Since 2012, Dr. Charles Platkin, editor of DietDetective.com and a professor of public health at Hunter College and CUNY, has been investigating in-flight snacks and meals found on major carriers across the U.S. and Canada.
This year’s survey revealed which airlines are improving, becoming less cooperative, and which ones continue to fly the healthiest food across the skies. The 2015 report also highlighted a concerning trend: after four years of investigating in-flight nutrition, average number of calories per item have risen from 360 to a whopping 400. Meanwhile, the number of choices continues to decrease.
In addition to calling out the best meals, snack boxes, and treats, Dr. Platkin gave airlines average calorie counts, and overview of food offering, exercise equivalents (one 350 calorie peanut butter-and-jelly half sandwich from Virgin America equals 76 minutes of walking). The final ranking, one star for the worst airline (lowest health rating and least cooperative in terms of providing information) and four and a half stars for the best.
Want to know the healthiest airline in the skies—and what you should order? Read on.
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No. 12: Frontier Air
Score: 1 Star
Frontier landed in the most shameful spot in the 2015 Airline Food Investigation, not only because of a complete lack of healthful foods (snacks ranged from gummy bears to Pringles and rice krispy treats) but also because of a complete lack of transparency: they airline refused to turn over nutritional info to Dr. Platkin of DietDetective.com.
No. 11: Spirit Airlines
Score: 1.25 Stars
It doesn’t realize this airline, which scored so poorly on our World’s Best survey for In-flight Service, received a “terrible” rating for its failure to cooperate and its unhealthy snacks. The chicken Cup Noodles received a surprising thumbs-up as your best bet—but not as a snack. Make this your meal and then go for an hour long walk around town after you disembark.
No. 10: Hawaiian Airlines
Score. 1.25 Stars
By handing over snack nutrition information, Hawaiian gained an extra quarter star over Frontier; unfortunately, their in-flight food (treats, snack boxes, and meals) didn’t perform well when analyzed by a nutritionist. Average meal calories were more than 950, while snack boxes had a whopping 417. The moral of the story? Pack your own meal, or pick the healthful options out of the Gluten-Free snack box (roasted chickpea snacks, 90 calories, and hummus, 67 calories).
No. 9: Allegiant Air
Score: 1.5 Stars
Unfortunately, Allegiant Air’s in-flight snack offerings have taken a turn for the high-calorie and high-sodium, whereas in 2014, they at least had a fruit and cheese plate diners could opt for. None of the options onboard this regional carrier impressed the dieticians, except for nuts (which, as we all know, need to be consumed in moderation). And DietDetective.com warned that travelers should not let their children near the Wingz Kids Snack Pack, which is loaded up with sugary jelly candies and peanut butter cracker sandwiches, among others.
No. 8: Southwest Airlines
Score: 1.5 Stars
Southwest failed to provide nutritional information for the review—a major knock to the total score. Though the airline also provides little in terms of variety or nutritional value. If you need to snack in-flight (and you didn’t bring your own) opt for the dry-roasted peanuts: 70 calories. Fortunately, they’re free of charge.