The skinny on airline food: Study shows who has the best and how to avoid diet downfalls

FILE -(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

INDIANAPOLIS – There are a lot of things to keep in mind when you book travel for spring break or a business trip. For instance,  you’ll want to consider cost, time of flight and baggage policies, but you may also want to think about the food you’ll be offered on board. To help you navigate that, there’s an annual study that actually ranks airlines based on the food they provide.

That study is conducted by a New York City doctor who is known as the airline food bully and founded a website called

The study ranks 12 airlines, nine of which service Indianapolis International Airport. Taken into account is calorie counts, nutrition, menu innovation and transparency.

Delta is the clear leader among the major carriers and is tied with Virgin America as the healthiest airline. Both received four out of five stars. No airline was awarded five stars.

Here’s the full list (5 Stars is highest): 

  • Delta – 4 stars
  • Virgin America – 4 stars
  • Air Canada – 3.75 stars
  • *JetBlue – 3.75 stars
  • Alaska Air – 3.5 stars
  • United Airlines – 2.75 stars
  • American – 2.5 stars
  • Frontier Air – 2.25 stars
  • Southwest Airlines – 2 stars
  • Allegiant Air – 1.75 stars
  • *Spirit Airlines – 1.75 stars
  • *Hawaiian Airlines – 1 star

*Does not fly into or out of Indianapolis International Airport

If you have specific goals, IU Health clinical dietitian Anna King says don’t depend on the airlines at all. Instead, plan ahead.

“As much as you can, pack snacks to take with you. Surprisingly, you can take things with you to the airport, just within the TSA guidelines, you have to watch your fluid in that, but you can take an empty water bottle through the security with you and fill it up once you get past security so you can stay hydrated,” Anna King, IU Health clinical dietitian, said.

King suggests apples, bananas and even making your own trail mix. She says even if you do take the time to search for healthier items on board the airplane or in the airport convenience stores you’ll likely be taking in a lot of extra sodium and sugar, not to mention the cost of those items.

Dr. Charles Platkin, the author of this annual study does provide best bets for each airline ranked. Still he suggests eating a full meal before traveling and then just packing snacks.

To read the entire study, click here.