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How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Eat Healthfully at Disneyland…and still enjoy your meals

Going to Disneyland is a celebration for all senses, taste included!  In addition to the top-notch attractions and entertainment, there are also countless unique and delicious meals and treats only to be found within the Disney Parks. But what if you’re aiming to eat more healthfully and a giant turkey leg or stacked marshmallows dipped in chocolate on a stick aren’t a part of your diet? No worries, there are lots of great dining and snack choices throughout the Disneyland Park that will keep you on track! You can eat healthfully at Disneyland and still treat yourself.

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Up bright and early to hit the Parks & having breakfast in the stroller

Breakfast

Most important meal of the day, right? Consider eating breakfast before you come to the Park. The smell of frappachinos, buttery pastries and vanilla-scented Mickey waffles will be wafting through the air from the Starbucks and Jolly Holiday Bakery as you walk down Main Street, U.S.A!

I usually bring food to store in the hotel fridge and fill up at daybreak with Greek yogurt, a banana and fibrous flake cereal. My kids usually enjoy granola bars and fresh fruit.

  • I also suggest dining in the Downtown Disney District before the Parks open. We’ve picked up filling and delicious egg sandwiches and omelettes at Earl of Sandwich and the prices are extremely reasonable. Jamba Juice can make a delicious smoothie (choose the low-sugar option).

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

  • If you want to dine inside the Park, River Belle Terrace has a plate of fresh, seasonal fruit (skip the Biscuits n’ Gravy!)
  • Order the fruit platter at Flo’s V8 Cafe and you’ll also receive an oat bran muffin and low fat yogurt.
  • If you choose something healthy like the Spinach and Tomato Egg White Fritatta from Carnation Cafe, request that heavy toppings (like sour cream or fried potatoes) be served on the side so you can control the portion size or share them with someone else in your group.
How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Fill up on fresh fruit

Snacks

There are snack carts placed all over the Parks so be prepared when that heavenly popcorn or cinnamon-scent of churros hits you! You can always bring in your own snacks to the Park and packing cut veggies or melon is a great way to eat healthy on your trip.

  • Some carts (like Tropical Imports, Fillmore’s Taste-In and Fairfax Market) also offer fresh fruits, like bananas, apples, grapes, mangoes and pineapple spears. They even have veggies and hummus.
  • Need a little something heartier? Swing wide of the corn dog cart and pick up an Outback Vegetable or Banyan Beef Skewer from Bengal Barbecue. Dipping sauces can contain lots of sugar so it’s best to skip.
  • Craving something sweeter? The Dole Whip from the Tiki Juice Bar is light and refreshing with pineapple soft serve and pineapple juice.
  • You can get vanilla ice cream with no sugar added at the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain. No sugar added butter pecan is available at Clarabelle’s & Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor. Have it served in a cup instead of a sugar cone.
  • A frozen banana is also a decent choice as it’s lightly coated in chocolate and nuts. It will also take a little longer to eat since it’s frozen so you won’t devour it as quickly.
How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

A frozen banana is a healthy indulgence on a hot day

Lunch

Consider having a filling breakfast and a hearty snack and you might be able to stave off a big lunch and just have dinner instead. Or  make one of these healthy lunch choices.

Salads can be a great idea for lunch and there are lots of salads available at the Disneyland Resort. If you’re watching calories, ask them not to add cheese. Avoid salads served in a tostada shell and always request dressing on the side. Italian or oil and vinegar are going to be lighter than creamy dressings like Ranch or blue-cheese.

  • The Picnic Salad at the Hungry Bear is a nice mix, including turkey breast, strawberries and Feta cheese.
  • The Crescent City Salad at Cafe Orleans comes with either blackened chicken or Atlantic salmon (just ask for it without the caramelized pecans).
  • The River Belle Terrace offers Becky Thatcher’s Vegetarian Chopped Salad that includes hearty and filling proteins like hard-boiled egg, garbanzo & black beans.
  • For other options, The Troubadour Tavern offers a baked potato with broccoli and cheese sauce. Just ask for the cheese on the side so you can control the portion or eliminate all together.
  • Village Haus and Smokejumpers Grill have a Garden Veggie Burger (hold the cheese).
  • Tomorrowland Terrace offers a chicken breast sandwich with fresh veggie toppings and avocado salsa. Choose the fruit side over fries.
How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Hacienda chicken Caesar salad at Cocina Cucamong

Drinks

If you’re eating healthy, you already know to avoid sugar-laden sodas. Alcoholic drinks are served at Disney California Adventure Park and Guests can indulge in frozen margaritas and beer on tap in the Paradise Pier area, specialty drinks at the Cove Bar and wine at Wine Country Trattoria. Keep in mind that alcohol contains additional calories so if you’re trying to be healthy, don’t drink your calories…save them for food!

