How to Eat Healthy at Disney World
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This concludes Disney Week at The Points Guy! All week we’ve had a blast covering everything there is to know about Disney parks all around the world. This final story in the series covers eating healthy at Disney World, but make sure to check out our other Disney stories from the week — the list is at the bottom of this page.
When you think of eating at Disney World, you probably think of funnel cakes, ice cream, cotton candy, hot dogs, fries and all things sugary and salty as seen on #DisneyFood on Instagram. But eating healthy at Disney World isn’t impossible.
During our recent trip to Orlando (the one where we tried to ride every single ride at Walt Disney World in just one day), we made a point of seeking out healthy food on those days when we weren’t doing 41 rides in 14 hours.
And guess what? Eating healthy at Disney World was easier than we anticipated. In fact, when we got an afternoon craving for greasy, salty fries, we couldn’t find any until the third restaurant we visited at Epcot.
Don’t Skip Breakfast
With early-morning rope drops (i.e., park openings), it can be tempting to skip a good breakfast, but that’s a big no-no if you want to eat healthy.
Jamie Neal, a registered dietician in Houston, said breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. She recommended a big, healthy breakfast with lean protein, such as an omelet, greens, oatmeal and healthy fats like avocado. We found it easy to make up a breakfast like that at Spyglass Grill at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.
At Club Level at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, there were hard-boiled eggs, sliced meats and oatmeal with fruit.
At Sunshine Seasons within Epcot, you can find overnight oats or a breakfast power wrap complete with wild rice, sweet potatoes, blueberries, avocado and tofu. And when we splurged on a breakfast at Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort over the summer, there were plenty of egg-based options, including scrambled with vegetables.
The point is, regardless of where you stay, finding good fuel to start the day is 100% doable at Disney World. (Just maybe skip the candy Mickey waffles.)
Focus on Fresh
Neal said to look for a variety of fresh snacks such as fruit, veggies or nuts, and steer clear of sugar-laden or processed foods. This was a simple task at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.Anaheim Produce at Disney World. (Photo by Edward Pizzarello.)
Hollywood Studios is home to Anaheim Produce, fully stocked with ready-to-eat veggie sticks, pineapple, cheese, mandarin oranges, apple slices, whole fruits and more.
Within Epcot, we found snack packages of hummus with veggies, and snack carts weren’t all ice cream bars and Mickey-shaped pretzels.
Because Disney lets you bring in outside food, you can also pack healthy snacks for your Disney vacation.
Remember to Hydrate
An easy way to stay on a healthy eating plan at Disney World is to skip the sugary beverages and stick to water for hydration. Honestly, in the Orlando heat, you may need to drink even more water than the recommended half your body weight in ounces per day.
Disney sells $3.50 water bottles at every turn, but there are also plenty of water fountains where you can refill bottles, and most quick-service restaurants are more than happy to give you free ice and water cups.
Choose Quick-Service Restaurants Wisely
Some Disney World quick-service restaurants and food courts naturally tend toward a healthier menu than others. For example, the Sunshine Seasons food court at Epcot (next to The Land ride, where some of the food is actually grown) is stocked with healthy options.
These healthy options include fresh fruit smoothies, fruit cups, green beans, whole fruit, rotisserie chicken, a salmon children’s meal and a power salad of kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli slaw, chicory with quinoa, dried cherries, goat cheese and almonds with sliced chicken breast. How’s that for theme-park food?
At Sunshine Seasons, I tried the vegan korma with meatless chicken curry, cauliflower, peas, carrots and onions. It was extremely tasty, with the right amount of kick.
Washing the vegan meal down with a strawberry-banana smoothie rounded out my healthy eating at Disney World.
Take a Seat
While there are healthy quick-service options at Disney World, the sit-down dining offers a wider variety of healthy food.
Neal recommended that you seek out nutrient-dense entrees with veggies and protein. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side, and consider sharing larger entrees or even ordering off the children’s menu to help with portion control. It helps that Disney kids meals include things like seared wild salmon with steamed green beans and brown basmati ride.
