NEW YORK - The holiday season is one of the busiest travel times of the year, and 2019 is expected to be busier than ever before.
The study assigned a health score (5 stars = highest-rated, 0 star = lowest rated) based on criteria including healthy nutrients and calorie levels of meals, snack boxes and individual snacks, level of transparency (display of nutrient information, menu online & ingredients), improvement and maintenance of healthy offerings, menu innovation and cooperation in providing nutritional information, overall sodium levels, availability of meals on flights under three hours, and Diet Detective's Airline Water Health Score.
The study included health ratings, average calories per airline, comments, best bets, food offerings, costs, and nutrition information (e.g., calories, carbs, fats, protein, sodium and exercise equivalents).
Some of the findings:
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Alaska Airlines and Air Canada pull to the top for a tie this year as the healthiest airlines.
Average Calories Same as Last Year: The average number of calories per menu item was 373 calories in 2018 and this year it is almost the same at 375 calories. But keep in mind, calories are not everything; the study also looks at the nutrient content of these foods, as well as innovations moving towards healthier, tastier, less expensive and more sustainable choices.
Alaska Airlines is the clear leader in making strides to minimize its environmental impact. It was the first to replace plastic straws with paper ones and continues to look for eco-friendly substitutions. Alaska has also launched a #FillBeforeYouFly campaign to encourage flyers to bring their own water bottles and fill them up at water-filling stations in the airport to reduce the use of plastic cups and water bottles on board.
Shame On You Award goes to Hawaiian for not providing ALL their nutritional information for the study, and to the EPA for not providing penalty information on galley water violations when requested.
Sodium Matters: Sodium is often used by food providers to boost flavor, especially in the air where senses can be dulled. The average airline meal contains more than 800mg of sodium, which is more than 40 percent of the daily limit of 2000mg set by the World Health Organization. Also, note that in addition to health-related concerns, sodium can make you feel and look bloated because you retain extra water. Watch out for high levels of sodium throughout all airline menus.
Mini-Meals: Full meals or “mini-meal” options are better bets than eating individual snacks, which generally have little nutritional value.
Click here to see the other airlines that were mentioned.