Thursday, April 29, 2010

Healthful Eating at Walt Disney World


Walt Disney once said that “if you can dream it, you can do it.” I dream of a vacation in which I won’t gain five pounds and do not have to wrangle my children on a sugar high. That may sound like pure fantasy to most, but I have a secret. Even though on vacation, with pre-planning and custom dining options it is fun and easy to maintain a healthy diet at Walt Disney World.

Quick service is what Disney calls the counter or “fast food” establishments. They have a pre set meal in which one orders at the counter and takes food back to a table on a tray. We are all familiar with this type of restaurant and generally equate them with “junk food,” but that is not always the case at Disney. Disney has its fair share of burger and fry combos, but with knowing where to go and how to order one can eat well even eating “fast food.” As an example, the Columbia Harbor House in the Magic Kingdom treats its guests to grilled tuna sandwiches, vegetarian options and harvest salads (Willis, 2010). The Tangerine CafĂ© in EPCOT offers a vegetable platter, Mediterranean wraps, and a whole wheat tabouleh. Thirty-seven of Disney’s quick service establishments offer vegetarian and vegan selections to chose from (Willis, 2010). No fries? No problem! Everything at Disney’s counter service also can be ordered a la carte; just ask when ordering the meal and enjoy a reduced price as well as waistline (Marx p.225). Calling ahead can work to an advantage at counter service restaurants as well because special meals can be ordered to accommodate many dietary needs (Birnbaum p.28).

Table service offers a more leisurely meal and at the time of writing advanced dining reservations can be made up to 180 days prior to arrival. Upon arrival to a table service establishment guests are shown to their seats by a hostess and waited on by a server. Disney table service establishments include buffets, family style, and individually ordered plates that can handle a craving for just about anything. The Walt Disney World Resort offers a wide variety of dining options throughout its parks and hotels with many special requests able to be easily accommodated at more than 300 restaurants on property. Most menus offer healthy selections including at least one fish and vegetarian option on their main menus. When there are special considerations in a diet that the standard menu cannot be meet, specialty meals can be ordered by calling ahead to Disney’s Dining Reservations Center at least 72 hours before arrival (Disney.com). Vegetarian, low sodium, lactose intolerant, celiac, and kosher meals are available at almost every establishment (Birnbaum p.28). Wherever one goes in Walt Disney World the table service dining is out of this world. Outstanding chefs will go above and beyond to create a magical experience no matter what the dietary needs are. Whether having called ahead or just speaking to the hostess about requirements, many chefs at Disney will come to speak personally with a guest table side before preparing a meal to make sure that they can give a signature experience. This is the perfect opportunity for people with food allergies and dietary concerns to be assured that they, too, can eat well at Disney as chefs go out of their way to create a delicious meal that reflects specific needs (Willis, 2010).

Use some basic strategies to make small, healthful cut-backs to the items on the regular menu. Disney meal portions at table service restaurants are often enough food for two people. Ask the server if the plate can be split in the kitchen. This simple act of sharing a meal can cut calories in half while still getting all the pleasure of decadent flavors (Marx p.220). Do not be afraid to ask for dressings or sauces served on the side, or that meats not be cooked in butter. Ask for a side of vegetables rather than fries and look for selections that offer fresh rather than processed foods.

Healthy snacks are available, most notably at the resort hotels, where the sundry shops offer grab and go packages of fresh-cut fruit and cruditĂ©. Disney’s popcorn, despite its “buttery flavor,” is vegan, and fresh fruit carts scattered around are just as prevalent as ice cream. There are times when that sweet cold is the only thing that will do, try a no sugar added strawberry bar. No sugar added bars are not always shown on the main menu, ask the attendant if they have them for a sweet surprise. Water fountains are readily available in the parks and BPA free aluminum water bottles can be found in many gift shops. In addition bottled water is sold at most beverage vendors (Willis, 2010).

Sometime dietary needs can only be met by preparing one’s own food; Disney can help with that as well. Several of the deluxe resorts on property offer 1-3 bedroom villas for rent through the Disney Vacation Club. Disney Vacation Club membership is not required, and a number of rooms featuring full kitchens are reserved to be rented to the public (Disney, 2010). Garden Grocer is just one online provider that offers a virtual grocery store, allowing families to shop and place an order for their food from home before the trip. The customer pre-arranges a delivery time with a two hour window and the groceries will conveniently be delivered directly to the hotel room (Garden Grocer, 2010). When it is time for touring, one need not worry because Disney Parks make an exception for those with very strict dietary needs, allowing them to bring a small cooler of food along with them for the day. Feel free to carry it along through the park or stow it in a rental locker for a small fee. Rental lockers are located near the entrance of each resort park; they come in two sizes and allow multiple entrances throughout the day (Willis, 2010).

