Traveling in Disney with a Toddler

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    • #4670
      Dr Robyn

      The happiest place on earth seems to be loaded with places that serve food that makes people “happy”. The silver lining is that Disney seems to take their customer service seriously. Because of this, I feel we have never been turned away, looked at strangely, or otherwise treated rudely/poorly in any restaurants despite clearly asking for entrees that were not the typically served “Standard American Diet” type food; this seemed at times to be the only thing Disney promoted on the menus!


      Initially, the servers would do a variety of things when we requested foods that were plant based. Sometimes the servers would respond with complete panic and just get the chef. This worked really well for us. Sometimes, the servers were very knowledgeable and would give us suggestions before verifying ingredients with the kitchen staff; this gave us different options and worked well also. In general, the ordering process was only as difficult as we made it. We stuck to the basics: Noodles/brown rice, no butter/oil. Broccoli (or other veggie), steamed or no butter/oil. Sweet potatoes, nuts, avocado, fruit. I would scan the menu for the healthy sides that were already on the menu. If they already had a bean side with a dish or guacamole, these would be my go to’s. The options are pretty vast to do both whole food and plant based there, however, if you speak with a chef, just remember they cook and likely are most familiar with the Standard American Diet. Half the battle for me was just knowing what to ask for because sometimes the chefs weren’t familiar with the no oil/no sugar/ no animal product way of eating. Making it easier for them by having some entree suggestions, made it easy for everyone.


      Alright, now this one gets a little tricky. I would guess about 85% of what is served is definitely not whole food plant based. However, the really cool thing about these meals is that there is an “allergy menu” that you can use to see which foods have milk and eggs. From here it is usually apparent which foods have added oil, meat and sometimes sugar. The server was very accepting of the allergy menu and didn’t even question if/what type of allergy we had. I have the feeling many people utilize this menu to gain insight what is actually in the food. Many states are passing laws to make food ingredients more apparent, so this allergy menu if available is actually most helpful! Another thing that I noticed this time that was different than past experiences of eating out was, the baked good section, yes, just walked right past that (don’t even look at it!). There is nothing whole food plant based about sweets. This is a massive section for the buffets, so having the foresight to know and expect it to be there just made navigating to healthy choices that much easier.


      Disney has walk in convenience places throughout the resorts and parks. Most like other convenience places, generally, these places don’t have much to offer that is not processed with the exception of some cut fruit/veggies. Some of the larger ones would have guacamole, hummus, bean salads, however this was the exception, not the norm. Most of them do have shelf stable products, which tend to be processed.


      Both of these methods work pretty decently to get essentials if you’re staying for a few days or more. Many of the lodgings have mini kitchens with at least a microwave and mini fridge. That can make oatmeal and sweet potatoes. I would grab a variety of fresh and frozen veggies at the store, with some hummus, and we were good to go. When I had an infant, I would send supplies directly to where we were staying from Amazon. This was very convenient. Nuts, seed, wheat pasta (and diapers)- all tend to be more economical from Amazon than any local “touristy” store. The stores there do have grocery delivery, so you don’t even have to uber there if you don’t mind someone else picking your groceries. More recently, I’m pretty settled in the types of food we eat and just packed small containers of nuts/seeds/raisins to add to the oatmeal. They don’t weigh too much, so this was simple enough to do.

      All and all traveling while eating whole food plant based has become much easier with the more that I become settled in my routine at home. Knowing what to ask/look for was more than half the battle eating well while traveling. The other half is just knowing that I have to plan my meals there like I do at home. There is constant influence to eat poorly at Disney- ice cream, dole whip, heavy oil filled meals. Even the kids’ clothing stores sell clothing with sweet treats on them! These influences crept in very subtly without me even consciously realizing it, and left me feeling a little overwhelmed before I became aware of how to find healthy alternatives. The unhealthy influences are a lot easier to ignore when I had a mini kitchen stocked with healthy alternatives. Hope this helps someone else, too!


    • #4671
      Dr Robyn

      Melissa –

      What a great post! Thank you SO much for taking the time to write it. The biggest takeaway for me – using Amazon to send food directly to your location. That is brilliant! I always suggest people pack food (if not traveling internationally). But having food arrive via Amazon, that is so smart. You can bet we will be doing that the next time we travel anywhere for a week or more.

      Thanks again!

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