blue Diamond Roasted Salted Almonds $4.99 – 6-ounce can (1,020 calories, 220 minutes of walking).
  • Pringles $2.99 – 2.6-ounce can (375 calories, 81 minutes of walking).
  • Two-Bite Cinnamon Rolls $2.99 (330 calories, 71 minutes of walking).
  • M&M's Pretzel $2.99 (372 calories, 80 minutes of walking).

Snack Boxes
Tapas $8.49

  • Olives (40 calories)
  • Milas Bruchetta Spread (48 calories)
  • Fresh Garden Hummus (63 calories)
  • Rondele Peppercorn Parmesan Cheese Spread (79 calories)
  • Italian Crackers (90 calories)
  • Jacobs Crackers (68 calories)
  • Partner Olive Oil Crackers (50 calories)
  • Emerald Natural Almonds (100 calories)
  • Fantis Ouzo Candy Mint (15 calories)
  • Total = 553 calories, 119 minutes of walking.

Classic $7.49

  • Snyder's of Hanover Mini Pretzels (50 calories)
  • Jacobs Crackers (68 calories)
  • Nabisco Oreo Cookie (100 calories)
  • Jelly Belly Assorted Flavors (46 calories)
  • Hormel Hard Salami (110 calories)
  • Cheddar spread (70 calories)
  • Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (100 calories)
  • Total = 544 calories, 117 minutes of walking

Savory $7.29

  • Stoned Classic Tortilla Chips (180 calories)
  • Azar Fruit & Nut Mix (110 calories)
  • Cascadian Bar Chocolate Chip (140 calories)
  • Ortega Salsa (10 calories)
  • Asher's Chocolate Pretzel (110 calories)
  • Total = 550 calories, 119 minutes of walking

Breakfast (Available on most morning flights)

Yogurt Parfait $5.49

  • Vanilla yogurt with mixed berries and granola.
  • 260 calories, 56 minutes of walking.

Ham and Cheddar Rustic Ciabatta Sandwich $5.79

  • Shaved ham and cheddar cheese on ciabatta bread (310 calories), served with Dijon mustard-mayo sauce (8 calories).
  • 318 calories, 69 minutes of walking.

Cheese & Fruit Plate $7.49 (Also available on most afternoon flights)

  • Muenster, cheddar, Gouda and Brie cheeses (320 calories)
  • Dried apricots (10 calories)
  • Crackers (70 calories)
  • Pecan halves (50 calories)
  • Total = 450 calories, 97 minutes of walking.

Lunch / Dinner Salads and Sandwiches (Available on most afternoon flights)
Thai Chicken Wrap $8.59

  • Grilled chicken breast, romaine lettuce, carrots and red and yellow bell peppers wrapped in a tortilla (470 calories), with Thai aioli sauce (100 calories).
  • 570 calories, 123 minutes of walking.

Turkey Sandwich $7.99

  • Smoked turkey, provolone cheese and lettuce on a pretzel roll (440 calories), stone-ground mustard-mayo sauce (100 calories).
  • 540 calories, 117 minutes of walking.

Asian Noodle Salad $5.49

  • Chilled noodle salad topped with stir-fried vegetables, sweet chile chicken breast and green onions.
  • 360 calories, 78 minutes of walking.

Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad $9.49

  • Grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, carrots, spinach and romaine lettuce (150 calories), with crispy onions (80 calories), balsamic vinaigrette (130 calories).
  • 360 calories, 78 minutes of walking.

Angus Cheeseburger $7.99 (Continental only)

  • Beef burger, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, served with traditional condiments.
  • 510 calories, 110 minutes of walking.

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