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I have to admit, when thinking of Disneyland, diet and healthy eating were not always the first things I associated with a trip to the “happiest place on earth.” Churros, Dole Whip and Mickey pretzels used to come to mind before healthy eating at Disneyland. We frogs have been cleaning up our diet and we now have some favorite go-to healthy snacks and meals that we look forward to when visiting Disneyland. For instance, the tadpoles’ trip is not complete until they’ve crunched on a giant dill pickle. As anyone who is trying to stay on a healthful eating plan or who needs the stamina to power though several days in the parks knows, finding healthy food at Disneyland is very important for both you and your tadpoles.
We frogs love our favorite Disneyland snacks, but we balance out our indulgences with healthy snacks and good choices during meals. Why? There are several reasons people enjoy healthy eating at Disneyland. Many people are cutting back on sugar these days. Sometimes people are on a diet and don’t want to blow all of their hard work and progress. Others have dietary concerns due to medical conditions or food allergies. Vegetarians may be on the lookout for hearty dishes appropriate for them! Some people simply recognize that to survive long days of walking 4 to 20 miles in and around the Disney parks, they’ll need to put high-quality fuel into their body to stay healthy and keep things running efficiently. Eating fried foods and making bad choices for several days starts to take a toll on everyone’s health and energy. We find that eating cleaner feels much better and leads to more energy and fewer meltdowns.
Our Most Mouth-Watering Guide to Healthy Eating at Disneyland
I admit I have indulged too much on past visits, so I have been working at shrinking my waistline over the past few months. I have hopped around Disneyland, making it my mission to scout out healthy foods that fit into my healthy eating lifestyle. I found that there are a lot of great choices in the parks. There are plenty of hand-tossed salads, fish, meat skewers and veggies to keep me satisfied, and everything is surprisingly tasty, making me feel like I have treated rather than deprived myself, which is important.
Best Restaurants for Healthy Eating at Disneyland
While we can’t cover every healthy choice in the parks, I can help guide you to some of our Frog Family Favorites, and help you locate some of the better choices from any restaurant you visit.
First of all, the skewers at Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland are unbelievably delicious, diet or not. The food is among the best Disneyland food and drinks under $5, and the restaurant has recently expanded their seating and menu a bit to keep up with popular demand. It is now a must-stop location for us, whether we want one skewer as a protein snack or a couple of skewers as a meal. The hummus trio comes with crunchy veggies, and a cast member claims it’s the healthiest food item in the park, made fresh each day. (You can also skip the line and quickly grab a hummus trio at Tropical Imports next door.) The spicy Banyan Beef Skewer is tender and so flavorful. The Outback vegetable skewer helps you achieve that serving of vegetables. You can get asparagus wrapped in bacon and while bacon is not on most diets, at least some of the bad is being canceled out by the asparagus. That’s how Leap toadally justifies it anyway (sometimes you have to do what it takes to get those vegetables in). There is nothing we haven’t loved here, from the chicken and specialty skewers. The sauces are tasty. It’s all good.
There are a number of places to pick up a salad around the parks from Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port at Disneyland and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta in Disney California Adventure to various quick service and table service restaurants. You may be surprised to learn that you can customize the salads even if you see only pre-made salads at a cafeteria-style restaurant. Just ask and a cast member will accommodate your needs. I like to customize my toppings, make my own dressing and add a small side of protein, such as chicken. French Market in New Orleans offers freshly made hand tossed salads as well as other good choices like roasted chicken. While there are salads at Plaza Inn, we were surprised to find glazed salmon with rice and vegetables as well. You can find more seafood choices at the table service restaurants.
They say that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest eating styles. You can eat like a Greek at the Paradise Garden Grill for most of the year, although the menu does vary seasonally with different cultural festival foods taking over for Holiday Time, Lunar New Year and the Food & Wine Festival. Its regular menu offers Greek Salad, Lemon Oregano Chicken and other tasty foods, as well as vegetarian grilled vegetable and tofu.
You might think of the Galactic Grill in Tomorrowland as a place to get a burger, but they have a veggie wrap and a chopped salad. Greek yogurt can be substituted for French fries. So don’t automatically dismiss a burger or hotdog restaurant. They might have some healthier options. For example, the Award Weiners hot dog location in Disney California Adventure also has a Portobello Mushroom Philly. Who knew?
Quick Tips for Eating Healthy at Disneyland
- Ask for carrots and apples (or sometimes Greek yogurt) instead of French fries
- Order off the Mickey Check section of the kid’s menu
- Snack from the fruit carts (you can find whole fruit, sliced fruit, pickles, veggies, hummus and more chilled in ice and ready to go)
- Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions
- Order a burger or sandwich wrapped in lettuce if you are cutting carbs (gluten-free choices are always available)
- Bring foods from home/hotel for convenient budget-friendly snacking
- Drink water (you can always get free water from restaurants)
- Watch for hidden sugar in salad dressings—you can order dressing on the side or make your own by asking for olive oil, red wine vinegar, some salt and a mustard packet from the condiment section.
