Airplane food isn’t nearly as bad as people like to joke that it is. It’s borne the brunt of countless late night TV hosts and weary travelers, all beefing that the food while crossing an ocean wasn’t as good as what they get on the ground. Steve Martin made a movie called ‘Shopgirl’ a few years ago, and in one scene he, a rich computer magnate, purrs to his girlfriend while en route a private jet. “I’ve got food. Plane Food. Make that private plane food.”

David Wilkening writes a regular column for Travel Mole, and broached this same topic.

“What airline offers the best (and healthiest) food snack choices? United. And the worst: Southwest and Northwest. So says DietDetective.com, which rated the best calorie bargains and rip-offs at 35,000 feet.

“This year United Airlines provided the best choices in the sky, while both Southwest and Northwest Airlines offered the worst, and Delta the most improved,” said the site.

American Airlines, JetBlue, United and US Airways all dropped in the ratings.

DietDetective.com issued the 2007 Airline Food Survey rating foods from nine airlines.

The survey assigned a “Health Score” (5 stars = highest rating, 1 star = lowest) based on snack/on-board food service offerings, airline cooperation, variety, calories, and nutritional density.

The site rated the snack foods using multiple criteria, assigning a “Health Score,” picking a food “best bet”, and converting the snacks offered into their exercise equivalents (how much time it will take to burn off the food in terms of exercise).