Airline Lounge Food and Nutrition Review – Initial Impressions
Yes, you read that title correctly! Not only was this Australian actually out of the country and flying internationally, but this Oneworld gal was also in a Star Alliance lounge! What madness is this lol??? I was flying Qantas back to Melbourne from Auckland, New Zealand, and because Australia’s international borders are shut except to New Zealand, Qantas has not reopened their New Zealand lounges and so they use the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge, Auckland International (if you can believe it)! So this is how I ended up trying the flagship lounge of Air New Zealand – and I was very excited to do so.
So what did I think of the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge, Auckland International – not bad Air New Zealand, not bad at all! This Travel Dietitian was pretty impressed!
- Ok yes I know… the obligatory fresh fruit in bowls photo lol. But you know this gets the big thumbs up from me. You don’t always have to eat in the lounge and having access to whole pieces of fresh fruit is a must on my travel dietitian check list!
- Really great to see two cheese options in the lounge, accompanied by thin wafer crackers or water crackers. There was a Cheddar and Brie cheese- so great to see a hard and soft cheese option. This gives people who have lactose intolerance an option to eat as hard cheeses such as Cheddar have minimal amounts of lactose in them due to how they are made. This is good because if you suffer from IBS then you don’t want to eat foods that cause you to bloat before flying, which can cause you to be more gassy to start with just through the process of flying. Cheese is quite a nutritious food so I always like to see it as an option in the lounges (eaten in small portions of course). However I understand for some people with dairy allergy, lactose intolerance, vegans etc that these are not suitable.
- Ah hello walnuts! What a great find in an airline lounge! Walnuts will go nicely with a cheese plate, but not only this, they are a healthy snack! Did you know walnuts are a source of plant based omega 3 fats (ALA) and we are all recommended to have a daily intake of omega 3 fats (both DHA/EPA and ALA omega 3’s – or in other words marine and plants based omega 3 fats). Nuts are also a source of protein and fibre so helping you stay full and keep your appetite in check. Thumbs up here from me!
- It was great to see a number of hot dishes, both non-vegetarian and vegetarian. The types of dishes they served worked really well for me from a nutrition perspective; having the broccoli, potato, mushroom and grain based dish, and beef dish served as separate dishes was great as it means you can design your own plate and boost the vegetables you have, and add the amount of sauce to your own liking (helping to control the calorie/kilojoule intake). I was able to make a perfect plate – 1/2 colourful vegetables, 1/4 carbohydrates and 1/4 protein from these options which was a big thumbs up from me! (See photo of my plate at the end of the blog).
- And imagine my delight when I saw there were not only hot dishes with vegetables but also four salads to choose from! Great to see a garden salad (I always have time for a garden salad in a lounge), and also really great to see a pumpkin and lentil salad. Legumes are a good source of soluble fibre and protein, we should all be having more in our diets to help increase plant based foods, and they are also a good source of protein for vegetarians/vegans. So more thumbs up here from me. The salad in the top left corner is actually a cauliflower rice salad which I thought was an interesting choice. Not my choice of dish (I don’t really like cauliflower), but good to have here as an option for people that do – hey just another reason to increase your vegetable intake! And the final salad (top right) was a roast vegetable salad, but mainly potato and other root vegetables.
- Ok so the picture below is only half in the ‘healthy’ category – I am sure you can predict what I am going to say! The Roasted Nuts and Seeds – hello! Always great for sprinkling on salads to boost your nutrient intake. But steer clear of the crispy noodles – no nutrition benefit here. Just additional calories/kilojoules and refined carbs.
Not so great (caution).
- Oh why do a lot of lounges get sandwiches so wrong. The main thing I have an issue with here is that each sandwich triangle has three slices of bread. This is additional carbohydrates and calories/kilojoules that are not needed as it does not really add any taste benefit to the sandwich. There was minimal filling in the sandwiches so basically you were just getting a big mouthful of bread. They weren’t really very tasty either.
- Snacks like Pretzels and the Bhuja mix are not really a great idea from a nutrition and health perspective as they don’t really give you many nutrients, and they are super easy to over eat. While pretzels are usually lower in energy and can seem an ok choice they aren’t really as they don’t really give you much ban for your buck. So if you choose to eat either of these then no more than 2 spoons. I tried out the small bowls they give you, but I still think are still a little large for a snack so don”t fill them up. You can see my bowl with 2 spoonfuls below.
- OK so the hot dishes were taken away just after 2pm and replaced with these muffins and scones. There were two types of muffins; a sweet Blueberry Muffin and a savoury Red Pepper Muffin. There was a also a Cheddar and Onion Scone. Now just because a muffin or scone says it includes fruit or vegetables in them doesn’t mean they are automatically healthy. As you can see from these examples the amount of vegetables or fruit included in minimal, they are mainly carbohydrates. So treat them more like a cake or slice of bread. In other words, don’t eat too many and think about whether you really need to eat them.
- Ok so they next three pictures don’t really need any explanation… I think we all know why these sit in the ‘caution’ category. Biscuits and desserts such as these fit into the food group we call ‘discretionary foods’ and depending on who you are the recommended intake per day is 0-2 serves, meaning we don’t need to (and shouldn’t) eat them every day. My tip is don’t just eat them because they are there – think mindfully and only choose to eat one if you think they look really nice and you actually like them. I didn’t choose any of these while in the lounge – it was 3pm in the afternoon and I was jumping on a Qantas flight. I know myself well enough to know I would probably eat the Lindt ball they were going to give me and since I don’t usually eat these sorts of food in the afternoon then I didn’t really need to eat on in the afternoon in the lounge. So I left them. If I go back another day I might taste the Brownie, but the others didn’t really tempt me as I really love chocolate and so I’m not going to eat something like a shortbread biscuit or friand just cause they are there.
- And finally we have potatoes with butter. Ok so I did think hard about where to put this dish as I don’t like to demonise potatoes. They are a vegetable and not at all bad for you. However when they are served mashed with butter it can be hard for many of us to manage portion sizes and know exactly how much we are eating (in other words they are easy to over eat). So I have popped them here in the ‘caution’ category just to make people aware potatoes with butter can be high in calories/kilojoules depending on the recipe. So watch your portion size and have no more than 1/4 of your plate filled with potatoes.
Last word from travel food and nutrition review for Air New Zealand Koru Lounge, Auckland International!
Overall a pretty great lounge – I would certainly be happy for Qantas to shunt me into this lounge again in the future! I was able to make a healthy plate (see below) which is always a good sign of nutritious lounge offerings. While over the lunch period there were quite a few nutritious hot dishes, just be careful outside these hours when more snack type foods become available. When I was there, there were many tempting sweet and savoury snacks that aren’t very healthy and fall into the discretionary food category, which as I mentioned are foods we should reduce in our diets. So just be mindful of not picking up too many of the desserts, biscuits or muffins and ask yourself if you really need that snack before getting on an international flight which will most likely serve you food too.
And don’t forget if you would like me to do a specific nutrition lounge review then just let me know!
NOTE: All pictures are my own and I review a lounge from just the foods I see during my visit. There may be different options available at other times.