United's Snacks Garner Top Ranking

Wanna eat healthy at 30,000 feet?

Skip United Airlines' "Quickpick" snack box and opt for the "Ritebite" mix, which includes tuna, hummus and raisins.

Avoid Delta Air Lines' 766-calorie snack pack, or just keep the granola and peanuts and dump the rest.

And, when flying Continental Airlines, feel free to gobble up the turkey sandwich, which has just 170 calories including a packet of light mayonnaise.

These are some of the recommendations contained in an in-depth analysis released Friday on airline snack foods. The study - conducted by health and fitness Web site DietDetective.com - ranks six major airlines by giving them a "health score."

The score takes into account the quality and variety of snacks offered, calorie totals and packaging. It also incorporates the reaction from the airlines themselves when asked to provide nutritional information for the study.

"When a corporation is focused on a certain area they are very forthcoming with information on it," said Charles Stuart Platkin, founder of DietDetective.com. "But when they're weak they are not very forthcoming."

United Airlines, the largest carrier in Denver, received the highest ranking. The company offers four snack boxes - at $5 apiece - including an all-organic option for vegetarians as well as a low-calorie offering.

"You can tell they put a lot of effort into this," Platkin said. "And even though some of the options are high in calories they have other benefits, such as being organic or trans-fat free."

United said it began offering healthier snacks about a year ago. Demand has been so strong that the carrier has introduced more options.

"We started doing it as a response to customers asking for healthier food choices when they travel," said Robin Urbanski, a spokeswoman for the airline. "Now they're among our best-sellers."

Continental Airlines and JetBlue Airways had the second-highest rankings.

On flights of more than two hours, Continental offers ham and turkey sandwiches that have about 200 calories. JetBlue offers individually wrapped snacks such as Wheat Thins, crackers and cashews in addition to cookies and candy that are "portion controlled and trans-fat free," according to DietDetective.com. The carrier's least-healthful option: gingerbread cookies, which have 210 calories.

American Airlines received three out of five stars, while US Airways got two. Frontier Airlines wasn't included in the analysis, nor was Southwest Airlines.

Delta received the worst score, in part because it only offers one snack option that includes less-nutritional foods such as chips and cookies.

"It basically has a lot of calories, but it will give you very little energy," Platkin said.

"If you eat it all, you'll have 766 calories and probably no satisfaction."

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