Home Travel Healthy Options on Flights Are Hard to Find, Survey Finds

Healthy Options on Flights Are Hard to Find, Survey Finds

by Nicole Jenet

airline foodStaying healthy while traveling is always a challenge – you’re out of your normal routine and environment and potentially in the position to not cook for yourself. And now, a new survey is showing that the challenge to stay healthy doesn’t start when you arrive at your destination – it starts on your flight.

The survey reveals that airlines simply are not keeping up with the health trends across the U.S. Additionally, airlines are failing to give their passengers nutritional information about menu items to help them make the healthiest in-flight choices.

That’s not to say airlines haven’t made some progress in helping passengers stay healthier. Since 2000, airlines went from offering free meals, to selling super-sized snacks, to now selling meals and smaller snack portions. That means that compared to 16 years ago, airlines are not placing fewer calories on your tray table. However, even though your snacks now come in smaller portions, many of them are still high in calories. Fortunately, some airlines offer low-calorie options.

Calories aren’t the only factor though. In general, airplane food contains high levels of sodium due in part to the fact that your taste buds change at high altitudes, meaning foods need more salt to have flavor.

The U.S. airline topping the list of providing passengers with healthy options is Virgin America. None of Virgin’s meals are high in calories, with the average being approximately 400 calories. Additionally, its meals are more nutritional than others when it comes to protein, fat and sugar content.

Virgin struggles when it comes to healthy snacks – they have only a few low calorie options.

JetBlue and Delta airlines aren’t doing quite as well as Virgin America in offering healthy options, but their flight foods are comparatively healthier than that of other airlines. The airlines that come in last in offering healthy choices to guests are Alaska, Spirit, Frontier, and Hawaiian Air. These airlines either have the unhealthiest snack options or don’t provide any nutritional information at all.

When in doubt, the best thing you can do to ensure you have a healthy snack or meal during your flight is to pack your own or buy nutritious snacks in the airport, including nuts, fruit and protein bars. You can also try to eat a substantial healthy meal before you leave to quell any mid-flight hunger pangs. Or, since airport restaurants are now required to list calorie counts on their menus, look for a healthy meal to eat before traveling or to bring onto the plane with you.

Photo from LA Times.

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