Airline Lounge Nutrition Review – Initial Impressions
Ok, so I managed to get myself out of one of the cabanas in Cathay Pacific’s The Wing, First in Hong Kong to review the food options for you in this lounge! Not an easy feet mind you since my flight from Melbourne was delayed taking off and I ended up boarding at 2am. So all I wanted to do, was sleep on the day bed in the cabana! But, I wanted to visit a number of lounges on the same day to be able to compare them well, so that meant out of the cabana and off to breakfast! Now we all know The Wing, First is known for its champagne bar – but what about the food options in The Haven and their buffet? Should you visit Cathay Pacific’s The Wing, First in Hong Kong for the food in terms of nutrition?
- First of all, I love the fact that there is both an A la Carte restaurant and a buffet in The Wing First Class lounge. This means you can choose an amount of food to suit your appetite. While many first class lounges around the world pride themselves on having A la Carte options, sometimes from a nutrition and health perspective this isn’t great, as you may not need a full meal (come on even some of the entrees can be a bit big). Having a buffet as well means you can choose small amounts of food, and graze over a longer period of time. So this lounge ticks the boxes of being able to be mindful about your hunger levels and eat to your appetite. So have a look at the options on offer at The Haven and the buffet and then make a decision of what to eat. Many people rush in and eat the first food they see and then have food regret and so order (or go and get more). Slow down, and think about what you feel like. Be careful with the buffet and restaurant on offer though – don’t over do it and end up eating double the food!
- Water flavoured with fresh fruit and herbs – need I say more?! Staying hydrated while flying is very important and I’m not talking the alcoholic variety. Choosing water is the best choice you can make – however when you have amazing cocktail and champagne bars, a large variety of juices, and other sweet flavoured drinks on offer, choosing plain water can be pretty uninspiring for some. Having plain water flavoured with herbs and fruit is just the thing to help make water more enticing – some flavour but without the sugar and calories!
- Smoked salmon and cheese provide nutritious protein options which are great to eat either on their own or with a small piece of sourdough bread. I couldn’t find any real dense whole grain bread options, so I would be inclined to skip the white fluffy ones, or only have 1 small piece.
- Fresh fruit – come on you know me – of course this is a win and will make it on my list here! Vitamins, antioxidants, lower sugar content than juice, low calories (kilojoules), and with a hint of flavour – this is a great option while travelling.
- Now it wouldn’t be one of my reviews if I didn’t mention vegetables! Ok, so there weren’t as many vegetable options here as I would have liked, but at least there were some. The buffet had grilled tomatoes, roast potatoes and mixed salad leaves, while The Haven had vegetables listed in some of their dishes. While it would be great to have more variety of vegetables available, at least there were some.
- I was able to make up my own breakfast at The Haven and by making a menu adjustment. I ordered poached eggs, grilled tomatoes, smoked salmon and 1 slice of sourdough. These foods are also very nutritious and provided a fairly balanced breakfast. I didn’t need to have extra foods such as sauces (e.g. hollandaise) or sausages etc, as the flavour from these foods are delicious on their own an the amount of food was just right. There for I ate a really nice meal, felt satisfied, but without consuming extra calories that I didn’t need.
Not so great- caution!
- On this visit there were only scrambled eggs at the buffet. While scrambled eggs on their own can be a healthy dish, it is when additional ingredients get added like cheese, cream and butter then they can become an unhealthy dish if consumed all the time.
- There was a large range of processed meats available at the buffet including salami, prosciutto, sausages and bacon. While these are a source of protein, they are also a source of saturated/trans fats, and preservatives such as salt and nitrates. The preservatives added to meats, and the trans fast, have been associated with an increased risk of a number of health issues and so it is best to limit eating these. This can be hard when there are not many other options on offer, which is why I always advocate for other protein options other than processed meats. Try not to have these more than once a fortnight for breakfast. Why am I suggesting this? Think ahead to your flights – what are you most likely to be served on a plane – processed meats certainly are common for the breakfast meals, and in salads. So overall your processed eat intake can add up very quickly.
- There were a number of small hot rolls available at the buffet – a ham and cheese panini roll and a baked vegetable herb roll. And while these rolls may seem an ok choice from their descriptions (think vegetable roll), they are both on white bread rolls, with out a lot of filling. This means a lot of white bread without much else. White bread is low in fibre and nutrients, and not very filling.
- More low fibre bread options featured on the buffet with white bread, brioche buns and Parisian breads being the main options. The only bread which looked like it could have some wholegrains were the sesame rolls, however I did not try one. While they did have wholemeal bread, it is not as nutritious as wholegrain.
- There were muffins, pastries and cakes available and while I personally have a sweet tooth (I love chocolate) I don’t think it is great to have a large range of these foods available so early in the day! And yes, your body clock could be telling you it is night time (lol in the international terminal it really is a guess as to what time it is haha), having a large number of sweet foods available can make it hard for people to make healthy choices while travelling. I think it is ok when there are also healthy alternatives and you can sometimes choose the sweet options, however unfortunately with this buffet their aren’t many healthy alternatives for snacks.
- If you are looking for cereal for breakfast there were two options in the lounge that I saw – now they weren’t labelled but they looked like cornflakes and some sort of rice/wheat flakes (they were just labelled Assorted Cereals). To me they looked like lower fibre cereals, which are quickly digested by the body – so once again I would caution about having large amounts of these. If you do enjoy a bowl of cereal make sure you add some fresh fruit.
- Now while I understand the cultural appropriateness of having a range of noodle dishes available on The Haven’s menu (and many certainly sounded delicious), it must be noted that many varieties of noodles are like white bread- low in fibre and without packing a nutritious punch! So my tips are to watch out for the serving sizes (have no more than ½ cup of cooked noodles) and ask for extra vegetables in the dish (whether the dish comes with vegetables or not). Just like I would say to people eating off a Western menu to reduce the number of slices of bread, and to add more vegetables to their sandwich or toast, the same suggestions apply to noodle dishes.
Last Word From A Nutrition And Healthy Eating Perspective!
There are some healthy and nutritious options in The Wing, however I think you really need to be cautious and be trying to make a healthy choice. There are many options here that don’t stack up to be the healthiest – especially at the buffet – and many of the options are low fibre, carbohydrates.
Now one argument is this is a First Class Lounge and perhaps the focus is on offering people dishes they would like to eat, regardless of the nutrition. And don’t get me wrong – I do understand this. Having dishes that appeal to passengers in a first class lounge is important. However I do think lounges can still offer good quality, delicious foods that are nutritious and align with healthy eating principles.
I have separated the review scoring into the buffet and The Haven as I think this is a fair way to apply my assessment criteria.
I have scored The Haven restaurant higher because there are healthy options available on the menu, even if the foods are scattered across multiple dishes. I would ask the staff if changes can be made to the dishes to make sure you get a nutritious meal that suits your individual health needs while travelling. I did this while in this lounge – I asked the staff if I could have The Western Set without the bean stew, mushrooms and sausage, and with smoked salmon added and they were happy to oblige. If you are wondering why I said no to the mushrooms and beans (whoah I am sure some of you just fell off your chair or dropped your phones) – it is because I don’t personally like these foods.
And don’t forget if you would like me to do a specific airline lounge nutrition 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.