Skip to content

Healthy Eating in Walt Disney World — Part 1: Make A Plan

–John Roe & Sarah Niswender, WDW Radio Writing Team

If you were to take a poll of Clubhousers, what do you think that they would say was the best part of Walt Disney World??? Some might say the nostalgia, the characters, and the rides…but we know that one of the best parts about a trip “home” is…drumroll please…. THE FOOD!

The food is one of the many things that sets the Disney parks apart from other theme parks.  Someone who has never been to Walt Disney World — or has not been in many years — may just think it’s a burger, hotdog, fries and chicken fingers kind of place. You certainly can get all of your theme park classics (here’s looking at you plastic cheese!), but there is literally an entire world of culinary delights to be experienced at the resort!

So, what do you do if you are trying to eat healthy, does that mean you have to miss out on all the fun and deliciousness??? NOPE! This series aims to take on several different dietary options and how you can stay on track, while enjoying your time in the parks. We will look at calorie counting, bariatric, keto, and plant based ways of eating through all of the parks, resorts, and Disney Springs. So, don’t be Goofy when it comes to your goals… see what I did there? Let us know in the comments if there is a way of eating you would like to see highlighted!!! 

*Disclaimer for the lawyers: We are not dieticians or physicians, always consult with your doctor before beginning a weight loss regime. Always ask a cast member or chef regarding ingredients as they may have changed since this writing…. Now on with the show!

John Roe

One of the best parts about a trip to Walt Disney World is a chance to enjoy food and drink that you wouldn’t typically enjoy otherwise. Maybe its the Columbia Harbour House Lobster Roll in Magic Kingdom, or the Tonkotsu Ramen at EPCOT’s Katsura Grill, or possibly the Uh-Oa cocktail from Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. For me its typically a Funky Chicken sandwich followed up by the Purple Glazed Ube donut at Everglazed Donuts and Cold Brew in Disney Springs.

Whatever out-of-your-usual food or drink you’re enjoying — or trying — on your trip, it can be hard to eat sensibly and not spend weeks regretting those decisions after your trip by working off the “WDW 10,” as my family calls it. Hopefully what I’ve learned over the last few years will help you. Many of these tips aren’t new, earth-shaking, mind-blowing ideas — in fact, Lou and his guests Julie Voris and Amanda Bauner discussed several of these on WDW Radio #673 – Staying (and Getting!) Healthy and Fit at Disney

In 2016, my doctor gave me a stern look and warned me it was time to get serious about my weight loss. I was able to make some real lifestyle adjustments that helped me lose 80 pounds. During the early stages of my weight loss, my wife was informed she had high blood pressure and was given the green light to see if lifestyle changes would help her, too. 

As adults in our mid-50’s who had been active, but never really had our weight influence our daily lives, we knew we had to make it happen. We quickly learned having a partner in the process made the journey more manageable. And that was a huge part of our success. 

We also learned quickly that we needed a plan for our time spent in WDW. During our weight loss journey, two of our kids participated in the Disney College Program multiple times, one eventually taking a full-time role as a cast member. This meant many trips from our home in Tulsa, OK, to Florida to visit our kids and enjoy many fun times in the park. It also meant we had to learn how to not undo all of our hard work on our weight loss while visiting WDW.

It wasn’t simple or easy, but we made it happen. We’ve managed to keep the weight off, and learned how to make a trip to WDW with all of its food-and-drink fun an enjoyable time without destroying our healthy eating momentum.

Make a plan

Anyone planning a trip to WDW these days understands now, more than ever, that planning is important. You know which days you’re going to each park and what attractions you want to enjoy. So take that up a notch and make a plan for your day’s meals, drinks, snacks, and the inevitable treats. 

Like most of us, my wife and I make at least one dining reservation per day, and then make a mental checklist of what other foods/drinks we want to enjoy for the day. For example, on the day we plan on going to EPCOT we know we want to have lunch reservations at Via Napoli. That means we’ll need to plan on breakfast at our resort and dinner at either many of the festival outdoor kitchens or one of our favorite quick service restaurants. A very basic plan, but one that gives us an idea of what we are going to do. 

The success to any plan is knowing it will change, and allowing yourself to change it.

Track everything

I realize that this sounds challenging, and for some it is one step too far. In order for me to enjoy my experience and be able to relax and not stress over what I was eating and drinking, tracking each meal and snack was an important step. Taking a few minutes after each meal or snack to write down what I ate/drank allowed me to take stock of all that I had enjoyed. And when I got home, I could look back and make decisions about what I had to eat the next time I went, and could include it in my plan!

One of the tools that was indispensable for us, and is a huge help today, is Lose It! In short, it’s a meal tracking app that makes tracking easy. Many popular restaurants, manufacturers, and stores have loaded their menu items into the app, and you can also build custom recipes for frequent use. The visibility to tracking was a huge part of our journey, and being accountable for staying on pace for our goals.

Pack your own!

If you have snacks or drinks that help you manage what you eat at home, bring them along! This helps you avoid those “hangry” food choices that you may regret later. Bringing snacks and drinks into the parks is allowed, and more and more refillable bottle stations are available throughout all four parks. Packing your own snacks and refillable water bottle is also a great way to stay on target with your trip budget, too.

Split when possible, if possible – portions are big!

This is hard, especially with all of the great choices in WDW. Splitting can make you feel like you’re not taking advantage of all that the parks and resorts offer, but splitting an entree, a snack, or a dessert can increase your enjoyment. EPCOT is pretty much a year-round festival. Splitting what all the festival kitchens offer, much like Lou and Friends do when giving us one of those awesome reviews, is a chance to take in as many different items as possible.

WDW portions are BIG! One of our favorite places to split meals is D-Luxe Burger in Disney Springs. We love our burgers, and all of the burgers at D-Luxe are perfect for sharing. Desserts are always a splittable item for us. The famous Egg Roll cart in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland is also on our split list. It’s great to get a taste of one of the most unique WDW treats!

Splitting allows you to give yourself permission to enjoy what you want without blowing your healthy eating. Eating with a goal in mind at WDW is a great way to enjoy your trip without losing the positive momentum you have at home. But the most important part of all of this is to realize you’re on vacation – give yourself permission to enjoy what you eat.