Foodie Friday: Eating Healthy at Walt Disney World

I received this question earlier in the week and decided to save it for Foodie Friday, as it involved – you guessed it – food!

Hey Pete!

I love the blog and book! We’re heading down to Disney in a few weeks! While I plan to enjoy myself a bit on vacation, I am on a diet! I’ve already lost close to 25 pounds!

Does Disney have any healthy options at Table and Counter service restaurants? If so, what are  some of the best healthy choices? I keep reading blogs about “chocolate covered this” and “fried that”.. It all sounds so delicious but so, so unhealthy! Is there anywhere that I can find the nutritional information for Disney restaurants? Will I be able to keep a diet at Disney?

Thanks so much! Keep up the good work!

Cindy, Boston

Hey Cindy!

First off, congratulations on your weight loss! Losing 25 pounds is not easy and definitely a great accomplishment!

Unfortunately, Disney does not provide nutritional information for their food or restaurants. I believe there is nutritional information for Be Our Guest, and a few blogs have estimated the calories and macronutrients in many of the dishes, but at this time, there is no concrete information.

Frankly, my mentality toward the nutritional information at Disney is “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Many will joke that Disney food “has no calories” or reply with the old addage “you’re on vacation, enjoy yourself!” I agree that you should enjoy yourself on vacation, which is why I admire your dedication so much!

I’m no dietitian or personal trainer. In fact, aside from the time I spend at the gym, I lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle. That’s what work does to you, I guess! But I have lost around 90 pounds in my lifetime, and I do have my theories and opinions on weight loss – but that’s all they are, opinions.

I believe in the calories in vs. calories out. So, if you burn 2,000 calories a day and eat 2,100, you’ll eventually gain weight. If you eat 1,900 calories, you’ll eventually lose weight. Simple as that. Of course your body needs nutrient-rich food, but if you satisfy your macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates and protein) why not have a slice of cheesecake – so long as you stay within your calories, right?

Alright, enough of the health lesson, though. Let’s talk Disney.

To start, I’ll quickly say this – you don’t realize how much you actually exercise at Disney! You’re constantly on your feet walking! A friend of mine recently went to Disney and wore her Fitbit. She walked over 8 miles in one day! I think you’d be surprised how much exercise you get without even noticing.

I eat a lot at Disney. I really like to enjoy myself, but I’ve never gained much weight – even on my 9 or 10-day trips. You will see a significant gain at first. There’s a lot of sodium in Disney’s food, so you will gain a lot of water weight. But you should return to your normal weight (plus maybe a pound or two) within a week.

Disney has really worked to expand their choices for those with dietary needs. Gone are the days of alerting your server about your dietary restrictions and receiving a bland and uninspired meal, followed by a generic scoop of sugar-free ice cream.

Many of the top Disney restaurants now have gluten-free options. You can get a gluten-free pizza at Splitsville, a flourless cake at The Hollywood Brown Derby, and a gluten-free version of the chicken pot pie at 50’s Prime Time Cafe – just to name a few. Many quick services now offer gluten-free snacks, as well! Sunshine Seasons has the best selection, with various packaged snacks. BabyCakes, which specializes in gluten-free desserts, recently opened in Disney Springs. You can also get the same baked goods at many of the food courts, including Landscape of Flavor.

Have your cake and eat it too! Gluten-Free Cupcakes from BabyCakes

Have your cake and eat it too! Gluten-Free Cupcakes from BabyCakes

Speaking of Landscape of Flavors, many resort food courts have added Create-Your-Own-Salad stations. The salads feature a protein, such as chicken, shrimp or steak, and a wealth of healthy toppings. You can ask for the dressing on the side, or simply say “when.” Landscape of Flavors and the Riverside Mill Food Court also have a smoothie station, which works great for breakfast or as a snack.

Many snack carts and food courts now carry fruit. I saw a lot of clementines, oranges, apples and bananas at Disney during my last trip. You can also get craisins and trail mix from many of the souvenir shops.

Last but not least, when in doubt, go with a sandwich, but avoid anything “fried” and lay off the dressings. Boardwalk Bakery has some great options, including fresh turkey and roast beef sandwiches, as well as an assortment of salads.

I’d definitely recommend checking out the menus. You can even ask to speak with the chef. The chef will usually work with guests who have dietary restrictions. While they normally reserve their special requests for those with health issues, I’m sure they would work with you.

I hope you’re able to find a nice balance this trip. Reward yourself a bit. 25 pounds is a great accomplishment! Having lost a lot of weight myself, I understand the stress that comes with going out to eat or going on vacation. Enjoy yourself, and then add some extra cardio when you get home!

Editor’s Note: Many Disney spots are adding binders packed with nutritional information. While this is more for allergen purposes, it could serve as a great resource. Also, if counting calories is very important to you, stick to non-Disney restaurants like Earl of Sandwich. Many of these restaurants have = nutritional information and calculators on their website.

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