Best and Worst in Airline Food for 2012

Every year I contact the media departmentspress relationsof the various airlines to request nutrition information for the foods they serve economy-class passengers on domestic flights. I'm now known not only as the Diet Detective but also as the Airline Food Bully by several airline press relations departments—but it's well worth it to find out the healthiest foods being served, and the costs, calorie-wise, for some of your favorite airline foods.

This year, we've added Alaska Airlines, Frontier and Allegiant to the list.

In terms of food and innovation, Virgin America and Air Canada are still tops, along with Alaska Airlines; however, the No. 1 spot goes to Virgin America.

I'm not sure why the airlines don't pay more attention to offering healthier snacks. Overall, the snack boxes are getting stronger, and the meals are moving in the right direction—they just need to offer them on shorter flights—even two hours is a long time in the air (especially when it's more like 3.5 hours from start to finish). One thing I've noticed is that most airlines have eliminated or are eliminating those crazy high-calorie snacks (i.e., more than 850 calories).

More: 8 Tips to Squeeze in a Run While Traveling

JetBlue still needs to do more work on their snacks—but the good news is that they're offering snack boxes on all flights, and they have also brought back the nuts. Delta's individual snacks are still terrible, but their meals are getting stronger.

Virgin America is stepping up the competition, and if they would only offer more healthy individual snacks, they could reach five stars. What's amazing is that they actually have calorie information on the light offerings section of their website—just fantastic.

Air Canada is also very strong on health and innovation. They have nutrient information for all the foods on board.

The "Shame on You" award goes to Frontier and Allegiant—no help, and not very nice. I'm not sure who was worse in terms of cooperation, Allegiant, whose media rep wasn't nice, or Frontier, which didn't respond at all to repeated calls and emails.

The average number of calories per food item this year is 388. This is the first year we have calculated this; however, we will continue to keep track from now on.

Here are the snack and onboard food-service offerings from several of the more popular airlines (in alphabetical order), along with Diet Detective's comments, ratings (Health Score: 5 stars = highest rating, 0 stars = lowest), calories, exercise equivalents (amount of walking required to burn off the food consumed) and personal favorites.

More: Learn to Snack Strategically

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