A nutritionist rates Virgin America’s and Delta’s main cabin food as the healthiest.
Do you care about the calories and nutritional content of the food and snacks you eat on airlines? Charles Platkin PhD does. He’s a nutritionist with the online nom de plume ‘The Diet Detective’, and his latest annual study of airline food content for economy class travelers has Virgin America and Delta ranked at the top.
Virgin America’s offerings rated 4-1/4 stars overall in his study (on a 1 to 5 scale), while Delta pulled down 4 stars and a “most improved” designation. The bottom-dwellers in the study were Frontier and Spirit, each earning just one star and a “shame on you” catcall.
Platkin says Virgin America – which also took top honors in his 2015 study — continues to do “a very good job of creating interesting, thoughtful food in all categories except for individual snacks.” In fact, he says, “all the airlines could do better with their snack choices – there is no clear leader in this category.” (His data was gathered before Delta’s recent announcement of new snack choices.)
Overall, “This has been a slow year in general for innovation in terms of healthy foods, transparency, and food consciousness (no GMOs, organic, lighter and sustainable foods),” he wrote. “Airlines other than Delta and Virgin America seem very slow to catch on to the food awareness that is going on around the country and around the world. I’d think it would be good business for them to provide better, healthier and more conscientious food.”
Air Canada matched Delta in earning 4 stars; ratings for other airlines were 3.75 for Alaska (making us wonder whether Alaska’s or Virgin’s menu planners will dominate after their merger); 3.5 for JetBlue; 3.25 for United; 3 for American; 2 for Southwest (peanuts, anyone?), 1.75 for Hawaiian and Allegiant; and 1 for Spirit and Frontier.
For serious foodies, the best thing about the Diet Detective’s research is the comprehensive nutritional information he provides for every individual snack and meal offering on every airline, including calories, fat, sodium, protein, carbohydrate and fiber content, along with the number of minutes you’d have to walk to burn off each item. He also provides caloric totals and general conclusions for each carrier. Click on the above link to this year’s study and you’ll see what we mean.
For instance, here are his thoughts on United for this year: “United is the 4th largest airline in the U.S., they should be thinking about healthy food. Years ago, they were number one in this area. The breakfast, lunch and dinner menu has many new options; however, healthy meal choices fare limited. It’s too bad United eliminated the oatmeal for breakfast; it was a good choice. The good news, nutrition-wise, is that they did put eggs back into the lineup.”
Readers: Do you care about the content of economy class food items? What’s your favorite single snack or meal, and on which airline?