The evidence suggests, overwhelmingly, that if you want to eat healthy food on an airplane… bring your own.
But if you can’t do that, here are six tips for healthier on-board munching:
** 1. Fill up on real food. When you have the choice between small snacks and a full meal, go for the full-meal option. You’re more likely to feel satisfied and get nutrients out of a sandwich or a wrap than a box full of high-calorie, low-nutrient snacks like pretzels, chips, or cookies.
** 2. Know your options. If a snack box is your only choice, go for ones with natural or organic snacks, like United’s “Rightbite” or “Smartpack” snack boxes. The Smartpack is full of all-natural or organic munchies with no trans fats and sells for $6.
** 3. Skip the mayo. Ask ahead if the mayonnaise and mustard come in separate packages or already on the sandwich. Continental serves turkey and ham sandwiches with light mayonnaise on the side. The turkey is 170 calories, including a package of light mayo, and the ham is 201 calories, with mustard only.
** 4. Avoid sweets. One particularly tempting snack is Midwest Airlines’ baked-on-board cookies. They’re delicious, but high in calories (240 calories for two). Again, go for a full-meal option instead, like Midwest’s chicken salad in pita pocket — just 230 calories when you leave out the mayo, and much more filling and nutritious than the cookies. Price: $5.50-$10.
** 5. Choose protein and fiber. When given the choice between peanuts, pretzels, cookies, or other snack foods, DietDetective.com’s founder Charles Stuart Platkin suggests sticking with peanuts and dried fruit, if you can get it. That way, you’ll get protein, fiber, and other nutrients that you might not find in pretzels, chips, or cookies… and you’ll likely feel fuller, longer.
** 6. Ask your reservations agent about special meals. Most airlines offer vegetarian, kosher, Muslim, and other special meal options. Usually these meals are lower in fats and higher in fibers and grains like beans and rice. Continental and United also offer low-fat and low-calorie meals, as well as other choices like fruit meals, Hindu meals, and seafood meals. Request a special meal when you buy online, or call reservations a day or two before your flight to order.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]