While frazzled air travelers this holiday season may think healthy food is a foreign concept to the airline industry, a physicians’ group now says it all depends on what airline you’re flying or what airport you’re killing time in.
Particularly if you’re into vegetarian cuisine.
The healthiest food in the air can be ordered aboard United Airlines flights, and the best airport food on the ground can be found at Los Angeles International Airport, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
The Washington, D.C.-based group surveyed seven major air carriers and 25 large airports.
The physicians group, for the second year, checked on the availability of low-fat and vegetarian foods both in the air and on the ground.
“We were looking to find entrees with a 10 percent fat margin,” said Kathy Savory, a spokeswoman for the physicians group. That pretty much limited the survey to vegetarian dishes because most of the time even fish and chicken are higher than that in fat content and are not cholesterol-free, she explained.
“And animal products don’t have any fiber,” she added.
Gaining the top spot for the second time, United’s entrees include a cholesterol-free vegetarian steak with pasta and curry sauce with only 6 percent fat and a cholesterol-free mushroom ravioli with just 14 percent fat, the physicians said.
Honorable mentions went to American Airlines and TWA for their cholesterol-free veggie meals, and to Northwest Airlines for the veggie sandwich it offers as a standard meal.
But Delta Air Lines came in last for its healthy option - a vegetarian ragout or stewed vegetable dish.
“Most people who request low-fat meals are concerned about health,” Savory said. “So people who fly Delta will be surprised to learn that their vegetarian option is 48 percent fat.”
Southwest Airlines, a major carrier by anyone’s yardstick, wasn’t included for a simple reason: While the airline dishes out plenty of humor on its flights, it doesn’t serve meals.
The committee also surveyed low-fat and vegetarian food options in the main terminal at 25 airports across the United States and Canada.
Los Angeles got the top marks with such offerings as pasta primavera, vegetarian tostadas, a cucumber sushi roll and cheese-free gourmet pizza.
“We’re finding things are better and better at airports,” Savory said.