America’s Healthiest and Unhealthiest Airline Meals Slideshow
December 16, 2011
No, this isn’t some new airline you’ve never heard of. A little bit of careful, pre-flight food packing is the best way to ensure a healthy travel diet. Why? Because we lose 30 percent of our ability to taste while at such high altitudes, and thus, the airlines tend to over-flavor their foods, often adding unnecessary calories. Make sure to check out the latest TSA regulations, though, before loading up on yogurt.
With the help of a Montreal-based company called Food with a Conscience, Air Canada's in-flight offerings are top-notch in the nutrition department — they even named their food "Air Canada NutriCuisine." Instead of just pretzels, enjoy cashews or celery and carrot sticks. And the vegetarian sandwich — just 390 calories — is not just for vegetarians.
The high-tech award goes to Virgin America, where you can order your food on-demand via a touch screen on every seat back. This way, there's no need to wait for the cart to come squeaking by to nosh on Virgin's extra-healthy "Protein Meal" snack box, consisting of crackers, Craisins, hummus, nuts, and tuna. On flights longer than two hours, consider the edamame and portobello mushroom wrap (lots of fiber, but also lots of sodium).
United was once a forerunner in providing healthy food choices, but after their merger with Continental, the snack options on both airlines are now mainly limited to calorie-rich concoctions. Their in-flight meals, however, are their saving grace; they include a grilled chicken spinach salad, which is just 360 calories, including the dressing.
Amidst the Pringles, huge bags of salted almonds, and a brand-new bacon and egg breakfast croissant, there are a few health-conscious gems, such as the "Late July Organic Sea Salt Multigrain Chips & Frontera Chunky Tomato Salsa" or the Cobb salad. As for the other choices…well, that's what New Year's resolutions are for, right US Airways?
JetBlue is still pretty new to the game in terms of its food options — just last year, they only served snacks. While those snacks are free and small in portion, they're not low in calories, save for the Quaker Multigrain Fiber Crisps and Terra Chips. As far as their newfound Meal Boxes go, only the "Shape Up" box (hummus, pita, almonds, raisins, and pears) can really qualify as both healthy and a meal.
Boston Market may be a lot of things, but healthy is not one of them. American Airlines, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection, offers three sandwiches from the fast-casual chain, and all three have way too many calories for someone sitting in a chair for two-plus hours. The same goes for their pizza, as well as the breakfast croissant sandwich. A better choice is Marcus Samuelsson's turkey and chutney sandwich (hold the chips).
Calorie-wise, Delta's snacks are not snacks at all. The "Flight Delight" snack box is healthy for the amount of food you get, but should be shared or considered a meal. Speaking of which, the Delta meal choices are mostly high in calories, except for the yogurt parfait (breakfast only), or the fruit and cheese plate. Otherwise, it's straight to the chicken and turkey Cuban (estimated at 552 calories).
Southwest is far better known for its in-flight humor and open seating than its food. The selection, while free, usually consists of honey- or dry-roasted peanuts, Ritz crackers, Wheat Thins, or the truly gross "Sweet and Salty Mix." If you're not allergic, the nuts are the closest thing to healthy. [Insert Southwest-ian airplane joke here.]
Wholly uncooperative toward inquiries regarding the food they serve, Spirit Airlines, a "leading Ultra Low Cost Carrier," also leads the way as the least healthy major domestic airline in terms of calories. The lowest estimated calorie option on their menu appears to be animal crackers (240 calories).