Recently, my family and I took a much-needed vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida! We had an absolute ball exploring the different parks, meeting the characters, and experiencing the many rides. The one thing we found lacking? The food. I know, I know. Disney is known for its wonderful, fun food options and it has even made incredible advancements with its allergy-approved menus, setting itself ahead of the curve in many ways.
So, what do I mean when I say that the food was lacking? Well, as a Type 2 diabetic, keeping track of my carb intake is super important (especially when walking for miles and miles under the hot Florida sun). Yet, Disney unfortunately is not able to provide any nutrition information for all meals on the property. This took me by surprise and, in all honesty, made what would have been an amazing trip really, really hard.
We spent 6 nights and 7 days in Florida. Most of those days were spent with me worrying about what food I could and couldn’t have, having to order breakfast and dinner off-property and have it delivered to our hotel, and not feeling full regardless of what I braved to order from their menu. Needless to say, it was a struggle.
Since I am not sure how to go about getting a multi-billion dollar company to change their food policies, I have instead put together a few tips for those who might be visiting Disney (although this advice works for most situations) who usually rely on nutrition information to help at mealtime.
I’d also like to point out that these steps are not ones we should have to take! However, the burden is truly placed on us to make sure we can eat a proper, nutritious, FILLING, and delicious meal! So, here are some things I wished I learned before I went to Dinsey World as a diabetic.
#1: Find Comparisons
If you are someone who has been doing this for a while, you might already have a basic understanding of what the nutrition facts of a given meal are and can navigate through unknowns that way. For those who don’t know what I mean, this tip involves research. And a lot of it, unfortunately. What you do is find a meal that you know is offered at the location you’re going. And then you find comparable meals from other places that have their nutrition info listed. For example, Disney offers a chicken bowl at Harambe Market in Animal Kingdom. This bowl includes chicken, rice, and mixed greens. Qdoba has all of these ingredients listed in its official nutrition guide on its website. Though this might not be an exact science, it might help you get a more educated estimation.
This step can be tedious as it might require you to search for multiple meals and then you’ll have to keep track of what those meals are. However, if nutrition information is important for your health, it might be worth the effort.
#2: Have an Understanding of Portion Sizes
Now, this one will differ for everyone as recommended portion sizes will vary depending on several factors. If you are seeing a nutritionist, dietician, or another licensed health coach, they should be able to help you understand what “size” portions you should be having for each type of food. For me, this usually means about half a fist full of carbs paired with a fist full of protein and a fist full of veggies. This helps me in place of carb counting understand what sort of meal I can prepare for myself or order out. Using that chicken bowl from tip #1 again, I would order mine with extra chicken and greens and less rice, depending on how the portion sizes are measured. Again, everyone is different! My biggest recommendation is to talk to your doctor or nutritionist!
#3: Bring Your Own Food
I will always be the advocate for being THAT person who brings their own food to a party, gathering, or amusement park. Disney allows guests to bring in outside food! This was welcome news to me as it meant I could pack snacks for myself and be able to rely on those if I couldn’t find something that seemed safe enough to eat in the parks.
Bringing your own food can seem like a daunting task. However, an amusement park like Disney has so much going on that people could not care less what it is you are eating. I sat down at a restaurant and ate my little pre-made snack packs while my mother, husband, and daughter ate food from the restaurant so many times, and not once did I feel like I was getting weird looks from people.
If there is one thing I learned from my time at Disney World, it’s that being an advocate for yourself is so important. Unfortunately, the burden often falls on the person who needs the accommodations and that means that finding support can feel like a chore. Hopefully, this guide provided a little bit more ease of mind surrounding meal options at Disney World and will allow you to enjoy your vacation to the fullest!