The two things that will make healthful eating at Walt Disney World a breeze is research and pre-planning. These important tools used before a trip will help keep a diet on track once on vacation. With the wide variety of tastes and flavor options available a good pre-planning guide will allow the family to tackle that big question “Where should we eat?” By previewing menus and reviews, one can narrow down the options to establishments that highlight the types of food that are favorites, or help to try something new. Eating at the Walt Disney World Resort is an adventure of tastes and flavors from around the world that should be savored by each and every guest. The following are just a few tools to use that will make food considerations easier while planning a trip.

Disney.com offers the most current information and menus for the majority table service establishments as well as offering a phone numbers on their website to call a guest services for general questions. Disney’s “food and beverage team is committed to offering a wide range of choices to accommodate Guests who require lifestyle dining options, as well as most specific requests from Guests with food allergies or intolerances” (Disney.com). Disney even has a special diets cast member available to contact prior to the trip who will help make arrangements and make sure that your dietary requests are noted. The special diets department can be reached by e-mailing SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com, or calling 407-824-5967 (Disney.com). AllEars.net is a fan-driven site that includes reviews and other guests’ experiences with specialty dinning throughout the resort. A special section of the website is dedicated to planning strategies for those with special dietary needs. Being able to read guest reviews and knowing how Disney has accommodated other guests can help take the stress out of planning and ease the mind (Willis, 2010). In addition to Internet resources there are several guidebooks that can be found at local bookstores to help plan meals. Birnbaum’s “Walt Disney World Dining Guide” offers an official overview of restaurants on property and is small enough to carry along in the parks. Passporter offers a deeper look into the Disney dining plans with author reviews and experiences. This book highlights places with healthful options by marking them with a special ribbon within its text. In addition this guide book offers dining work sheets, a reservations guide, and phone numbers to call that will help plan a great adventure.

Every traveler has their own needs and ultimately it is up to them to make informed choices, both before and during their trip, in order to maintain lifestyle dining. However, a healthy diet and a fabulous family vacation can go hand-in-hand thanks to the magic of the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Evaluate the family needs, research, create a food plan that fits, and call ahead to make the most of it. Above all, relax and enjoy this fun filled destination vacation without worry over what to eat.


NY: Disney Enterprises Inc.

Disney (2010) Walt Disney World® Dining and Reservations. Retrieved from

Garden Grocer (2010) Retrieved from http://gardengrocer.com

Marx, Jennifer, Dave, and Allison. (2009). PassPorter's Walt Disney World 2010.
Ann Arbor, MI: MediaMarx, Inc.

MediaMarx, Inc. (2010) Eating Healthy at Disney: Keeping Your Commitment to Health on Vacation. PassPorter.com Articles. Retrieved from

Willis, Deb (2003). Walt Disney World Dining. Retrieved from http://allears.net

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Time to Train!


On this weird sort of whim back in January I registered the kids and I for Mickey's Halloween 5K. This is Disney's only race that goes through the Magic Kingdom and it didn't seem to me like something I should miss. The course takes us "from the Happy Parking Lot toward Magic Kingdom® Park. Run past Tony's Town Square Restaurant onto Main Street, U.S.A.® toward Tomorrowland® where we will run past the Space Mountain® Attraction, under Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress and past Indy Car Motor Speedway. The course will then turn before the Mad Tea Party to run past the Rose Garden and in front of Cinderella Castle. Follow the ghostly lights toward the Haunted Mansion as you race through Liberty Square, past The Hall of Presidents, and then onto Frontierland® and Adventureland®." Then we'll head out to the West Beach to cross the finish line.

Okay, so 5 mmonths to go and we're still not walking under Disney's pace limit. YIKES! We need to get our collective toosh in gear and start training hard for this race. My back injury has really put us behind, but the sun is shining and it's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. I'll be tracking my work outs on my RunKeeper and you can follow me there. We've got at least 2 minutes a mile to drop off our our current pace.

Can we do it? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Perfect Purse

Disney Dooney & Bourke

About three months ago my I did something to cause great pain in my back.  I was trying to be healthy and start jogging, obviously a misguided notion.  Since that time, two physical therapy appointments a week and continued pain tell me that I need a new purse.  My doctor seems to think that carrying around enough supplies for a weekend trip is causing stress on my body.  So the search is on!  I've been to all the local shops, Target, Kohls, and the like.   I even drove into Schaumberg, IL to find a purse, yet still I'm empty handed.   Until the DisneyParks Blog offered me this glorious option from Dooney & Bourke.

Yesterday, they went on sale at DisneyStore.com, today it seems like they're all sold out. So the great purse search continues. I saw a few of these on eBay, maybe I'll give it a shot.

Does anyone out there have any great purse advice?