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Wednesday, November 29, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Diet Detective

Keep hunger and calories in check with these tips on airline snacks

Special to The Seattle Times

It's been almost six years since I did an airline-food investigation, and much has changed.

No longer are airlines serving those 1,500-calorie meals. Now they are serving prepackaged snacks and sandwiches, and some are offering healthful selections. Here are the offerings and ratings (Health score: 5 stars = highest rating, 1 star = lowest rating): United Airlines

Cooperation in providing nutritional information: Very helpful.

Health score: United has the most variety and the most healthful choices. The Smartpack is trans-fat-free and "vegetarian-friendly."

Best bet: Go for the Ritebite or the Smartpack (if you're sharing).

Total calories: Smartpack, 895; Minimeal, 560; Quickpick, 655; Ritebite, 625.

Exercise equivalents: (amount of walking to burn off the calories) Smartpack, 231 minutes; Minimeal, 142 minutes; Quickpick, 168 minutes; Ritebite, 158 minutes.

Cost: $5 per box.

Snack choices:

Smartpack

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• SunGold Creamy SunButter (1.5 ounces, 266 calories)

• Bear Naked All-Natural Fruit and Nut Granola (1/2 cup, 280 calories)

• Vermont Village Cannery Organic Peach Applesauce (4 ounces, 80 calories)

• Glacier Ridge Farms White Cheddar Cheese (0.75 ounces, 50 calories)

• Pita Shack Multigrain & Honey Lavash crackers (0.9 ounces, 120 calories)

• Hero Strawberry Preserves (0.5 ounces, 64 calories)

• Bali's Best Latte Candy (1 candy, 15 calories)

• Emer'gen-C Fizzing Drink Mix — Tangerine (1 packet, 20 calories)

Minimeal:

• Hormel hard salami slices (1 ounce, 110 calories)

• Rondelé Peppercorn Parmesan cheese spread (1 ounce, 70 calories)

• Venus wheat crackers (1 package, 60 calories )

• Mott's Healthy Harvest Granny Smith applesauce, unsweetened (1 cup, 50 calories)

• Kettle Classics Natural Potato Chips (1 ounce, 150 calories)

• Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies (2 cookies, 120 calories)

Quickpick:

• Jack Link's hickory-smoked beef jerky (1 ounce, 60 calories)

• Just the Cheese Baked Cheddar Cheese Snacks (0.5 ounce, 75 calories)

• Stoned Classics all-natural blue tortilla chips (1.5 ounces, 180 calories)

• La Victoria Thick n' Chunky salsa (1.5 ounces, 15 calories)

• SunRise honey coated trail mix (2 ounces, 205.5 calories)

• Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies (2 cookies, 120 calories)

Ritebite

• Bumblebee Sensations Lemon & Pepper Seasoned Tuna Medley (3 ounces, 110 calories)

• Late July Organic Crackers (1 package, 100 calories)

• Wild Garden Hummus (1 jar, 73.5 calories)

• Stacy's Multigrain Baked Pita Chips (1 ounce, 130 calories)

• Fino Selections Gouda cheese (1 ounce, 101 calories)

• Newman's Own organic California raisins (0.5 ounces, 45.5 calories)

• Mini-Toblerone (12.5-gram bar, 66.5 calories)

Continental Airlines

Cooperation in providing nutritional information : Very helpful.

Health score : 4 stars Not much variety, but low-calorie, high-impact meals.

Best bet : Both sandwiches are fine; the light mayo is a nice touch

Total calories : 285 (turkey), 316 (ham)

Exercise equivalents : (amount of walking to burn off the calories) 73 minutes (turkey); 81 minutes (ham); 21 minutes (peanuts); 13 minutes (pretzels)

Cost: No charge

Snack choices :

Flights over two hours:

• Turkey sandwich (170 calories, including packet of Hellmann's light mayo) or

• Ham sandwich (201 calories, including packet of French's yellow mustard)

• Carrots (35 calories)

• Fun-size candy bar (80 calories)

Flights under two hours:

• Honey-roasted peanuts (1.5 ounces, 80 calories)

• Mini pretzels (1.5 ounces, 50 calories)

JetBlue

Cooperation in providing nutritional information : Very helpful.

