Have you ever been on a flight where your friendly seat neighbour received a completely different meal compared to everyone else? Chances are, they’ve pre-ordered a ‘special meal’.
Whether it’s for medical, lifestyle, ethnic or religious reasons, most airlines today cater for diverse dietary needs and offer a wide range of special meals passengers can pre-order prior to departure.
Curious to know what your options are beyond vegetarian or vegan?
Aaron Claxton, Head of Catering at Cathay Pacific, reveals 15 special meals you can order on your journey, including several that just may surprise you.
1. Diabetic Meal
Featuring complex carbohydrates, high fibre, low fat and calories, diabetic meals are suitable for both non-insulin and insulin dependent diabetics.
2. Fruit Platter Meal
This one often surprises people but yes, you can order a meal that consists purely of fruit components. Think fresh fruits, fruit compote and fruit desserts. Naturally, the selection of fruits will depend on availability and seasonality.
3. Gluten Intolerant Meal
As the name suggests, gluten free meals exclude any flour-based products including wheat, buckwheat, rye, oats, barley and bread. There’s been a big move towards gluten free meals in Australia and a lot of passengers tend to order this as a lifestyle choice.
4. Hindu Meal
Hindu meals are prepared Indian-style per Hindu customs. So, you won’t see any beef, veal or pork. However, lamb, domestic fowl, other meats, fish and milk products can be included. There is also a Vegetarian Hindu/Indian Vegetarian meal passengers can opt for, which features spicy vegetarian combinations with limited use of dairy products.
5. Bland Meal
At first glance, you’d wonder why anyone would order a ‘bland’ meal however, there’s more to it than you think. ‘Bland’ is a term given to meals designed to contain low fat food items with minimal dietary fibre or residue. Passengers who are susceptible to gastric discomfort tend to opt for these meals as their metabolism can’t deal with the strong seasonings that come from herbs, sauces and spices.
6. Kosher Meal
Kosher meals are prepared according to Jewish dietary law. At Cathay Pacific, we ensure that all ingredients are purchased from reputable manufacturers.
7. Low Calorie Meal
For passengers who want to avoid heavy and indulgent foods like gravy, sauces, rich desserts or foods with added fats, oils and sugar, this is the popular go-to. Low calorie meals feature lean meats, low fat dairy products and high fibre food.
8. Low Fat/Low Cholesterol Meal
Lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as high fibre wholegrain bread and cereals feature prominently in low fat/low cholesterol meals. This is often accompanied with unsweetened fruit juices.
9. Low Salt Meal
For passengers who want highly salted food omitted or no salt added at all to their meals, this is the go-to order.
10. Moslem Meal
Moslem meals contain no pork and pig by-products, gelatine, non-white fish meat from species without scales or fins, alcohol and flavouring extracts from alcohol. At Cathay Pacific, all Moslem meals on flights to and from Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Middle East and Pakistan are prepared according to the Halal method.
11. Child Meals
For passengers travelling with young ones, on board we have specially pre-ordered children and baby meals that feature fun and colourful cutlery. In most cases, these meals include easily identifiable food and prohibit foods such as fish and meat bones that may cause choking.
12. Non-Beef Meal
Not to be confused with complete vegetarian meals, non-beef meals are simply prepared without beef, veal or beef/veal related products of any kind.
13. Low Lactose Meal
Lactose-free meals have always been popular with passengers who pre-order special meals on Cathay Pacific flights. As the name suggests, this meal excludes dairy products like milk, casein, cream, cheese, eggs, yoghurt, butter and lactose.
14. Liquid Diet Meal
For passengers who prefer or can only consume liquid meals, this option features slightly thickened soups, fruit juices, pureed vegetables, custards and jelly.
15. Vegetarian Variations
Vegetarian has always been the most common ‘special meal’ ordered. But did you know there are several variations to pick from? For example, at Cathay Pacific, there are Vegetarian Oriental meals, which consists of vegetarian food prepared in Chinese style. We also offer Vegetarian Jain meals, featuring vegetarian food prepared in Indian style, based on Jain customs.
At the end of the day, airlines want to accommodate to market trends and passenger preferences. So, it never hurts to do a little research before you jet off to see the meal options available. Naturally, depending on the airline, the selection of special meals can vary accordingly. Just ensure you order them at least 24 hours before your scheduled flight to avoid disappointment!