A diet expert has revealed the airlines that offer the healthiest onboard food for 2019.
Each year, Dr Charles Platkin, executive director of the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, analyses snacks and meals on offer by 11 US and Canadian carriers and offers a breakdown of nutritional value and calories.
This year, the food served on Air Canada and Alaska Airlines is ranked the best, while Southwest Airlines is deemed to have the worst offering.
Air Canada has been rated as serving the healthiest onboard food in an annual study
Sharing the top spot with Air Canada in the Airline Food Study 2019 is Alaska Airlines
Dr Platkin’s annual Airline Food Study for 2019, published on his website, dietdetective.com, rates each carrier out of five.
Both Air Canada and Alaska Airlines score four out of five.
Air Canada is praised for adding several new items to its menu that ‘show some serious health innovation’.
Here Dr Platkin singles out the grilled chicken summer salad and the wild rice superfood salad.
Meanwhile, Dr Platkin is impressed with Alaska Airlines for ‘allowing for pre-ordering of foods on their mobile app as well as on their website, so that passengers can reserve healthy foods in advance’.
Sharing second place are JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic codeshare partner Delta Air Lines, which both earn a score of 2.9.
JetBlue is praised for sharing all of its nutritional information on its website, while Dr Platkin notes that Delta ‘continues to work with Luvo’s Performance Kitchen line, which has a very strong commitment to healthy eating’.
Other airlines to rank highly include United Airlines, which scores 2.7, British Airways codeshare partner American Airlines (2.7) and Frontier (2.0).
Bottom of the ranking is Southwest Airlines, which scored just 1.7 out of five
At the other end of the table, Spirit Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and Allegiant Air fare badly, scoring just 1.9.
Rock bottom Southwest Airlines scores 1.7, with Dr Platkin saying the airline ‘does not offer much variety or nutritional value’.
He adds: ‘If the airline really does have a heart (as it does on its logo), it would care about the food that’s being served. Southwest needs to add some healthy snacks.’
MailOnline Travel has contacted Allegiant Air, Hawaiian Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Southwest Airlines for comment.
THE BEST AND WORST AIRLINES FOR FOOD IN 2019
Air Canada, 4.0 stars, average calories 347
According to Dr Platkin, Air Canada offers several mini-meals that are ‘much better than a traditional snack, and are low in calories with great nutrient content’. He also notes that Air Canada’s main meals are ‘relatively healthy and available for trips that are more than two hours long’. He suggests trying the grilled chicken summer salad and the wild rice superfood salad, both of which are ‘relatively low in calories and high in protein for a mini-meal’.
Alaska Airlines, 4.0 stars, average calories 359
Dr Platkin says that Alaska Airlines has a variety of snacks, snack boxes and meal offerings that ‘include some better-for-you options’. He also applauds Alaska’s transparency compared to other airlines, because ‘its full menu and complete nutritional information are available online’. He notes that the healthiest offering is the Mediterranean Tapas snack box, which includes olives, hummus, almonds, dried fruit and a dark chocolate bar.
Delta Air Lines, 2.9 stars, average calories 424
The study’s author, Dr Charles Platkin, praises Delta for continuing its partnership with Luvo’s Performance Kitchen line
Dr Platkin praises Delta for continuing to work with Luvo’s Performance Kitchen line, which he describes as having a ‘very strong commitment to healthy eating’. But he notes that the Performance Kitchen items are ‘no longer being offered as complimentary meals, and the remaining free meal options are not as healthy’. His suggested snack is the almonds.
JetBlue Airways, 2.9 stars, average calories 295
Dr Platkin praises JetBlue’s EatUp Cafe menu as having a ‘few reasonably healthy meals’. He is also impressed that the carrier posts of all its nutritional information on its website. However, he notes that all of the airline’s free snacks are unhealthy, adding: ‘I only wish that the airline would include apples and bananas in those snack baskets the flight attendants pass around.’
United Airlines, 2.7 stars, average calories 320
According to Dr Platkin, United’s food offering is ‘improving for sure’ and he adds that its ‘average calories for all food items are significantly lower this year than they were last year’. He suggests that the healthiest snack to have on United is the beef jerky and the hummus.
American Airlines, 2.7 stars, average calories 481
Dr Platkin says that American Airlines should make a ‘concerted effort to provide healthier food choices’
The average calories for American Airlines has risen from 417 last year to 481 this year, says Dr Platkin. He also adds that as ‘American is a leading airline, it should certainly make a more concerted effort to provide healthier food choices’.
Frontier Airlines 2.0 stars, average calories 289
Dr Platkin notes that the average calories in inflight offerings by Frontier Airlines has ‘decreased for each category this year’. But he adds that ‘there is still room for improvement as to what those offerings could be’. His suggested onboard snack is the Kind bar or the Jack Links beef steak jerky.
Allegiant Air, 1.9 stars, average calories 325
For Allegiant, Dr Platkin says that the good news is that it has ‘lowered its overall calorie average slightly, from 336 to 326 calories’. However, he adds: ‘It would be wonderful if the airline added a few more nutritious food items to the menu, perhaps an apple or a salad shaker.’
Spirit Airlines, 1.9 stars, 360 average calories
It is noted that Spirit Airlines’ average sodium content of its snacks is 403mg, ‘well above the average across all airlines’
Spirit is praised by Dr Platkin for responding ‘incredibly well’ to his request for nutritional information. But he notes that the carrier’s average sodium content of its snacks is 403mg, which he says is ‘well above the average across all airlines’.
Hawaiian Airlines, 1.9 stars, 515 average calories
According to Dr Platkin, Hawaiian Airlines has ‘a lot of high-calorie and high-sodium options, and many of the snacks will not be satiating’. He added: ‘If you are flying Hawaiian it’s very important to note that all meals are free, and they are large, and there is a lot of food provided during flights from or to Hawaii – anywhere from 1,122 to 1,514 calories, and 1,338 to 2,453 milligrams of sodium. Those are very unhealthy numbers.’
Southwest Airlines, 1.7 stars, 106 average calories
On Southwest, Dr Platkin says: ‘For one of the top carriers, Southwest does not offer much variety or nutritional value.’ He added that for snacks, the pretzels are ‘the only reasonable choice, but they have no nutritional value’. He concludes: ‘More than on any other airline, when you fly Southwest, you need to bring your own fresh, nutrient-dense, healthy food, such as nuts and fresh fruit.’