You can bring in bottles of water with you into the Parks to re-hydrate throughout the day. You can also request free ice water from any counter service restaurant. Snack carts offer a variety of waters, including coconut water.

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Dinner at the Plaza Inn

Dinner

Dinner is a great time to consider sharing a platter of food. Even if the dish is more indulgent, it’s not quite as bad if you share between 2 or 3.

  • The Citrus-fired grilled chicken platter at Rancho del Zocalo is large and delicious (ask if they can sub black beans for the refried).
  • The oven-roasted chicken platter at French Market Restaurant is another favorite to share.
  • Platters at Plaza Inn are enormous. We buy two plates of fried chicken and share between the five of us. With the sides of mashed potatoes & green beans, we all have enough to eat (and if you’re really watching the calories, you can always remove the skin from the chicken and request no gravy on the potatoes).
How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

This is ONE THIRD of a platter from Plaza Inn! That’s plenty of food, enough for sharing.

  • You can’t go wrong with the Mediterranean skewers at the Paradise Garden Grill. The grilled meat and veggie/tofu skewers are served with rice pilaf and cucumber salad, making them a light and refreshing meal (skip the baklava though!)
  • At Tomorrowland Terrace, choose a portobello sandwich with loads of veggies. Ask for cheese and aioli on the side and fruit instead of fries.
  • The soups at Pacific Wharf Cafe are so delicious, but opt for broth-based rather than cream. And try to minimize the nibble to the sourdough bread bowl!

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

  • At Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta you can order a single slice of pizza. Both locations offer a version that skips the fatty meats and tops your slice with seasonal veggies. Round out your meal with a small side salad.
  • Carnation Cafe offers the Chef’s Vegan Burger made of beans & veggies and served with lots of fresh vegetable toppings on a multigrain roll.
  • The Hacienda chicken Caesar salad at Cocina Cucamonga is large and filling.
How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Platters of fresh Mexican food, enough for four people to share.


Tips to keep in mind when ordering

As a rule when ordering, avoid anything that is fried, battered, smothered, candied or has a creamy sauce. Look for grilled meats and veggies served without sauces.

Don’t be afraid to request a substitution. You can swap fruit instead of fries at counter service restaurants. When ordering at full-service restaurants, ask the Cast Member to put toppings on the side so you can control how much you want to add or leave off. If there is any question about the dish, ask them how it is prepared so you’ll know before it’s in front of you. If you have special dietary requests or food allergies, read this section from the Disneyland website and know that you can speak directly to the restaurant staff or chef with your concerns.

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Skip the buffet if counting calories. Before you know it, you’ve eaten 12 ribs!

If calorie-counting, it’s best to skip the buffets. Unfortunately this eliminates most Character dining experiences, except for Ariel’s Grotto. You can dine with the Princesses and still order a healthy choice off the menu for either breakfast or lunch!

Kids can eat healthy at Disneyland too! When choosing kid’s meals, simply look for the Mickey Check. Mickey Check meals meet Disney Nutrition Guidelines as a complete meals. Some Mickey Check kid’s meals are also vegetarian.

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

Enjoy a corn dog, but share it between the family.

Just one bite. If you and your family would love to indulge in something fun or decadent, buy a corn dog. Treat yourself to a caramel-covered apple. Get that frozen treat or stacked marshmallows dipped in chocolate on a stick. And then share it between all of you. Everyone gets a few bites and you all can enjoy the treat!

How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!)

What are your favorite healthy dining dishes at Disneyland? Share with me in the comments!


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Looking for ways to save on your Disney vacation?  I recommend Park Savers for discount Disney tickets! (affiliate link)

Park Savers affiliate link

Healthy Eating – Making Changes in the Kitchen Towards a Healthier You!

Healthy Eating - Making Changes in the Kitchen Towards a Healthier You! Tons of ideas for getting out of your eating rut and getting healthy.

These are my top 11 tips for ditching the bad eating habits and getting healthy in the kitchen. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring but it does take a certain commitment. Fortunately healthy eating pays off in the end, with more energy and a healthy body.