We found many healthier options at Tiffins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, including the avocado and tomato salad as an appetizer and the pomegranate-lacquered chicken with sweet potato polenta, Brussels sprouts and citrus-fennel salad.
For a fancier healthy meal with a killer view, check out California Grill at the top of Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
This swanky joint with a five-star fireworks view has a variety of healthier food, including the absolutely succulent chef’s garden heirloom-tomato starter. This was so amazing that skipping the dressing didn’t hurt a bit.
On the California Grill menu, you can also find a variety of sushi and sashimi.
At California Grill, our taste-testing crew also enjoyed the lemon-poached shrimp, the rack of lamb with eggplant and the hearts of romaine.
Modify Your Meal
I’ve eaten at Disney World on a strict diet of no dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, etc. (I was nursing a baby with an extremely sensitive system.) There is no question that the days I was at Disney World were the best of that entire year from a dining perspective because Disney World makes meal modifications and avoiding food allergens an absolute dream. You can select your allergens or dining needs when you book your meals online, and a chef will meet with you when you sit down at the restaurant.
During that year of strict eating, I enjoyed a special meal at Disney’s ‘Ohana that met all of the above dining requirements and was still out-of-this-world delicious and healthy. The chef was kind and accommodating, so I didn’t feel shy about sharing my dietary needs and restrictions with Disney World.
Neal recommended healthy eaters ask for at least some basic modifications, such as grilled meats instead of fried, a tomato-based sauce instead of a cream sauce and a side salad or fruit instead of fries.
Treat Yourself Daily
Even our healthy-eating expert said it’s OK to enjoy one treat a day on vacation. Just try to select a guilt-free option, such as sorbet or yogurt, when you can.
One of the coolest places to get a healthier treat at Disney World is Erin McKenna’s Bakery, in Disney Springs. When I was on that dairy-free nursing diet, I sought out this bakery at its New York City location, and even shipped cupcakes and donuts to myself in Texas when I was feeling especially desperate. Everything on this menu is vegan, kosher and gluten-free.
Here you will find agave-sweetened brownie bites, pumpkin cupcakes and oat-raisin cookies. Our official TPG taster tried the Thin Mint shake with rice milk and chocolate cake balls, but gave the biggest thumbs-up to the brownie bites.
There is also a vegan coconut-based soft-serve ice cream and my personal favorite: the cinnamon-sugar cake donuts (I’m sure those aren’t healthy, but they are amazing and made on site).
The Bottom Line
Eating healthy at Disney World isn’t just doable, it’s actually fun and delicious. Also keep in mind that your step count will probably be in the tens of thousands per day at Disney World. We got up to 40,000 steps on a particularly intensive Disney day, so stay hydrated, pack healthy snacks and order wisely to keep yourself feeling great while enjoying the Happiest Place on Earth.
And to make things even easier, remember that at Disney World, the easiest way to pay for meals is to tap that Magic Band and charge everything to your Disney Resort room. At checkout, you can then pay for everything at once with a credit card that awards a bonus on travel and hotel charges, like the 3 points per dollar you can earn on travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Citi Premier Card.
Featured image courtesy of Cory Disbrow/Getty Images. Other images by author except where indicated.
Want to read more about Disney parks around the world? Check out our other Disney guides…
- The Best Points Hotels Near Disney World in 2018
- TPG’s Ultimate Guide to Disney World
- In the Shadow of the Mouse: Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs
- 9 Things Families Should Know Before Visiting Disneyland
- How to Save Money By Renting Disney Vacation Club Points
- The 10 Best Disney Thrill Rides Around the World
- How to Use Points to Buy Disney Tickets
- Disney World Without Kids: 10 Ways to Enjoy an Adult Trip to Disney
- 10 Things Kids Will Love at the Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii
- How to Ride Every Ride at Disney World
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