- Ask questions about what comes on food before you order. Sometimes not all ingredients are listed on a menu, such as tortilla chips and sour cream on a fajita salad at Cocina Cucamonga. It’s easier to order without certain toppings than to have the willpower to pick chips off a salad and not nibble on a few. Just sayin’. Been there. Learned that.
Snack smart to prevent sugar overload and crashes
Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s easy to get caught up in having a great time and forget to eat, but that is a recipe for disaster. Try to eat something every two to four hours. Be prepared with some snacks on hand and stay hydrated with frequent water breaks. You can easily snack in line or choose to take a break and rest while you refuel. If you want your kids to behave better at Disneyland, you can start with what you feed them, even at snack time. Keep the snacks frequent and include fruits, veggies, healthy grains and protein to help even out the blood sugar. The fiber or protein in many of these foods slows digestion, keeping them full longer and preventing dips and spikes in blood sugar. You’ll notice that your kids have better energy and attitudes when they eat better snacks. You can always bring your own snacks (we pack in bags of Cheerios, nuts, packets of nut betters, fruits or chopped veggies), but rest assured that there are 10 fruit stands throughout the parks where you can find some great choices that your kids will love, such as:
- Big pieces of watermelon
- Pineapple spears
- Mango slices
- Sliced oranges
- Whole bananas, oranges, apples and grapes
- Hummus and pretzels
- Big pickles
- Apple slices with caramel (sometimes you simply have to compromise)
- Veggies and ranch
Another hearty snack for kids is the Mickey Check Power Pack. You can find it at a dozen different quick-service restaurants. It comes with yogurt, apples, carrots, a banana, crackers and a choice of milk or water.
Ask for allergy menus if you need them
Disneyland is committed to providing a safe dining experience for families with allergies. The common allergies for which Disney chefs are prepared to make substitutions include:
- Gluten or wheat
- Peanuts and tree nuts
- Milk or lactose
You can ask for an allergy menu to help guide you to safe dishes, and can always talk to a chef about your needs. Many Disney restaurants can also usually accommodate people who are eating diets low in sodium, sugar and fat. Just ask about it and they will be happy to help.
How to Save Money While Eating Healthy at Disneyland
It does not cost more to make healthy choices at Disneyland. Most of the prices are equivalent to other snacks and meals. But in your quest for finding healthy food at Disneyland, you can make some budget friendly choices. One of our top tips for saving money at Disneyland is to drink water instead of soda. You can bring your own bottles and refill them at drinking fountains or filtered water stations at some restaurants. You can always ask for free cups of ice water at restaurants.
We have found that you can even get smaller servings of items a la carte at cafeteria-style restaurants to save calories and money (i.e., you can opt for just one chicken breast for less than $4 dollars instead of a whole meal of three pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits and vegetables) for about $18 if you don’t want or need a full meal. You can always pair it with a side salad or consider it a filling snack.
Bring your own snacks. If you have a refrigerator in your hotel, you can keep yogurt, cheese sticks, lunch meats, fruits and veggies fresh, but if that is not an option, some fruits like apples, plums and clementines or tangerines travel well and don’t need refrigeration. Nuts, trail mixes, granola and cereal also travel well and do not have to be kept cold. We always travel with some plastic bags or small containers for storing on-the-go snacks and sandwiches.
Healthy Eating at Disneyland Character Dining
The character dining buffets all offer healthy choices. The hard part is saying no to all the desserts, pastries and Mickey waffles loaded with maple syrup. You can find omelet bars, egg white vegetable frittatas, fresh fruit, yogurt, salad and smoked salmon. If you don’t see something that you can eat, talk to the chef and they will make something special for you. Make an egg white omelet filled with fresh vegetables. Fill your plate with greens. You can leave there feeling stuffed and satisfied (and hopefully with a lot of great character memories).
We are not here to rain on your parade with all of our healthy talk. You should allow at least some favorite Disneyland treats and indulgences guilt free. I, personally, flip out for Disneyland caramel apples. Just balance your treats with some good choices along the way and you’ll all feel much better during and after your journey. If you are looking to reserve character dining, or a meal at one of the table service restaurants in the parks, hotels or Downtown Disney, you can make Disneyland dining reservations up to 60 days in advance. You can note any special dietary issues when you make your reservation, and you should receive a menu tailored to healthy choices for you.
It may seem hard to eat healthy while at the parks, but it's toadally possible (and yummy)! What are your healthy eating tips while at Disneyland Park! Let us know in the comments below!