I am probably the last person on earth who would ever have given healthy eating advice. Several years ago, before I remarried I was a self-confessed fast food addict. There were days when I ate fast food meals three times a day. Needless to say I gained quite a bit of weight and felt sluggish. Getting off the fast food drive-thru track wasn’t easy. It was a die-hard habit and I absolutely went through withdrawals.

Do I still have pizza or burgers on occasion? Yes, but it’s the exception and not the norm. That’s one of the most important thing to remember when choosing healthy eating. There are a few things that kept me sane and yes, it does get easier to eat healthfully!


One thing at a time

Changes like this are hard to make overnight. It’s ingrained in you that you go out for breakfast after church each Sunday. Or that you always buy cookies for the kid’s lunches, because well, you’ve always bought them. Take things one at a time. Best to make a list of changes that you’d like to make and be specific. Several years ago my list would have said, “Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, eat out less, control portions, eat a better breakfast, quit drinking Diet Coke”. I started with the portion control which is probably the best and easiest place to start. Then I moved towards eating out less simply by packing lunches each day and preparing a dinner plan so I wasn’t scrambling each night. I definitely eat more veggies and am still working on getting more fresh fruit (I do aim for an apple a day!) And I am proud to say that I am one month free of my Diet Coke addiction. Those resolutions took me several years, nothing happened overnight. Choose one thing off your list and start now. When you feel like you’ve hit your stride in that area, work on the next item!

Healthy Eating ideas - Cast iron skillet cornbread with Walt Disney's Chili

Walt Disney’s Chili


Have someone who holds you accountable

There are times now when I’d love to pick up burgers and fries for the family instead of cooking. And I’ll admit it, sometimes we do hit In n’ Out but those moments are few and far in between and not the norm. My husband helps to hold me accountable for what we choose to eat. Do I think he’s a meanie sometimes when I really want to order a pizza and he says he’s grilling chicken instead? Yep! But that’s okay, because he has our family’s best interest at heart. And I know if I didn’t have him holding me accountable I’d be eating all sorts of junk that I shouldn’t. Do I still go out to pizza with my girlfriends? Yes, I do but I temper the heavy-calorie days by packing my healthy lunches and eating lots of fresh greens the rest of the week. Who in your life can hold you accountable for your meal choices? Choose someone you’ll still love and respect, even after they’ve given you that look when you reach for a second helping of dessert!

Choose freshly prepared

I grew up in a household that thrived on boxed rice mixes. You know the kind with the sodium-laden seasoning packets? I used to buy them too until I got my rice maker and realized how easy and inexpensive it was to make your own rice. A huge bag of brown rice from Costco is so cheap and our $25 rice maker stops when the rice is done so it doesn’t over or under cook. We add chicken broth or our own seasonings to the water when cooking if we want additional flavor but most of the time we eat it plain. Consider all of the boxed, canned or frozen convenience foods that you could be making in bulk on your own. It’s wonderful to know exactly what ingredients we are eating too. I’ve started mixing up our own salad dressings, cooking beans from scratch and only baking treats like cookies from whole ingredients.

DIY Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing (Old Spaghetti Factory recipe) - My favorite dressing, and so easy to make at home!!

Creamy Pesto Dressing


Take it with you

I’m not a leftovers lover. I don’t really want to eat last night’s rewarmed meal but I often do. Some foods are better than others the second time around, naturally. Given a night in the fridge, meatloaf, lasagna and salad dressings have had time to let their flavors develop and meld. To avoid the temptation of hitting the fast food drive-thru or the office snack machine, make sure you are well-stocked with healthy snacks. Pack your lunch the night before so you only have to grab and go in the morning.

Every few hours snack on a little fat, some protein and a carb to keep up your metabolism (a cheese stick, a few almonds and a small piece of fruit is appropriate). Snacks should hover around 100 calories. Pack things in a cooler lunch bag if you plan on being out and about. My husband makes it a point to keep snacks with him at all times, usually a small bag or nuts to nibble when hunger strikes. It’s nice to have when we’re out running errands and we aren’t close to home. Having the snacks with us helps us resist the urge to stop at a convenience store for treats.

Stay home

I love eating out. It’s nice to get something that you don’t prepare at home and to have someone else clean the dishes. But do I really think that it’s worth the $15+ plate of food when that could easily be enough to feed my entire family several meals at home? I very rarely eat out because it’s expensive, portions are too large and it’s unnecessary when we have food to prepare at home. When you eat at home you know what you’re putting in your food, how much salt or butter has been added to the vegetables and you can control the portions.

