Did you know that, in the past, the risk of dying from the saturated fat in most steaks served on major airlines was higher than the risk of dying in a plane crash? Fortunately, a recent report from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in Washington, DC, which rated the health content of the food air carriers and airport restaurants are dishing up nationwide, has found things taking off in a healthier direction.
"For quite some time, it has mostly been a junk-food haven in airports," says Andrew Nicholson, PCRM's director of preventive medicine, "and airlines have not been too far from [that]. But more and more, if you know where to go, you can get healthy food."
In general, the vegetarian meals available on airlines tend to be the most heart-smart because their fat content is usually low, says Nicholson. United Airlines, for instance, received top honors for the second year in a row for such four-star meals as its vegetarian steak and pasta with curry sauce (6.3 percent fat), and a mushroom ravioli with tomato sauce (13.8 percent fat). Continental Airlines grabbed second place, serving up cholesterol-free entrees such as a green bell pepper stuffed with spicy vegetarian chili, nuts and raisins (27.7 percent fat). Delta Air Lines ranked last, offering a vegetarian ragout (48 percent fat).
On the ground, airport restaurants differ greatly in the availability of healthful low-fat and vegetarian foods, with the best offering numerous choices and the worst serving almost nothing. For example, Los Angeles International Airport, which ranked first, offers a wide array of healthful options such as pasta primavera, vegetarian tostadas and cucumber sushi rolls. At Cleveland's Hopkins International Airport, which ranked last in the report, the best choices were limited to a garden salad, steamed vegetables, fresh fruit and air-popped popcorn.
When seeking healthful food, remember that you'll need to request a vegetarian meal at least 24 to 48 hours before takeoff. Here's to your health!