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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.
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