Calorie Counting: The Nutritional Benefits and Numbers of Calories Contained in Airline Meals
The nutritional value of the airline food you eat will vary wildly based on a number of different factors. These include: the airline you choose to fly, whether you are seated in first or economy class, and the specific menu choose you choose. However many airline menus do contain many common variables, and it is possible to offer a generalised perspective on the nutritional and dietary benefits of eating at 30,000 feet.
Picking Your Airline
If nutrition is important to you, then you may wish to consider which US airlines have been ranked as the best (and worst) in terms of the food that they provide for their customers. According to a survey conducted by Diet Detectives late last year, the airline carrier with the most nutritionally valuable meals is Virgin America, closely followed by Delta and JetBlue. At the bottom end of the scale, however were Frontier, Spirit and Hawaiian Airlines (who came in last place out of the 13 airlines involved in the survey). However if you are choosing your airline based on other factors (such as your budget, or the convenience of the route you need to take) then there's no need to despair: it is still possible to make excellent food choices, no matter what liner you are flying with.
Choose Your Menu Choice Wisely
All airlines will offer a wide range of nutritionally diverse menus ranging from kale and quinoa salads (a regular on the JetBlue menu) to a fully loaded burger and fries. As well as ensuring that the airliner you choose offers a healthy menu option, the onus is also on you to ensure that you actually select the menu with the right nutritional benefits for you. For example, everyone knows the importance of ensuring that you get enough vitamin C in your diet, and most airline meals will meet your daily vitamin C intake requirement by including a glass of fruit juice, generally orange. If you aren't offered a glass of juice with your meal, you can ensure you meet this dietary requirement by selecting a fruit juice as your drink of choice rather than a sugar laden fizzy beverage. Ensuring you include many of the other nutrients and vitamins you need can be much more difficult, particularly vitamin D, which, according to the most recent statistics, 40% of Americans are deficient in, however it is possible. Foods such as fatty fishes, cheese and egg yolks, all contain good levels of vitamin D, so if you're keen to ensure you meet your daily intake then look for meal options that include these ingredients. Some airliners (including Virgin Atlantic) will provide all of the nutritional information for the foods they serve, rather than just the calorie content, both on the products themselves and also on their website: this means that it is easier than ever to check the nutritional value of the foods you plan to eat before you even begin your journey. Of course if you are a vegetarian or have other specialist dietary requirements, you may find that your options are more limited, but it should still be possible to find something healthy and enriching to enjoy.
Throughout the course of your flight it is likely that you will be offered not only a meal, but also a snack or two; whilst most of us avoid eating snacks during the day, the 'boredom factor' of airline travel can mean that you say yes to snacks you might ordinarily say no to. If you are comfortable with consuming more than your recommended daily allowance of calories then go ahead, but otherwise it is important to remember that the average calorie-value of each airline snack is around 250 calories, so from a nutritional point of view you should avoid the deadly combination of eating both an airline meal and airline snacks. If you want to snack, or know that you tend to snack when you are bored, then why not consider packing some fruit or other healthy options in your hand luggage instead?
The fact is that airline passengers are more nutritionally savvy and are choosing to make healthier food choices than they ever have before. Because of this all airlines are slowly changing the menus they offer in a bid to keep up with this trend. Airline menus are only set to improve, making now a very exciting time to be a gastronomically conscious, and health conscious, traveller.
Post written by Anne Vale