Healthy Disney

I’ve just returned from a week-long vacation to Disney World in Orlando, FL (which explains my brief absence from blogging). With a 5 year old and 2 1/2 year old, it just doesn’t get much better than a week at Disney! The kids had a ball and so did we. Seeing Disney through the eyes of a child is amazing…princesses and castles become real…the sun always shines…and brief encounters with classic characters are preserved for a lifetime in photos.

As you might imagine, since I’m a food coach and health counselor, I was especially intrigued by the dining options we’d find in the parks during our stay. Would we be relegated to a week of chicken nuggets and french fries? Or would there be healthier options for us and our kids that would help us return home feeling as good as when we left? In truth, I was pleasantly surprised with what we found.

While there are certainly countless venues that sell chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, pizza, or burgers…..nearly all of these outlets ALSO have salad options (with the dressing conveniently offered on the side), deli sandwiches, or veggie burgers. Kids meals come standard with fruit or veggies (grapes or applesauce or carrot sticks) and milk, water, or juice – and menus state that fries and soda are available upon request.

Sit-down restaurants offer even healthier fare – tons of grilled fish and chicken, fresh vegetables and salads. Even mobile kiosks in the parks sell prepackaged bags or cartons of grapes, celery and carrots, and of course, bottled water.

Our favorite lunch experience was at Sunshine Seasons in the Land Pavilion at Epcot where I had a delicious Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese salad and a cup of vegetarian vegetable soup. What a delightful respite in our very busy day! We had several wonderful dinners of mahi mahi, grouper, and corbina (a fish caught locally off the coast of Florida).

We also took advantage of our in-room refrigerator in the hotel and made a stop at a local grocery store to stock up on breakfast basics and some healthy snacks. This let us have our normal high fiber, low sugar cereal with fresh fruit and organic milk to start the day (and saved us from paying high prices for hotel or park breakfasts to boot). We bought hummus and veggies and pita chips, some cheese and crackers and more fruit to have on hand for afternoon snacks. I’m so glad we did this because we always had good choices nearby that helped to keep our bodies feeling normal during our week away from home.

All that said, it wouldn’t be vacation without a few extra indulgences, so we all dug into our favorites over the course of the week. Mine was definitely Dole Whip from the Aloha Plantation in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland. Whoever invented this frozen pineapple concoction should be canonized – it’s amazing! Seriously, there are fan sites all over the internet dedicated to this hard-to-find dessert. YUM.

My daughter loved her Mickey shaped ice cream bar at the park and cherished her chance to order chicken nuggets and, yes, french fries, for lunch! Our son chomped through the messiest red lollipop EVER and had an in room ice cream party with is sister and grandparents one night when my husband and I went out to dinner. My husband ordered a hot dog and fries while watching the parade that he described as “amazing”!

So all told, a great week that left me feeling like Disney understands how to offer a good mix of healthy fare AND vacation-worthy indulgences throughout the park system. Would we really expect anything less from Disney?

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