Lonely Planet Writer

A 'diet detective' rates the best and worst US airline foods for health

A nutritional ‘diet detective’ has rated the best and worst meals and snacks provided by 11 US and Canadian airlines and has offered a breakdown of their nutritional value and calories. Dr Charles Platkin, executive director of the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center and a nutrition, fitness and public health advocate, provides this analysis every year and says that knowing the “best” and “worst” choices is a valuable tool for any traveler.

Which airlines serve the  healthiest food? Image by ViewStock/Getty Images

For his analysis, he allocated a star rating from 0 to 5, with 5 being the highest, based on 11 criteria. This includes health and calorie levels of food offerings, level of transparency around the nutrient information and ingredients, and improvement and maintenance of healthy offerings. The published survey includes health ratings, average calories per airline, comments, best bets, food offerings, costs and information on nutrition.

Passengers don't eat the same meals as the crew
A medical ‘diet detective’ has rated the best and worst airline foods for health for 2018. Photo by: Caiaimage/Rafal Rodzoch

Having judged on all criteria, this year Dr Platkin has rated Alaska Airlines in first place with 4.25 out of 5 stars. Delta comes in second place with 3.7 stars, and JetBlue is third with 3.55 stars. The remaining places go to 4. Air Canada (3.45) 5. American (3) 6. United Airlines (2.75) 7. Hawaiian Airlines (2.65) 8. Allegiant Air (2.1), 9. Southwest Airlines (1.6) 10. Spirit Airlines (1.1) and 11. Frontier Air (0.85).

Scoring a better inflight meal
A new survey offers a breakdown of airline meals’ nutritional value and calories. Photo by: Cheryl Chan/Getty Images

“Alaska Airlines purchased Virgin America, which was named the healthiest airline over the last few years, and has definitely taken on some of VA’s healthy approach to food,” says Dr Platkin. “That said, Alaska has always been committed to food, just not the healthiest. The airline worked hard to inherit the food footprint of VA, and surpassed VA by offering better individual snacks and healthier meals.”

You can see the full study and analysis here.