Little swaps

Switch out things in the pantry towards healthier choices. White rice for brown. Whole wheat bread instead of white. Fresh oranges instead of processed orange juice. Vegetarian night instead of a meat dish once or twice a week. Not adding butter or salt to the steamed veggies. A dollop of Greek yogurt in your taco instead of sour cream. Fresh fish instead of steak.

If your family is used to doing things a certain way, you may hear some grumblings. Believe me, I was a big time grumbler when my husband brought home a huge bag of uncooked pinto beans. I’ve never liked beans but after preparing them fresh, I actually enjoy them (don’t tell him that!) Think of little swaps that you could make in your meal planning that could remove fat/calories/cholesterol and move your dishes into a more healthy zone.

Healthy Eating ideas - Crock Pot Pinto Beans...cheap & easy! {Saving up for Disney}

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans


Cook in bulk and your leftovers will be your own “fast food”

When making things like beans, biscuits or soups, I tend to prepare double and freeze the leftovers. On those days when your cupboards are bare or you just know that you aren’t going to have it in you to cook dinner that night, simply pull out a bag and let it defrost. Voila! You’ll just have to reheat when you get home and have a hearty meal that’s healthier, cheaper and just as fast as anything you’d find in the drive-thru.

Eat at Home & Save - Recipe for using leftovers - Turkey & Rice Soup

Use Those Leftovers! Turkey and Rice Soup

Love the slow cooker

Toss in fresh ingredients in the morning and have a healthy meal when you get home. Pair it with freshly steamed veggies and you have a balanced dinner (hopefully with leftovers to eat at lunch the next day). We never seem to have leftovers with this amazing dish by Fabio Viviani! A small amount of meat is perfect when cooked in a hearty sauce so you won’t need much to satisfy. Resist the recipes that call for a bunch of canned ingredients as this is going to increase the sodium intake and calorie count. A search for Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes on Pinterest revealed tons of fantastic looking recipes!

Healthy Eating ideas - Crock Pot spare ribs

Start the morning on a good note

I am a terrible breakfast eater who is trying to reform herself. In the old days, a “good” breakfast was either a slice of pastry that my dad had bought at the grocery, a breakfast sandwich picked up from a drive-thru or a doughnut from the convenience store (with a Diet Coke, of course!). Talk about a major blood sugar spike that would have me crashing by 9:00 am! I have started waking up about 15 minutes earlier to cook my kids a healthy breakfast. Sometimes it’s scrambled eggs with a little cheddar cheese, toast and a half a banana. Sometimes they have oatmeal with apples and a glass of milk. I like to make myself a fresh fruit smoothie or just a single piece of wheat toast with a thin spread of peanut butter and a half a banana. I know that if I eat a healthy breakfast at home when I first get up, it’s helps satisfy the tummy-grumbles, gets my metabolism moving and I’ll be less likely to stop and grab junk food.

Log each bite 

Definitely a great place to start, especially if you are a mindless in-front-of-the-computer nibbler like I am. Are you eating right now? *wink* Get a tiny note pad and log your food every day, even the small bites of your kid’s leftover mac and cheese. This is just to give you an idea what you are consuming and put your intake in perspective. At some point you’ll want to figure out the calories to see where you’ll been falling approximately each day. I’ve personally used the Lose It! app on my phone and love how I’m able to plug in my calories, scan bar codes, add in exercise and search for foods. It’s a helpful food log that you can check through the day to make sure you’re staying on track.

Portion Control

One of the “tricks” that I learned right away when I started on the healthier eating bandwagon was to drastically cut my portions. It really snapped things into perspective when I started serving myself half of my normal portions…and I was completely full and content! If you’re used to serving yourself two slices of toast with breakfast try just one. You can still have a cookie, just have two instead of four. Do you find that you’re still hungry? Double the fruits and veggies and continue to half the other portions. Serve up meal plates in the kitchen and promptly refrigerate leftovers to resist the temptation to go back for seconds.

Healthy Eating ideas - Summer Pasta Salad recipe {www.savingupfordisney}

Summer Pasta Salad


I still struggle with certain aspects of healthy eating. But I’m human and I know that “slow and steady wins the race”. Any changes that I make have to be implemented slowly in order for them to stick! I am a work in progress and I’m happy with the changes I’ve made so far.

What are your healthy eating tips? Anything helpful that keeps you on track? Share below in the comments!


I am not a doctor so please consult yours before trying any of these tips.

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