Study Reveals Which Airline Has the Healthiest Food

Nov 22, 2017

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

During the holiday season, a lot of people let loose and forget about their diets. So, staying healthy while 35,000 feet in the air and on your way to the table matters a lot. And, as it turns out, some North American airlines are healthier than others.

Dr. Charles Platkin, the director of the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, took a look at the snack and meal options for 12 airlines — all located in North America. Platkin assigned a “Health Score” for each airline, 5 stars being the highest, and 0 stars being the lowest. The Health Score was assigned based on 10 criteria, including calorie levels of meals, snack boxes and individual snacks, level of transparency (display nutrient information and ingredients), improvement and maintenance of healthy offerings and menu innovation, among others.

Based on Platkin’s findings, here are the healthiest — and unhealthiest — airlines when it comes to eating in the air, with 1 being the healthiest and 12 being the least healthy, along with each of their Health Scores:

1 (tie). Delta Air Lines — 4 stars
1 (tie). Virgin America — 4 stars
2. (tie) Air Canada — 3.75 stars
2. (tie) JetBlue Airways — 3.75 stars
3. Alaska Airlines — 3.5 stars
4. United Airlines — 2.75 stars
5. American Airlines — 2.5 stars
6. Frontier Airlines — 2.25 stars
7. Southwest Airlines — 2 stars
8 (tie). Allegiant Air — 1.75 stars
8 (tie). Spirit Airlines  — 1.75 stars
9. Hawaiian Airlines — 1 star

Delta and Virgin America were the clear leaders among the major carriers, Platkin found. He also noted some interesting airline trends in the in-flight dining area, such as American and Delta moving to offer economy passengers complimentary meals on some domestic flights — something that hasn’t been around for either carrier in more than 15 years.

Platkin found that the average number of calories per menu choice has been on a steady rise since 2012, with the exception of 2016. In 2012, the average number of calories per menu choice was 360; in 2013 it was 388; in 2014 it was 397; in 2015 it was 400; in 2016 it was 392; and in this year’s finding, the average was 405.

For a closer look at what are your best bets with each of the carriers, check out the full report. This holiday season, as you’re heading to your destination, know what you’re getting from your carrier — and what the competition is offering.

Featured image by Lionel Bonaventure/AFP / Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.