The Diet Detective: Which Airline Food is Healthiest?

Southwest Airlines


Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: Very helpful; really very nice people.

Health Score: (*3/4) Not much variety and not much in terms of nutritional value.

Best Bet: Go for the nuts and skip the pretzels and other items.

Cost: Free.

  • Honey or dry-roasted peanuts (70 calories, 18 minutes of walking).
  • Ritz crackers (200 calories, 43 minutes of walking).
  • Wheat Thins (100 calories, 22 minutes of walking).
  • Sweet & Salty mix, kettle flavor (100 calories, 22 minutes of walking).

On select flights:

  • Nabisco Airplane Cookie (120 calories, 26 minutes of walking).


Spirit Airlines


Cooperation in Providing Nutritional Information: None.

They did not return any phone calls or e-mails. We tried to reach their media department at least 10 times by e-mail, phone and even cell phone. Their only response was that they didn't have time to provide the information in time for our deadline. Huh? The info is on the package.

I guess Spirit figures if they price their seats low enough they will get passengers. Well, have you heard of People's Express? No? They had the same philosophy. You need to care about your passengers. Shame on you, Spirit Airlines.

Health Score: (*)

Best Bet:

Bring your own food. However, I guess the soup, at only 300 calories, could work as a meal. Keep in mind that all the calorie information below was estimated by our staff from the Spirit Airline menu descriptions and food manufacturers' websites.

  • Snacks Jumbo-Size Combos $4.00 – 7-ounce Family Size (910 calories, 197 minutes of walking).
  • Jumbo-Size Spirit Nuggets & Nuts: A blend of pretzels, cashews and almonds $4.00 (580 calories, 125 minutes of walking).
  • King-Size Peanut M&M's $3.00 (480 calories, 104 minutes of walking).
  • Cup Noodles Chicken Flavored $3.00 (300 calories, 65 minutes of walking).
  • Pringles $2.00 (220 calories, 48 minutes of walking).
  • Animal Crackers $2.00 (240 calories, 52 minutes of walking).
  • Muffin $2.00 (360 calories, 78 minutes of walking).

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Charles Stuart Platkin is an Active Expert, nutrition and public health advocate, author of the best seller Breaking the Pattern (Plume, 2005), Breaking the FAT Pattern (Plume, 2006) and Lighten Up (Penguin USA/Razorbill, 2006) and founder of Integrated Wellness Solutions and Sign up for The Diet Detective newsletter free at

Copyright 2011 by Charles Stuart Platkin

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