Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Paleo Eating at Disney World

Walt Disney World - at 30 years old, I still consider it the happiest place on Earth! But in the land of cheeseburgers, french fries and Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, it can be easy to miss the wholesome, nutritious food options. The following tips are not only helpful for those of us following a strict Paleo diet, but also for anyone who wants to seek out the healthy options available at the Disney World.

I'll break this down into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks and give a few examples of restaurants that I know from my recent trip have Paleo options on the menu, but I would definitely suggest you do a little research before your next visit to make sure the menus haven't changed. A good place to start is the Menu Directory on AllEars.Net. You can browse menus from Disney eateries at all of the resorts and theme parks. Okay, here we go...

The best advice I can give for your first and most important meal of the day is to eat before you visit the park in the morning. On our trip, we were lucky enough to have a full kitchen in our room and a grocery store within a half mile of our hotel. This made it simple for us to enjoy the same meals we were accustomed to eating for breakfast at home. For example, on the first morning of our trip, I made a big batch of brussels sprouts and ground beef with onion, sun dried tomatoes, avocado and scrambled eggs. I made enough so that we had leftovers to heat up in the microwave the next morning before heading back out to Disney. An easy and delicious way to fuel all of the power walking that awaited us!

If you don't have a full kitchen in your hotel room, but you have a mini fridge and microwave, you could bring along some pre-cooked meat and veggies to re-heat in your room. I would suggest freezing it before you leave home and keep it extra cool in your cooler during your road trip.

If you don't have access to a heating source or a fridge, you can load up on jerky, fruit, veggies and nuts. You can fill up an ice bucket or sink with ice to keep fresh veggies and fruits cool to snack on before you go out for the day. Carrot sticks, sliced bell peppers and cucumbers with salsa or apples with almond butter along with some jerky would be a great start to the day.

Lunch is another meal that I would suggest packing your own food for. If you prefer to eat in the park, you can reference the dinner tips I give later in this post. You may even save a bit of money because lunch prices are often lower than dinner prices!

We spent two days at Disney so we hit two parks each day. We kept a large cooler in the car and packed it full of sliced turkey, sliced peppers, carrot sticks, celery sticks, salsa, hummus (I know hummus is not technically Paleo, but it doesn't give us any problems so we eat it occasionally), apple and pear slices and almond butter. While traveling between parks, we would serve up turkey wrapped veggies and fruit slices with our dip of choice. It was a quick and easy way to refuel for the afternoon.

An extra tip, freeze water bottles in your hotel room the night before and use them as ice packs in your cooler! By the time lunch rolls around, they should be thawed enough to drink or bring into the park with you to drink throughout the afternoon.

You can also bring a small cooler into the park with you if you prefer not to go back to your car. From the MouseSavers.com website "...you absolutely will NOT be allowed to bring in the following: hard-sided coolers, large coolers, glass containers, or alcoholic beverages. Also, you cannot bring any type of straws (even the little ones attached to juice boxes) into Animal Kingdom." You can carry the cooler with you or most of the parks have lockers near the front entrance where you could store the cooler until you are ready for lunch.

I am a big snacker on a normal day, but I would venture to guess we were walking at least 10 miles a day at Disney World. That's a lot of walking and we all stayed pretty hungry. We carried apples, oranges, nuts, dried fruits and jerky into the parks to have something to munch on while walking between rides or waiting in line.

If you don't feel like lugging a backpack around all day, I found that each park had at least one fruit stand with a variety of fresh fruit and veggie options for pretty reasonable prices. For example, Anaheim Produce at Disney's Hollywood Studios (located on Sunset Blvd. near Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster) sold apples, oranges, pineapple, mixed fruit cups, carrots and celery. Just steer clear of the included caramel or ranch dip. At the Magic Kingdom,  Liberty Square Market next to the Hall of Presidents has the same fruit options and also sells baked sweet potatoes!

Just next door to Anaheim Produce, we found Toluca Legs Turkey Company, which sells big ol' turkey legs for about $7.50. If you are craving a turkey leg at the Magic Kingdom, be sure to visit the aptly named Turkey Leg Cart in Adventureland (the only place to find turkey legs in the park).

As far as staying hydrated, which is HUGELY important when walking around all day in the Florida heat, we carried a Camelbak hydration pack. There are plenty of water fountains to re-up your water throughout the day. We filled ours with ice before leaving the hotel in the morning so our water would stay nice and cold. You could also do the same thing with reusable water bottles. If you find yourself without water, you can purchase bottled water at almost any dining establishment or food cart at Disney.

When we visit Disney World, we do like to splurge on one meal per day at the park. This was my first trip to Disney since eliminating grains, dairy, sugar and processed foods from my diet so it was a bit more of a challenge to find what I was looking for. We happened to be at Magic Kingdom around dinner time and saw on the map that Cosmic Ray's in Tomorrowland had salad on the menu. We headed that way and each ordered a Greek Salad (hold the feta, dressing on the side). We took our salads over to the toppings bar and added mushrooms, peppers, pickles and onions. I also packed a pouch of tuna in the Camelbak so we topped our salads with tuna. Plenty of veggies and protein for a complete, filling meal!

One of the best places to be during meal time is Epcot's World Showcase. Food choices from Germany, Norway, Morocco, Mexico and beyond to satisfy the appetite you can work up after walking from country to country all afternoon! In Germany, you can dine on a tasty bratwurst with sauerkraut at Sommerfest. Morocco has the Restaurant Marrakesh, which serves everything from Shish Kebab to Lemon Chicken (and maybe a glass of wine)!

By doing a little bit of research and planning beforehand, you shouldn't have any trouble finding healthy menu options and preparing nutritious foods during your next trip to Disney World. And while at Disney, you can visit all of your Paleo friends at Animal Kingdom's Dinoland!