Health score : 4 stars The individually packaged snacks are portion-controlled and trans-fat free.

Best bet : The nuts have protein and good fat and will satisfy you.

Total calories : See individual choices below.

Exercise equivalents : (amount of walking to burn off the calories) see individual choices below

Cost : No charge

Snack choices : (not a snack pack, distributed separately, no charge)

• Nabisco 100 Calorie Packs Wheat Thins Minis (1 package, 100 calories, 26 minutes of walking)

• Chocobillys Chocolate Chunk (4 cookies, 130 calories, 34 minutes of walking)

• Doritos Munchies Mix: (1-ounce bag, 140 calories, 36 minutes of walking)

• Mama Says Biscotti Gingerbread Grande (1 cookie, 210 calories, 54 minutes of walking)

• Mama Says Biscotti Pistachio Grande (1 cookie, 150 calories, 39 minutes of walking)

• Mrs. GoodCookie Jungle Crackers (1-ounce bag, 120 calories, 31 minutes of walking)

• Terra Blues Potato Chips (1-ounce bag, 140 calories, 36 minutes of walking)

• All Nuts Jumbo Cashew Halves (1-ounce bag, 170 calories, 44 minutes of walking)

American Airlines

Cooperation in providing nutritional information : Helpful.

Health score : 3.5 stars The meat, nuts, raisins and cheese in the snack pack have enough protein and fat to satisfy you.

Best bet : Skip the breakfast muffin unless you have nothing else (but split it with your seatmate). If you buy the snack pack, get rid of the cookies and the Goldfish.

Total calories : 710 (snack pack) 440/420 (breakfast muffin)

Exercise equivalents : (amount of walking to burn off the calories) 183 minutes (snack pack), 108 minutes (blueberry muffin); 113 minutes (chocolate muffin)

Cost: $4, snack box; $2, muffin

Snack choices : (snack box)

• Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (0.75 ounces, 100 calories)

• O'Brien's Cured Meat (32 grams, 110 calories)

• Lorna Doone Cookies (2 cookies, 140 calories)

• Kings Raisins (28 grams, 90 calories)

• Carr's Table Water Crackers (2 crackers, 30 calories)

• Le Petit Fromage Cheese Spread (0.75 ounces, 70 calories)

• Emerald Deluxe Mixed Nuts (1 ounce, 170 calories)

Breakfast Snack:

Otis Spunkmeyer Muffin (4-ounce chocolate muffin, 440 calories; blueberry, 420 calories)

US Airways

Cooperation in providing nutritional information : Not helpful.

Health score : 2 stars Not much variety and not much in terms of nutritional value. The snack pack is offered on flights of 2.5 hours or more.

Best bet : Eat the fruit and nut mix and the cheese; skip the crackers and cookies.

Total calories : 470 (snack pack)

Exercise equivalents : (amount of walking to burn off the calories) 121 minutes

Cost: $3 per snack pack

Snack choices : (served as snack pack)

• Azar Fruit and Nut Mix (1 ounce, 110 calories)

• Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies (4 cookies, 150 calories)

• Austin Cheese Crackers with Cheddar Cheese. (1.38 ounces, 210 calories)

Delta Air Lines

Cooperation in providing nutritional information : Extremely unhelpful.

Health score : 1 stars You'll be very hungry even after eating Delta's entire snack pack.

Best bet : Keep the granola bar and the peanuts; dump the rest.

Total calories : 766

Exercise equivalents : (amount of walking to burn off the calories) 197 minutes

Cost: $5 per box

Snack choices : Snack basket

• Frito-Lay SunChips (1-ounce bag, 140 calories)

• Quaker Granola Bars (1-ounce bar, 120 calories)

• Dry-roasted peanuts (1 ounce, 30 nuts, 170 calories)

• Biscoff Cookies (5 cookies, 146 calories)

• Lance Honey Peanut Butter Crackers (1 package, 190 calories)

For healthy travel tips: www.dietdetective.com/food/fat-birds-dont-fly.html

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate, and founder of Integrated Wellness Solutions.

Copyright 2006, by Charles Stuart Platkin

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