Airline Lounge Nutrition Review – Initial Impressions
Hola Qantas! I love the idea of a Mexican themed lounge! Your lounge themes certainly help increase the variety of food offered, especially for frequent flyers, because honestly how many ham, cheese and tomato toasties can a person eat! Now, back to the Cantina Bar in Qantas Business Lounge Brisbane (Domestic). Mexican food can be incredibly healthy, however this lounge was a bit hit and miss in terms of nutrition. Read my airline lounge nutrition review to find out why!
- The concept of Mexican is a good one. Mexican food can be very nutritious when done well – think legumes, lean meats, spices and avocado. And from what I can see from this visit is there are certainly healthy elements – salads, high fibre snacks, legumes in a number of dishes, and the ability to make a balanced meal.
- One of the dishes from the Cantina Bar was a Chickpea and Capsicum Salad with a Chilli and Mango Dressing – ok Qantas you have my attention. It is recommended to include plant-based foods regularly in your diet – and legumes are a great option! Full of fibre and protein they help keep you feeling full, and help keep your microbiome healthy (the good bacteria in your gut).
- What a great bar snack option- dried edamame beans! Edamame beans are young soy beans and are a quite nutritious. Another option for increasing your legume intake (see point above) I think these are a great option. More nutritious than rice snacks or crisps (chips), why not try a small handful of these as a snack.
- The Cantina bar had a colourful salsa (tomato, capsicum and kidney beans), along with a tomatillo salsa, and these were positioned to be added to the meals they offered. What nutritious side dishes these area! Now, Qantas if you made a much bigger bowl of these it would encourage people to add more to their tacos to and bump up the vitamins, minerals and fibre in their meals.
- There were vegetable crudites, dips and crackers available which is a standout for me. I think it is essential to have these available all day for people when they are travelling – not just in the early evening – as you never know someone’s appetite or circumstance. Unfortunately, these hadn’t been refilled for a while when I was there, however I would hope this was just an oversight and they were going to refill.
- What’s this… do I spy more than just processed meat in the salad/sandwich bar? I have always found the option of ham, cheese and tomato toasted sandwiches flowing freely in the Qantas lounges as an unhealthy one (read more about this here). So seeing more than just ham or salami on offer as a protein choice is great. Basically, a ham, cheese and tomato sandwich in itself isn’t a bad option – occasionally. But when you are flying regularly (and sometimes twice a day, a couple of times a week), this option becomes less healthy. If you choose to make a sandwich then make sure you mix up your filling, always add at least 1 cup of vegetables (about the size of your fist), and only have processed meat (i.e. ham or salami) once a week.
- Not only was there a range of salad of options for sandwiches, there was also a huge bowl of salad that you could put with anything. Now for anyone who follows my Instagram travel nutrition advice will know how important it is that you are able to build a balanced meal in a lounge – that is 1/2 plate of salad, 1/4 plate of wholegrains and 1/4 plate protein. The Mixed Leaf Salad available included more than just green salad leaves, but also had lots of coloured vegetables which are a source of vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants which are great for health!
Not so great- caution!
- One of the star attractions at the Cantina bar on the day I visited, was the delicious sounding Spiced Pork Tacos. And they were such a let-down, both from a nutrition and food quality perspective! The tacos were not self serve – they came two on a plate with the pork filling already in the taco. What was disappointing was there was hardly any filling in each taco (I estimated there about 2 teaspoons of actual pork mixture including the sauce and some kidney beans). Now if this was a mini-taco then this would be fine, however the tacos were made from a medium sized wrap (~10cm in diameter). So, this basically means what was served was highly processed, low fibre white carbohydrate wrap. Now yes, there was a fresh tomato salsa and tomatillo salsa you could add to the taco, however it was provided in two small bowls on the bench – you would need a lot of tomato to fill these tacos! Now you might be thinking well, isn’t pulled pork potentially high in kilojoules and fat so having less is better? Well yes it can be, and I don’t know the recipe for the lounge. However, to have only a small amount of protein in the taco, isn’t very filling. If you ate the two wraps as they were served to you then you are basically just filling up on white wraps, which are not very nutrient dense.
- Now I gave the snack on the bar top marks – dried edamame beans are a great choice (see above). However, what you need to be careful of is the size of the plate. The plates next to the edamame beans on the bar were saucers – it took 3-4 spoons to fill the plate, which is more than double what I would have served myself if the small snack plates had been used I have seen in other lounges (and other areas of this lounge). Even though edamame beans are considered a pretty good snack – it is still important to not over eat them as they will add excess energy (kilojoules) to your day which can be unhealthy.
- Highly refined or low fibre carbohydrates dominate the food options. Now we have touched on the issue of the taco wraps – so lets have a look at the breads and crackers available. Unfortunately, most of the options are mainly white, with a light rye and a multigrain bread also available however these still looked to be quite light and fluffy (not many wholegrains).
Last word from a nutrition and healthy eating perspective!
This lounge does provide you with foods to be able to eat well – regardless of whether it is a snack or a main meal. The trick is you just have to put some thought into what you are eating, and not just gravitate to the ‘hot foods’ or just take what is served up to you in regards to the main meal. Watch out for the tacos, ask them for extra vegetables, or cut the tortilla in half. Ask yourself – do you really need a toasted sandwich? If you want one, can you add more salad to it? Get creative – there are many sandwich filling options here so think outside the square.
There are plenty of foods available that make good snacks – the dried edamame beans, cheese, vegetable crudites, fruit, water crackers, pickled vegetables – you don’t always need a sandwich or full meal.
Now this is how a taco should look! Basically I added the filling from two tacos into one, and added A LOT of salsa!
Visit Details: Qantas Brisbane Business Class Lounge (Domestic)
Menus (taken on my day of travel)
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