Nothing is worse than empty calories at 30,000 feet. Most health experts will tell you to brown-bag it, but if there's no time to pick something up, you'll need a smart strategy for choosing from the in-flight menu. Here, nutritionist Christine Avanti reviews the gourmet fare on four major airlines.

American

(Lunch/Domestic)
SKIP: Flatiron steak topped with a rich sauce of mushrooms and pearl onions, served with broccolini
PICK: Teriyaki-ginger-glazed salmon with taro mash and julienned carrots
WHY: "Both are proteins, but salmon has omega-3s, while the steak is higher in saturated fat."

UNITED

(Dinner/Domestic)
SKIP: Fresh seasonal greens; hearty vegetable chili in a sourdough bread bowl
PICK: Shrimp cocktail; lemon-grass chicken with Thai barbecue sauce, brown rice, and stir-fried vegetables
WHY: "The salad won't satisfy you the way the shrimp will, and the chili gives you a lot more fat and carbs."

VIRGIN America

(Anytime Meals)
SKIP: Artisanal cheese and fruit
PICK: Bavarian roast-beef sandwich
WHY: "You get more protein and less fat with the sandwich."

DELTA

(Dinner/International)
SKIP: Mixed green salad; seared cod fillet with tomato-and-olive ragout, potato galette, and sautéed leeks
PICK: Smoked salmon with caramelized leeks; grilled fillet of beef with port-wine sauce, potato wedges, and asparagus
WHY: "Both the cut of steak and the cod are lean, but the potato galette is much higher in fat than the potato wedges."

The Snacks to Grab Before You Board

Nutritionist Keri Gans on what you can eat in the air so you'll feel sharp when you're back on the ground.

Almonds, walnuts, or cashews:

"All are rich in monounsaturated fats, so they're more satiating than pretzels and good for the heart."

Roasted edamame:

"Low in saturated fat and high in fiber. Plus, research suggests that soy can help lower cholesterol."

Fruit:

"Always bring a piece of fruit to get some high-fiber carbohydrates—that will give you energy."

Yogurt:

"Instead of sugary flavored yogurt, buy low-fat plain yogurt and toss in fresh fruit."

Energy bars:

"Don't exceed 200 calories, because otherwise you're getting a lot of fat and sugar."

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