Should You Eat the Airline Food or Chew on the Seat Cushion? Healthiest In-Flight Menus


Virgin America gets high marks for its in-flight menu. (Photo: Virgin America)

Is it possible to get a healthy meal if you’re flying economy in a U.S. airline? Yes, it is — especially if you’re flying Virgin America.

The Diet Detective — a.k.a. Dr. Charles Platkin — has released his Annual Airline Food Investigation, which assigns health ratings to U.S. air carriers’ food offerings.

Platkin praises Virgin America, saying they’re “doing a fantastic job of creating healthy food and offering strong choices in all but the individual snack department.” He’s also singling out Virgin America’s high-protein Salmon Soy Ginger Salad (390 calories), Protein Plate (470 calories), and the Autumn Veggie Wrap (400 calories) as “good choices.”

Related: Virgin America Ups Their Food Game with New Fall Menu

Platkin gives his “Most Improved” award to Delta, which recently contracted with Luvo, a healthy food company. He likes the LUVO Quinoa Crunch Wrap Snack Box (520 calories; but skip the cookie), the LUVO Grilled Chicken Wrap (400 calories), and the LUVO Roast Turkey & Havarti Wrap (570 calories).


Delta’s affiliation with LUVO has improved its menu. (Photo: Delta)

As for the other two of the big three airlines, the Diet Detective finds them lacking. “United can do much better,” he says. “The meal offerings are going in the wrong direction: higher calories, and not one super healthy and nutritious offering in the bunch.”

About American, Platkin says, “For such a large airline to not pay attention to its food choices is a travesty — especially when Virgin America, JetBlue and Delta are making improvements.”

And then there’s Frontier Airlines, which — according to Platkin — wasn’t forthcoming with him about the nutritional info on its snacks. The Diet Detective is giving Frontier the “Shame on You” award.

Overall, The Diet Detective says the average number of calories per airline food item this year is 397. That’s up from 360 calories last year and 388 in 2012. The Diet Detective blames this year calorie increase partly on the new inclusion of Hawaiian Airlines’ high-calorie menu, which Platkin says offers “few healthy choices.”

WATCH: Travel Tips: Airplane Food

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