While noshing on in-flight grub may make enduring insufficient legroom a bit less painful, depending on what airline you’re flying, you may want to reconsider putting fork to mouth—especially if you travel frequently. How much could the quality of food really vary from airline to airline, you ask? Pretty drastically, according to a recent investigation by Diet Detective founder, Charles Platkin, Ph.D., JD, MPH.
After some serious nutrition sleuthing, Platkin named Virgin America the healthiest airline, largely due to the fact that its meals and snacks average a cool 335 calories. Some of our favorite choices from Virgin America include the veggie-packed Vegan Wrap and the Protein Meal Box which contains hummus, nuts, and tuna.
Coming in behind Virgin America are Delta and Air Canada, which tied for second place. While Delta’s meal and snack choices average 527 calories (exceeding Air Canada’s 337 calorie average), Delta provides far better individual snacks including low-cal pretzels and peanuts, which just so happens to be one of these 6 Best Nuts For Weight Loss. And if you’re planning a trip to see the Northern Lights, you can rest easy knowing that Alaska Airlines ranked fourth place with a meal and snack average of 521 calories. JetBlue, the sixth largest U.S. carrier, took the fifth and final spot. While they averaged a low 330 calories for all their meals and snacks, they lost points for offering nutritionally void noms like Cheez-Its.
On the other side of the equation is American Airlines, which scored just three out of five stars. Other losers include Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines, which both scored a mere one star due to their lack of transparency regarding their foods’ nutrition stats.
Eat This! Tip
No matter which airline you choose to fly, remember to look for protein- and fiber-packed picks that are low in salt. (Since flights lack humidity, they cause dehydration and subsequent bloat and excess sodium will only make things worse.) Better yet, bring your own snacks on board. Things like apples, raw nuts, low-sugar KIND bars, Greek yogurt, dried chickpeas, and coconut chips boast satiating fiber, protein, and healthy fats and fair well at high altitudes.