Dieting at Walt Disney World

While planning and prepping for any trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, I tend to do all kinds of things to get ready physically; we take family walks, I do cardio workouts all in preparation for the long hours of walking every day while in the parks.  Once I get to the parks, however, all thoughts of good health go out the window while I submerge myself in every culinary delight that Disney has to offer!  So this got me to thinking, if I were to embrace a healthy eating lifestyle BEFORE my trip, would I feel cheated once I arrived in the World and had to actually watch what I ate?

Disney is great about meeting special dietary needs for people with food allergies and whatnot but what if I wanted to just keep on track with a low-calorie or low-fat diet while on my vacation?  One of the thoughts that comes to mind when I think about this is that you would think that with all of the extra exercise you’re getting while running from one attraction to another, that it wouldn’t matter how much you ate because you’d work it off!  If you’ve ever been on a Disney vacation, you’ll know that that just isn’t the case.  Most times you’ll come home 3-5 pounds heavier!

With the wonder of the internet, it’s easy to explore the menus of all of the amazing Walt Disney World restaurants so I decided to take a look at them and plan my dining as I normally would (in my non-diet days) and see if I could still eat there and be happy.  Remember, a down-side to dining while on vacation is that you really don’t want to take a doggie bag with you because A.) You’re staying in a hotel with no way (kind of) to re-heat or to eat it again, B.) You’re most likely still riding rides after you eat so where are you even going to store the doggie bag and C.) Who has time to eat leftovers when there are rides to ride??

Okay, so we tend to stay at one of the value resorts so for the sake of this exercise we’ll choose to stay at POP Century.  We can go to the food court for breakfast (the most important meal of the day!) and while my first choice would be the chocolate croissant, that would be a no-no.  Instead, there are options like fresh fruit, a vegetable omelets or oatmeal.  All good choices.

Although we know that it’s cheaper to do the “big” meal for lunch, my family never falls for that so, sticking with tradition, we’ll have to do our counter service meal for lunch.  These normally consist of burgers and fries which, again, would be a no-no.  In the Magic Kingdom at Cosmic Ray’s there are turkey sandwiches and rotisserie chicken as options along with yogurt and cucumber salads for side items.  In Animal Kingdom at Flame Tree BBQ there’s the BBQ chicken salad or a fruit plate.  Over in Epcot where food places are plentiful over in World Showcase, you can dine on such things as teriyaki chicken, beef or salmon with steamed veggies in Japan or a Wedge Salad over in the America pavilion.  If you opt to eat in Future World, you can’t do better than Sunshine Season’s in the Land Pavilion.  The healthier options there are endless with soups, salads and foods from the grill.

Dinner is always my weakness and the portions are usually huge.  Having always taken part in the Disney dining plan I was at first saddened at the loss of the appetizer as part of the deal, but when you’re on a diet, this is a blessing in disguise.  One of the best options that I can think of is O’Hana at the Polynesian Resort with its large variety of grilled meats and side orders of stir fry vegetables and salad.  I think staying away from any buffet would be wise because it’s hard to have self control (at least it is for me!).  And finally, skip the dessert.  This can be a hard thing to do but in the long run, if you’ve eaten three full meals, you won’t really feel the hunger or need for it.

Vacationing in Disney does not mean the end of the diet road; it merely means a more creative way of looking at the menus.

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