From Thanksgiving meals to Christmas parties full of delicious desserts and calorie-laden drinks, the holiday season is notoriously filled with unhealthy foods. But food dangers may lie even before you arrive home for the holidays - on the plane ride over.
In-flight food has never been known for its flavor, but a new survey from Dr. Charles Stuart Platkin, otherwise known as the "Diet Detective," shows it's not the most healthful grub either. But some airlines fare a lot better than others. Which airlines did well on Dr. Platkin's healthy food test? In order of best to worst, keep clicking to see how the airlines' food scored on a scale of one (bad) to five...
Kicking off the rankings is Air Canada, which tied for airline with the best food for your health, with a score of four. "The airline cares about its passengers' health, that's for sure," says Platkin. The meals are called Air Canada NutriCuisine and focus on fresh, high-quality ingredients. Air Canada works with a company called Food with a Conscience to develop nutritional standards for their menu. Still, according to Dr. Platkin, they could do better on their individual snack offerings - for example, their cashews have too many calories for one person, and the ranch dip should be swapped with healthier hummus.
Virgin America tied with Air Canada for healthiest airline food. The Diet Detective also dubbed the airline "most improved," because it offers meals with fewer calories and higher nutrient density than last year's offerings. Another bonus is on-demand service, meaning customers don't have to wait until the carts come through to get their food. Platkin recommends Virgin's snack boxes, which contain lots of protein, but says the Jet Set Kid's Pack could "set a better example" - it contains sugary candies.
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"United has slipped on their snack boxes," says Dr. Platkin. Except for the nuts, he said, all of the individual snack offerings are poor choices. What does he recommend? Tapas (on flights longer than two hours), which include healthy foods such as almonds, olives and hummus. On longer flights, United has several healthy choices, including a grilled chicken spinach salad with only 360 calories, including the dressing.
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US Airways does not have the most nutritious menu, according to Dr. Platkin, but he recommends the CafePlus meal because it's low in calories and contains tuna, which is rich in protein. Platkin says the only snack on the airline's menu that looks good is chips and salsa, at 130 calories. US Airways does offer nuts, but you'd need to split them with eight to 10 people to get a healthy serving, he says.
Love JetBlue's free snacks? Unfortunately, they don't make healthy meals - and it's time for the airline to add real meals, says Dr. Platkin. If you have to pick a snack, Dr. Platkin says your best bet is Quaker's Multigrain Fiber Crisps. He also warns that "just because they are free and they let you take more than one doesn't mean you have to take them, especially if you
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American Airlines' snacks are high in calories with few healthy offerings, according to Dr. Platkin. He says your best bet is hummus with pretzels, or the fruit and nut blend - if you split it with at least two other people. American Airlines serves food from Boston Market, which Dr. Platkin says can make reasonable meals - such as the chicken Caesar salad (just go easy on the dressing).
Delta Air Lines
Delta's individual snack choices aren't the greatest, according to Dr. Platkin, but their meal choices on longer flights are reasonably healthy. Because the individual snack options are not healthy, Dr. Platkin recommends sharing a snack box, which contains a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as dried fruit and nuts. Lunch and dinner options are limited - a chicken and turkey sandwich at 552.5 calories, or a turkey peppercorn ranch sandwich at 576 calories.
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Southwest Airlines offers free snacks, but the snacks have little nutritional value, Platkin says. He recommends going for the nuts and skipping the pretzels and other items.
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Spirit Airlines did not respond to Dr. Platkin's request for nutritional information. As a result, Dr. Platkin and his staff estimated information from online menu descriptions and food manufacturers' websites. Snack offerings include M&M's, Pringles, and other junk food. The Diet Detective says your best bet is to bring your own food.