Airline Lounge Nutrition Review – Initial Impressions
The Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney –Qantas’ flagship lounge and a lounge I love relaxing in!
Now when you hear first class lounge you usually assume the food must be ‘first class’ and of top quality. But is it healthy? And what should you do when you travel frequently and use this lounge?
First thing to remember is that good quality food, does not necessarily mean it is healthy or good for us. And I wanted to make this point up front because I am not here to judge the quality of the dishes – many of these dishes are delicious and I can understand why they are included on a first class menu. But as I do with all my reviews, I am looking at foods from a nutrition perspective to help guide frequent flyers with their choices when they are flying regularly.
So what did I think? Well firstly I do think the food on the Qantas First Class menu is quite delicious and great quality! But being an a la carte menu with so many great options available, it can be tempting to over order. So being mindful about your hunger levels, and future plans for eating on the plane is very important (ok stop rolling your eyes at me – you know I’m all about intuitive eating and this certainly applies to frequent flyers).
Now while I have taken a look at the Spring Menu, the results may generalised to the other seasons as well. This is because the style of menu seems to remain similar across seasons with seasonal changes to dishes/ingredients.
- While the majority of food in this lounge is ordered off an a la carte menu there is a fresh fruit bowl available. This is important because if people don’t want a large meal from the menu, but may be tempted to order something unhealthy once they look at the menu then having fresh fruit available is a great option. You can grab some fresh fruit, make yourself comfortable in one of the lounges and relax, without being tempted to over order food.
- If you are choosing to have a meal from the menu, and are looking for something a little sweet to finish your meal off with, it is great to see seasonal fruit as an option for dessert.
- There was a very nutritious and balanced meal on the menu – Kale and Sorrel Salad with linseeds, sesame seeds, egg, quinoa and avocado. This meal is a perfect mix of wholegrains, healthy fats, protein, antioxidants and omega 3 fats. A great option to have before getting on a long-haul flight – not only is it full of vitamins and minerals, but it is a good balance of macronutrients as well. Additionally, most of the ingredients are also low in fermentable carbohydrates (except avocado), which means there is reduced chance of bloating which is important when flying., as flying naturally bloats many of us.
- And of course one of the best things is there are a number of side dishes that are just vegetables; a mixed green leaves side and a steamed vegetable side. There was also a rocket and parmesan salad but I didn’t order that so I couldn’t see the ratio of rocket to parmesan. If it is mostly rocket with a touch of parmesan this would be a great option, with the cheese adding a nice hint of flavour. However if it is drenched in parmesan, then be mindful of not overloading on the cheese.
- Most of the dishes say they include vegetables which is great! However, the dishes may vary in the amount of vegetables put on the plate. You know what I am going to say – more vegetables please! There are vegetable side dishes on the menu -always order one even if you meal says it comes with vegetables.
- Nuts are available for a snack on the bar. High in protein and fibre these are a good choice for a snack. But make sue you don’t eat mindlessly.
Not so great- Caution!
- There are many options on this menu that I would consider as ‘occasional food’ – these are foods that you wouldn’t think of cooking every night at home, but may have occasionally when you eat out. Examples of these dishes are the Cheeseburger, Beef Brisket, Salt n Pepper Calamari, Club Sandwich, and some of the desserts. Just because you are in a First Class lounge, doesn’t mean they are necessarily any healthier for you. So, treat them just as you would at home – would you have cheeseburgers regularly at home?
- Now some people ask what is better – a buffet or A la Carte menu when we are considering health? Now there isn’t a right or wrong answer. It depends on how much you eat and what the options are (you can over eat at both). However I always find it better to have both options as it is easier to regulate your food intake then. This is why I really like first class lounges such as Cathay Pacific or British Airways which have both a buffet and restaurant. One reason is there aren’t really any small snack options – for people not looking for a meal. Yes there are entrees (starters) on the menu, however not all of these are suitable for a snack. The serve yourself snacks on the bar are pretty limited.
- There are a range of empty calories foods available on the bar as snacks. I saw chips (crisps), cookies, Licorice Allsorts, Jaffas (the standard Qantas lounge snacks). These are very easy to overeat especially with a few drinks. These are highly processed and sources of salt, fat and refined carbohydrates. If you do have them, choose only one type and only have one small plate/dish. Don’t go back for seconds.
Last Word From A Nutrition And Healthy Eating Perspective!
A pretty spectacular menu from Qantas for their flagship First Class lounge.
I can see this menu appealing to many people as it certainly has many delicious options on it. However from a nutrition perspective, it can be a little bit of a minefield to eat well. While there are some healthy menu choices, there are also many which are not great for people who fly regularly. Now I am not saying every menu option needs to be healthy. I am a realistic dietitian. I myself enjoy the salt n pepper squid and hot chips every once in a while. However because my reviews are aimed at frequent flyers, I consider what it means if people eat these meals regularly. With many tempting, and potentially high calorie choices on the menu, for some people it can be hard to make the healthier meal choice.
So remember, just because these choices are on the menu doesn’t mean you have to order them. If you aren’t hungry, sit away from the restaurant, or only order an entree (starter) with a side of vegetables/salad. And if you are hungry, think about what you would be eating if you weren’t in the lounge – would you be having a 3 course meal if you were at work or at home?
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.