A Nutritionist’s Guide to Walt Disney World
Blame it on a brand, spanking’ new lap around the sun or a little extra somethin’-somethin’ on your waistline after six weeks of holiday parties and big meals, but you might be feeling less than stellar about your eating habits. The good news is healthy meal planning is attainable, with practice and dedication.
The better news? Maintaining your newfound, sustainable and green diet is possible when you lug your family to Walt Disney World. Don’t believe us? Here’s the deal: it’s definitely the happiest place on Earth but maybe not the healthiest, so with a few modifications and a strong sense of self-control, you can come away from your vacation without feeling like you omitted all of your pre-trip work.
Here, a nutritionist’s guide to your next family getaway to Orlando:
BYOS – snacks!
If there’s one thing Disney definitely doesn’t have a lack of – apart from imagination, of course! – it’s food. Every nook and cranny of the park, you’ll discover a new opportunity to munch on popcorn, ice cream, Mickey Mouse-shaped desserts and goodies, chips and a whole slew of other foods.
Though A-OK on occasion, if you spend a week eating fatty, salty and sweet snacks, you’ll not only feel unhealthy but lack energy, according to registered dietitian Diana Rice, RD. Instead of setting your tastebuds to the park’s choices, bring your own nutritionally sound options that serve the purpose of an in-between bite.
“A snack is meant to power you through to your next full meal, which you will enjoy much more if you are truly hungry for it and haven’t filled up on a giant ‘snack.’ So instead, pack your favorite protein bars or snack on the hummus, trail mix and fresh fruit you’re likely to find at kiosks throughout the park,” she explains.
Carry water bottles.
Throughout each of the kingdoms, keep your eyes peeled for refillable water stations. Made with ice cold, filtered H20, chugging water is a smart way to not only stay hydrated, but help you decipher if you’re hungry or just mindlessly eating. “ t’s easy to get dehydrated when walking around all day in the heat or when eating salty food.
Keep a water bottle with you and fill it up whenever it is empty. If you are properly hydrated, you are less likely to eat when you aren’t hungry,” explains registered dietitian Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD.
Have a big, healthy breakfast.
When you stay at a Disney Resort, many will offer a breakfast buffet to jumpstart your day. Even if you’re in a mad dash to be first to the park, registered dietitian and nutritionist Jaime Windrow, MS RD CSSD LDN says taking the time to load up on good-for-you breakfast foods will sustain your family throughout your adventure.
“Feed the family a plate filled with good protein and healthy carbohydrates such as fruit. Avoid the waffles, pancakes and cereals especially when traveling young ones. It’s going to be a long day and sugar spikes and crashes lead to cranky children,” she says.
Try to keep a regular meal schedule.
Sure, you might be waking up every morning like Santa came, thanks to kids who can’t wait to get to Magic Kingdom. And yep, you’re probably staying until it’s dark each night to watch the colorful, glow-in-the-dark performances.
But as much as you can, Rice says sticking to a meal schedule will be better for everyone’s belly. Not only does this keep your kiddos on track, but it gives you an excuse to turn down their third (fourth and fifth) request for a snack.
“Try to keep your family on a regular meal schedule, such as breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner/dessert, even though it might mean passing up a treat that your kids spot on the go. When your kids ask for foods at an irregular time, say something like ‘That does look good! But we’re going to be having lunch in an hour and I know you want to enjoy it. So we’ll skip that item for now and have a yummy lunch soon,’” Rice explains.
Choose lean protein.
Truth: you’re not going to find a salad at every restaurant you reserve a table at. And, yep, it might be tough to find a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free option everywhere, but when you can, Rizzo says to make your smartest choice.
Often times, that means filling up on lean proteins – like grilled chicken – instead of choosing fatty options, like bacon or red meat. This type of choice will keep you satisfied for longer so you skip treats throughout the day, giving you permission to have a bite of your kid’s ice cream after dinner.
Make sure to stop by this spot in Animal Kingdom.
Windrow’s family are big fans of all-things-Disney and have visited the park several times, making her a keen expert on how to eat right at the parks. That’s why if you’re in Animal Kingdom, you must make a pit stop by Harambe Fruit Market stand, her personal, all-time favorite in all of Disney
“They have carts filled with a variety of fresh fruits, yogurt, cheese, pickles, lots of veggies, hummus and they grill fresh corn on the cob on the spot! This is my go-to for an afternoon snack/mini-meal. And if you want something more substantial, order the grilled chicken skewers served with a green papaya/carrot slaw and a chickpea, cucumber, tomato and cilantro salad that’s grain-free,” she explains.