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To Eat Healthy, Fly ____ (Insert Airline Name Here)

Do you know which airlines offer the healthiest inflight meals and snacks? Charles Platkin, writing for, does. And he wants flyers to know, too.

Every year—around Thanksgiving, when travel and dieting both tend to trend—Platkin, a public health advocate and professor at Hunter College and the City University of New York’s School of Public Health, surveys the major U.S. airlines’ coach-class meal offerings on domestic flights. And based on the nutritional data the carriers provide, he lauds those providing the healthiest inflight fare, and shames the junk-food purveyors.

For this year’s study, Platkin noted fewer choices than in previous years, and a continuation of the upward climb in calories, from an average of 360 in 2012, to 388 in 2013, to 397 last year, and to 400 in 2015.

On a scale from 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being healthiest, the airlines ranked as follows:

  • Virgin America – 4.5 stars
  • JetBlue – 4 stars
  • Delta – 4 stars
  • Air Canada – 3.25 stars
  • United – 3.25 stars
  • American – 2.75 stars
  • Alaska Air – 2.5 stars
  • Southwest – 1.5 stars
  • Allegiant Air – 1.5 stars
  • Spirit – 1.25 stars
  • Hawaiian – 1.25 stars
  • Frontier – 1 star

More than just a simple ranking, the report offers advice for healthful dining on the reviewed airlines. For worst-ranked Frontier, for instance, Platkin’s recommendation is blunt: “Bring your own food. There is nothing healthy here; however, if you’re not sodium sensitive you can grab the jerky.”

And for those with an appetite for the specifics, the report provides mind-numbing details on the full range of each airline’s menu. So, for example, that Savory Sirloin Sandwich (with “red-wine caramelized onions, white cheddar cheese, spinach and horseradish cream on a rustic roll, served with a side of fresh fruit”) available on JetBlue flights is a 600-calorie load, that will require 130 minutes of walking to burn off. The Kale & Quinoa Salad (“cannellini beans, dried blueberries and cranberries, quinoa, and grape tomatoes over chopped kale and spring greens, served with white balsamic vinaigrette”), on the other hand, is a 320-calorie proposition, offset by just 69 minutes of walking.

For perspective, an occasional less-than-healthy meal isn’t a difference-maker when it comes to weight management or overall health. But for those who fly frequently, the calories and fat and salt can add up. And even infrequent flyers should at least be aware of the nutritional implications of their inflight intake.

Reader Reality Check

How much attention do you pay to the health quotient of inflight food?

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