Friday, December 20, 2013

Clean Eating at Disney Parks

Once upon a time, I ate a Twix and drank a Sprite for breakfast daily.  I spent more time in fast food restaurants than the gym.   I grew up in my family’s fresh fish markets and restaurants, so I knew how to cook and what healthier options were, but had gotten lazy...really lazy.  All of a sudden, life changed.  Due to the dietary needs of my husband and daughter, I had to figure out how to feed my family without being a short order cook.  My family began eating clean to not only for health reasons, but to save my sanity and some money, too.
My beloved Dole Whip Float
I am often asked how we continue to eat clean while visiting Disney Parks.  The short answer is that it is dang near impossible.  The long answer is…well, long.  The best thing to do is explain what eating clean is, and then those of you who are frequent guests of Disney parks can form your own opinion on the subject.

There are basic principles of what we consider eating clean.  In my opinion, it’s eating real food including lots of fruits and vegetables, specifically those that are organic.  Meat is definitely allowed, but preferably right from the butcher and not pre-packaged meat products.  Avoid processed food.  Processed food contains a million extra ingredients necessary in preserving it over long periods of time.  If you must buy processed, read the labels.  If there are contents that are difficult to pronounce, leave it on the grocery shelf.  Do not shy away from grains.  There is a lot of information about why grains should be avoided, but sticking to complete, organic grains are a safe bet.

This can be quite overwhelming at first, it certainly was for me!  I had a rough time giving up McDonald’s fries and just the other day actually pulled into the drive thru because my tummy was rumbling.  Once I rolled the window down to order and the smell billowed into my car, I promptly excused myself from the line.  Those of you who follow my blog know that I have a love affair with Dole Whip floats, and despite my attempts to avoid them, Adventureland is my first stop as soon as I check in to my resort and my last stop before the dreaded ride home.

 Gluten free and organic snacks at Sunshine Seasons
Rather than torture ourselves, we make plans before leaving home.  The fresh fruit offered at kiosks around the parks are heavily waxed and not organic.  We arrange for a grocery delivery service so we get produce delivered to our resort and it is taken daily to avoid purchasing lots of expensive and unhealthy snacks, even though there are a few organic options being offered.  We make advanced dining reservations at table service restaurants that we know serve fresh, locally sourced items such as California Grill, The Wave, Kouzzina, Coral Reef, Tokyo Dining, Hollywood Brown Derby, Jiko, Boma, Flying Fish Cafe and Garden Grill, which I have yet to get a reservation for.  Any table service restaurant is a great option and if you ask, the cooking staff is happy to tell you how their food is sourced and make changes/offer suggestions if you would prefer something else. 

Seared Scallops, California Grill
Quick service restaurants are more likely to have processed food, the hot dogs at Casey’s Corner is a good example.  We've been to the parks annually for at least ten years and this year was the first time I ordered a hot dog.  While it was delicious, my stomach quickly reminded me that I should not have eaten it.  Since I was at the Magic Kingdom, Be Our Guest would have been a better option, if the line weren't so long.  Other good quick service options are Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom, Sunshine Seasons and Katsura Grill at Epcot, and ABC Commissary at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Enjoying some fun food at Le Cellier
Here’s what it all boils down to.  For those of you already eating clean, great, but you’re on vacation, live a little!  Have a Dole Whip, an ice cream bar, maybe even a hot dog or a waffle sandwich slathered with nutella.  Fun food is a great treat when you are on vacation.  You don’t have to totally compromise your lifestyle to have a good time.  For the rest who are striving to be clean eaters, or just want to be healthier, Disney parks are a great way to start paying attention to what you eat since cast members are so willing to share what the ingredients are, and even give you other options, and that isn't always the case at your neighborhood bar and grill.

Have fun, eat well and enjoy the parks!


  1. You are good Lottie! I'm lucky to get in 1 healthy option on some days. Lol

    1. Kelly,
      If you want to eat better, take it one day at a time. Give up something small first, like vending machines & progress from there. I hear things become habits at 21 days. I'm no where near where I'd like to be; you'd better believe all bets are off during Christmas dinner.

  2. This is great Lottie! I joined for the clean eating recipes and was happily surprised to find that it's really not as difficult as I thought. I must admit that since we don't do it because we HAVE to, that all rules go out the window on vacation!