Are airlines bad for your health? Five perspectives on plane food

Lately, it seems like the easiest way to lose weight is to fly regularly. There isn’t much to munch on in the skies, as airlines have cut back on just about anything that looks like an amenity. Fatty foods have been replaced by none at all, which is great for your waistline, right?

It turns out that you can still pork up on a plane, even if you think the dismal state of customer service leaves you with a barf bag and nothing to expel into it. has done a bit of digging and rated the airlines with “Health Scores” to reflect the quality of their high-flying fare.

Even at 35,000 feet, the mighty have fallen. According to Charles Stuart Platkin, PhD, MPH, public health advocate, editor of and visiting assistant professor at CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, “This year United provided the ‘healthiest” choices in the sky, while Continental had a fall from grace, US Airways received the lowest rating, and Virgin America and Delta were the least cooperative (and also received a low health rating).”

So, let’s take a look at five airlines and what makes them good for you … or not:1. United Airlines
United Airlines finally has something to celebrate: its grub. According to, you can score a Tapas snack box on flights of two hours or longer – in fact, it’s the top seller. If your flight stretches to more than three hours, “United has a plethora of choices, but I really like the Turkey sandwich at 600 calories including the sauce and chips — skip those if you want to save the calories,” notes Platkin.

Finally, a reason to fly United!

2. JetBlue
It isn’t surprising to see JetBlue on the list, as it’s a perpetual high scorer in terms of customer service. The airline that treats you like a human being, it seems, also believes in feeding you like one. But, warns you not to take advantage of the largess the airline provides: “Try to stick with no more than one snack. Just because they offer more doesn’t mean you have to take them, especially if you’re not hungry.”

Moral of the story: don’t let kindness turn you tubby.

3. American Airlines
The service may suck – the American Airlines flight attendants were singled out in a recent study of the worst airlines in the United States – but the “Boston Market Chicken Caesar Salad with chips and dressing is a pretty good meal choice.” If you go with the Cheese & Cracker Snack Tray, advises, “[j]ust skip the cracker packages.

Oh, and steer clear of the beverage cart!

4. Delta Air Lines
Is it any shock that the worst airline in the United States was also the least cooperative with The company notes that Delta wasn’t helpful at all in providing nutritional information, adding, “I had to contact them repeatedly – they are back to their old ways.” You can do pretty well with the food, though: “Delta’s individual snack choices are not very good, but their meal choices on longer flights are reasonably healthy. Still, they can do much better.”

Warning: “Skip the turkey, egg salad and Canadian bacon croissant at all costs.”

5. Continental Airlines
There isn’t much here to celebrate, according to Go with the almonds, as “it’s really the only snack choice that has any nutritional value.” If you’re at a loss for other options, Platkin says that “if I had to choose, the Savory is probably the best — just watch that fruit-and-nut mix. In terms of meals, for breakfast, the yogurt is not too bad. For lunch or dinner, the Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad is the obvious best choice so long as you watch the dressing — that could put it over the top.”

Who cares? This is moot, of course, as a result of the merger with United.

[photo by WordRidden via Flickr]