Do you try to eat healthy when you travel? Lots of road warriors figure it’s easy to lower the bar and indulge themselves on the road, because why not? Still, plenty of travelers are trying to keep their health in mind. But the availability of healthy menu items can be inconsistent; some airlines and airports are much better than others when it comes to serving up nutritious food.
A pair of new studies show just how inconsistent they can be– and which ones are doing the best job.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has come out with its 2015 study of menu options at major airports, and it finds things are continuing to get better overall: 71 percent of the restaurants at the 30 biggest U.S. airports now offer “at least one high-fiber, plant-based vegan meal option,” the group found — a 25 percent gain from 2001.
The committee gave Los Angeles International the number one ranking, with healthy menu options offered at 44 of 49 restaurants there, or 90 percent. The group cited one LAX outlet in particular — Real Food Daily — for a good selection of entrees with “a mix of vegetables, beans and grains.”
Newark Liberty ranked second with an 84 percent rate, followed by San Francisco International and Philadelphia International, each with 82 percent.
At the bottom of the list was Minneapolis-St. Paul, where only 56 percent of the eateries served up at least one dish that met the committee’s standards; Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson wasn’t much better, with a 57 percent rate. The committee said those two airports had “a high proportion of fast-food restaurant chains, including Burger King and McDonald’s, clogging their airport terminals.”
Meanwhile, the website Diet Detective has come out with its 2015 analysis of in-flight food on U.S. airlines, and once again Virgin America was at the top of its list, earning four and a half out of five stars. The site said Virgin “is still doing a fantastic job of creating healthy food and offering strong choices in all categories except for individual snacks” — but it noted that “all of the airlines could do better with their snack choices.”
The site put Delta and JetBlue in a tie for second place, each with four stars. It noted that Virgin, Delta and JetBlue all deserve special credit for starting to share nutritional information on some of their offerings.
At the bottom of the rankings, Diet Detective gave “shame on you” ratings to Alaska, Spirit and Frontier, and noted that “Hawaiian Air was not much better.”
The best thing about Diet Detective’s study is that it gives calorie counts and nutritional data for specific menu items at each airline; it even tells you how many minutes of walking you’d have to do to burn off a specific in-flight meal. And it makes you realize some things are counter-intuitive — e.g. if you think you’re saving calories on Delta by ordering a snack box instead of a meal, think again: The average Delta meal is 546 calories, the average snack box 712.
Sadly, the Diet Detective observed that the calorie count per in-flight food item has been on a steady upward trend in recent years, from an average of 360 calories in 2012 to 400 this year. What’s more, the airlines “appear to be decreasing the number of choices they offer,” the site said.
Readers: What’s your favorite airport restaurant/in-flight meal option for healthy dining? Otherwise, what’s your biggest eating indulgence on the road? Post comments below.
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