When my older children were five and seven we took them on their first trip to Disney World. My daughter loved princesses and my son loved roller coasters, so they were excited to go.
However, whenever I told someone we were going to Disney World, their immediate reaction was, "You'll have NOTHING to eat there. All they have there is fast food, and lots of it."
Luckily my business partner, Randy, went to Disney World with her family before I did so she recommended that we stay in a suite off the Disney property that had a fully furnished kitchen and a standard fridge. She suggested we go to a supermarket, buy food for the week, and make our own breakfasts and lunches -- so the only time we would have to eat out would be dinner time.
So we did just that. We stayed at a suite about 10 minutes away from the parks, rented a car, and went to Whole Foods Market at least three times during our one-week stay in Orlando. We ate breakfast in our room (some suites include breakfast with their package), made sandwiches for lunch, and looked for as-healthy-as-possible dinner options on the Disney World property.
While at the parks, healthy pickings were limited, but I managed to find one kiosk with fresh fruit and another one with organic tea and hot beverages at Animal Kingdom (which happens to be my favorite park).
Epcot was easier than the other parks to find healthier food options since it has a plethora of restaurants to choose from. We had a reservation for a character lunch at the Restaurant Akershus, but when we arrived I realized I couldn't eat anything off the menu because my diet is gluten-free and dairy-free. So the chef came out to greet us and told me if he had known of my dietary restrictions before I arrived, he could have prepared something special for me. (This is a great tip for anyone who has food allergies or restrictions. You can call ahead and they will cater to your needs.) Regardless of the lack or preparation, the chef did the best he could with the food he had on hand, and bent over backwards to ensure I was happy. I thought that was very nice.
Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios had the fewest healthy food options, so if you want to eat somewhat healthy while at those parks, I would highly recommend brown bagging it.
If you decide to stay off the Disney property and vacation similar to how we did, here are some items I would recommend picking up at a local grocery store once you arrive:
Whole wheat or gluten-free bread, pita, or any type of base for making sandwiches
Mini juice boxes
A big jug of water (I never drink bottled water, but given our options we brought our re-usable water bottles and filled them up daily)
Organic protein to make sandwiches or eat it on its own. (If you eat eggs, you can buy them hard boiled in packages of two)
Individual yogurts (I bought coconut yogurt, which I love)
Cereal (low-sugar, whole grain/gluten-free, and non-GMO)
Milk (almond, organic cow's milk, soy milk—whatever type of milk you drink)
Snacks (trail mix, fiber bars, nuts and seeds, fruit leathers, protein bars, and seaweed are great)
Fresh and dried fruits (oranges and apples are great because they don't squish in your bag)
Fresh, raw vegetables (carrots, celery, mini cucumbers, peppers, green beans are all great grab-and-go options)
So, it turns out with a little bit of planning and dedication, I did have plenty to eat at Disney World. And because we ate healthier options all week, we had plenty of energy to park hop for five days and enjoy our March Break—though I did need a vacation when I got home.
Happy traveling this holiday season! And don't forget to check out my article on the healthiest snacks for traveling!
Photo Credit: Dawn Ashley
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