Let’s face it, Amusement parks and healthy, delicious food are usually not synonymous, but Disney World is different. After all, it is “The Most Magical Place On Earth.”
I love food—good food—and I hate going on vacation and paying lots of money to eat mediocre junk food. I stress when my kids have to choose from a menu of beige, fried food and sugar-laden drinks off of kid’s menus in restaurants. I was happy to learn that eating well at Disney World is possible. They also are amazing with food allergies, as I wrote about here.
If you’re planning a Disney vacation and feel the same way about food, read my tips below.
I did my research and found five ways to eat well at Disney World:
1) If your hotel room has a refrigerator in it, which was a must for me, use Garden Grocer, an online food delivery service. The day before we checked in, I went online and ordered yogurt smoothies (we love Stonyfield organic brand), milk, cereal bars, Kind bars, bottled water, cereal, fresh fruit, almonds, and juice boxes. I also ordered paper bowls and plastic utensils for cereal. Garden Grocer delivered our food right to the hotel concierge and it was delivered by the bell staff to our room. We were able to eat healthy, organic food for breakfast and snack before we headed out to spend the day at the parks. It also saved us lots of money, a bottle of water can be $2.50. With four of us drinking a few a day, that would really add up.)
2) Research to find good restaurants and make reservations in advance. I loved The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Disneyland. There are invaluable tips for every aspect of your Disney vacation, but I particularly loved the restaurant reviews. Asking friends who have been there is important too. Your friends know you and what you like, if they recommend a place, trust them.
3) Once you know where you want to eat, make reservations. Disney starts taking reservations 180 days in advance and if you wait too long, you won’t get to eat where you want or you’ll have to be flexible with times. I did not want to have dinner at 9 pm with my kids, so making reservations was key. I have met people who say they called the day of and lucked out because of cancellations. If you’re a spontaneous person, good luck. I need to plan.
4) Convince your children to choose a Mickey Check meal. Meals with the Mickey Check icon meet nutrition guidelines that limit calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar. Meals include at least three of the following food groups: fruits and vegetables; low-fat dairy; whole grains or lean protein, beans, eggs and nuts. Delicious healthy choices such as roasted chicken leg with green beans and brown rice, Mickey Meatloaf (turkey meatloaf) served broccoli, Mahi Mahi with a salad and peach applesauce, Whole grain pasta with marinara sauce. It was so nice to NOT have frozen pizza and chicken nuggets on the menu. Even at counter service restaurant you can find Mickey Check meals and for sides, you can choose apple slices, grapes, applesauce, or yogurts. Drinks offered with many meals are water or lowfat milk. Of course if you want fries or juice, you can substitute, but when healthy choices are the given, you’re going to be eating much healthier.
I don’t have the most adventurous eating children, but when they were told that they would have to order a Mickey Check meal, they found something they liked. My 9 year old loved the Mahi Mahi she had at Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom and my 5 year old even ate three green beans with her roast chicken. And because we were eating healthier meals, there was no guilt when we ordered dessert or bought Mickey Ice Cream bars. And the girls even enjoyed their first Shirley Temples at The Hollywood Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios—sometimes a sugary soda treat is good.
5) You can find really good food at Disney. Like really good. The legendary Cobb Salad at The Hollywood Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios was amazing and the Roasted Beet Salad with Goat cheese and candied walnuts at Sunshine Seasons, a counter service restaurant in Epcot, that was one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten. The steak, fried fish and Yorkshire pudding, along with a pint of Boddingtons, I had at Rose and Crown Pub & Dining Room at Epcot was “stick to your ribs good.” My husband also had great meals. He was especially fond of the Durban Chicken Stew at 1900 Park Fare’s dinner buffet and a seafood dish at The Hollywood Brown Derby.
With a little research and planning, you can eat well at Disney. Keep in mind, you will get what you pay for. Dining at Disney is NOT cheap and the better restaurants are even pricier.