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United Airlines’ Fresh Food Choices: Are they Healthy?

Food Choices in FlightIf you fly on a United Airlines flight within North America that lasts over three and a half hours, you’ll have a chance to pick from their “Fresh Food Choices” for an in flight meal/snack. Unfortunately, “fresh” doesn’t always mean healthy.

In short, if you choose to eat in flight, optimal food choices would be light meals or snacks that are well-balanced, containing some protein, healthy fat (monounsaturated or Omega-3s) and complex carbs – such as whole fruit, veggies or whole grains. That said, here are United Airline’s food choices and my analysis of which are the healthiest of the options:

Breakfast (served before 10am)

  • FRUIT AND YOGURT PARFAIT: Low fat vanilla yogurt with fruit and a side of granola. $5

Is it Healthy?: No. Although the yogurt has a little protein, it is very little. This is not a well-balanced meal and will definitely leave you feeling hungry later. Further, there is so much sugar in it, you may experience a sugar crash soon after eating it.

  • HAM AND SWISS CROISSANT: Ham and swiss cheese on a croissant with dijonnaise. $5

Is it Healthy?: I’d like to say this is the healthier food choice…but it isn’t. Although the ham provides some protein, which will keep you fuller longer, the croissant and cheese are high in fat and the croissant is made with refined flour.

Ideally, the more perfect in flight food choice would be if United combined the two and offered fresh fruit, ham and a serving of bran cereal and skim milk. If you want to bring food on board, run to Starbucks and get their oatmeal with the nuts and dried fruit pack.

Lunch and Dinner (served between 10am and 8pm)

  • ASSORTED CHEESE TRAY: Cheese, dried cranberries, almonds and Pepperidge Farm crackers. $6

Is it Healthy?: Not really. It contains protein, fat and carbohydrates, but the fat is mostly saturated and is a huge component of this food choice. Pepperidge Farm crackers tend to be high in preservatives, sugar and refined flour. The only redeeming part of this snack is the dried cranberries and almonds, which provide fiber, protein and healthy fat. Further, the cheese can be heavy and cause a lot of gas…something you don’t necessarily want in flight.

  • TURKEY SANDWICH: Smoked turkey topped with crisp romaine lettuce and sun dried tomato aioli sauce on multigrain bread, accompanied by Kettle Classics potato chips. $9

Is it Healthy?: The multigrain bread is great, however, it is hard to know how “whole” the bread is (multigrain isn’t always whole grain and it is the whole that you care about…not the multi). The smoked turkey is deli meat, which implies it contains nitrates, sodium and preservatives. Lastly, as tasty as the Kettle Chips are, they are high in fat and provide very little nutritional value.

  • THAI CHICKEN WRAP: Grilled chicken breast, romaine lettuce, julienned carrots, red and yellow bell pepper strips and Thai aioli sauce wrapped in a tortilla, accompanied by Kettle Classics potato chips. $9

Is it Healthy?: This food choice is pretty good. It has protein and some veggies, and the tortilla isn’t as bad as thick white bread. Further, in comparison to the turkey, the grilled chicken is less likely to contain preservatives and nitrates. If you skip the Kettle chips, you are good to go.

  • CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD: Grilled chicken, red and yellow bell pepper strips, shredded Parmesan cheese and croutons on a bed of crisp romaine lettuce, served with classic Caesar dressing on the side. $9

Is it Healthy?: We have a winner. One word of caution, however: Skip or minimize use of the dressing. Caesar dressing is very high in fat and calories.

  • CHOCOLOVE CHOCOLATE BAR: Gourmet chocolate available in either creamy milk or intense dark. $3

Is it Healthy?: It depends. Dark chocolate is…it offers health benefits. Milk chocolate, however, offers none.

Have you had any of these Fresh Food Choices in flight on United? What were your thoughts?

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