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Managing Your Diet Plan in Disney World: Low-Carb Diets

One thing I haven’t been able to master is staying on a specialized diet plan in Disney World. Luckily, I have a few friends who have been able to be diet plan superstars while on vacation, and they’ve agreed to share some of their secrets with you! This series will include information about vegetarian, vegan, and low-carb dining, as well as dining in Disney World after having weight loss surgery.

Today, we welcome guest author Christina Relacion again to the food blog. She’s been successful with the South Beach low-carb diet in Disney World and has some great tips and tricks!

Good vibes -- Posted in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Healthy dining at Walt Disney World. That sounds like an oxymoron. With fried foods, hamburgers and devilish desserts around every corner, it must be impossible. I’m always trying to watch my weight, and being a foodie, that can be hard with all the great choices at home and on the road, especially at a place like Walt Disney World.

Fruit at Boma in Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Last year, I started on the South Beach Diet, a diet plan created by Arthur Agatston that helps you determine good carbs from bad carbs and good fats from bad fats. One of the first things I thought of when beginning the diet was: “Can I do this while I’m at Disney?” And you’re probably saying to yourself…Hmm, this means no Dole Whips, no Oreo bon-bons and no beignets.

No one can go to Disney and not indulge. Being on a specialized diet plan — whether it’s South Beach, Atkins, Weight Watchers or another plan — is all about making the right choices. And one thing Disney does well is give you choices.

Hummus at Boma in Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Restaurants To Try

You don’t have to sacrifice good flavors and fine dining to keep your waistline in check. Here are some great places to try if you’re trying to watch your weight or just want something a little healthier:

Boma
Try the variations of hummus on the buffet at Boma. I really enjoyed the black bean version. Many of the foods at Boma, like the couscous and fufu (a sort of sweet potato casserole), are high in fiber and grain and great choices. They’ll keep you feeling fuller longer, too. For dessert, try some of the great fresh fruits. For South Beachers on phases 2 or 3, you can even enjoy some of the exotic African wine selections.

Miso Soup at Tokyo Dining in Epcot

Tokyo Dining
What better to get your Omega-3’s and good fats than fish!? The sushi and other dishes at Tokyo Dining are fabulous. (You can read my Disney Food Blog guest review of Tokyo Dining by clicking here.) One of my favorite dishes is the miso soup with tofu. A wonderful start to a meal that provides a good source of protein.

Restaurant Marrakesh
One restaurant I haven’t tried, but would love to based on its menu, is Restaurant Marrakesh at the Morocco pavilion at Epcot. Its variety of couscous dishes and seafood sounds amazing. I would love to hear from you if you’ve tried it.

Tips and Suggestions For Staying on Track

One of the most important things to remember as you vacation is to be conscious of the decisions you make:

  • Instead of having that Mickey ice cream bar, try a piece of fresh fruit
  • Lemon Chicken and Couscous at Marrakesh in Epcot

  • Pack your own snacks. Many diet plans offer quick meal replacement bars. I really enjoy South Beach’s dark chocolate covered soy nuts. They’re a quick and easy way to stave off hunger and small enough to throw in a purse.

Also, remember when you make your dining reservations to let the cast member know that you have dining restrictions such as low-carb, diabetic, gluten-free, or another allergy. Then, kindly remind them when you check in for your reservation that you need to avoid certain foods. At many buffets, a chef will walk you around to show you choices that you should avoid or even prepare you something special. Just be sure to ask! (Editor’s Note: Check out our Special Diets Reference Section for lots of good info about how to contact Disney before your trip to discuss dining needs.)

Fruit Options at Magic Kingdom

I have been no saint since deciding to start losing weight. But, in six months, I have lost 17 pounds. Even better, my blood pressure is lower and so is my cholesterol. Slowly but surely the pounds are coming off and I’m confident that I can keep them off even while vacationing at Disney as long as remember to keep the sugary sweets and refined flours in moderation. Plus, with all the walking every day –- I don’t feel as bad!

So what other tips do you have for healthy dining at Disney? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to Tweet me @CRelacion!

Thanks again, Christina! To see another take on healthy eating in Disney World, check out our previous general post on the subject! Also, stay tuned for more in the special diets series, coming soon!

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16 Comments

  1. TJ says:

    I am a perpetual healthy eater…basically everything whole wheat, whole grain, veggies, lean proteins, no red meat, etc. Some of my tricks while at Disney included: sticking to my three meals with no snacks (other than ones I brought like hummus and carrot sticks), I ate breakfast in my hotel room (regular cheerios with fat free milk), lunch was always light (a salad with light dressing, a hummus sandwich on whole wheat), and dinner I attempted to get a well rounded meal with veggies, whole grains, and good proteins (the grilled chicken breast at Yak and Yeti with brown rice and veggies was fabulous!) However, i was on vacation, so i did allow myself one “snack/dessert” per day…eating a whole butterfinger cupcake by yourself can’t be THAT bad, right?

  2. Todd says:

    Thanks AJ. I love articles like this. Granted I tend to like to splurge when I’m at WDW, but these suggestions are great for days I feel I’ve already had my fill.

  3. Kelly says:

    I just started Weight Watchers (10 pounds down in 4 weeks!) And I have no intention of trying to follow it when I go in October. It might be bad, but if I totally derail, I’ll beat myself up over it. Allowing myself to go “off plan,” will save me from totally derailing the entire diet rather than just 1 week. Though I’m sure I’ll choose more healthy options now that I’m more aware of what I’m eating.

  4. Erin says:

    Kelly – I’m also on WW (35 down so far!) and will be also going in October, how funny! It’s our yearly vacation to Disney and I am definitely not planning on counting points. Since I don’t crave the things I used to crave anymore, making healthy choices and not overeating will just be second nature at this point, so I’m not worried. I think while on vacation you have to enjoy yourself while just simply being conscious of what you’re putting in your body. There is certainly enough options to choose from at Disney, too!

  5. John Grigas says:

    I really admire the discipline it takes to stay “true” while at WDW! It’s easy to justify the calories since you walk so much, but it doesn’t always add up okay!

    My wife and I will split 3 or 4 counter service meals or snacks instead of the big table service meal. (Our favorite is to split a Chicken Shawarma platter at the Tangerine Cafe! Although we do submit to the Chili Cheese Fries at Pecos Bills . . . hey . . . it’s not so bad if we split it, right?)

  6. I think of any vacation destination, Disney does a really awesome job of making healthy options available to people. Even with my gastrically altered stomach, I still grab a bite or two from a shared Dole Whip, but I’ve been fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of quite a few Disney chefs who have helped me even in the early stages of my new way of eating. There are healthy options in every corner of the World!

  7. Elisabeth says:

    My partner and I have both dropped 20 pounds in the last two months, but we always try to split meals while at WDW. One of us will get a salad and the other will get an entree and we split both so we can get a well balanced meal on at least one meal. We always lose weight at WDW when we combine this with walking all day. Another calorie saving measure is we always try to have a granola bar while waiting for the bus on our way to the parks. That way, we aren’t so hungry and we have a lighter snack when we get hungry later.

  8. Lorie says:

    I follow South Beach as well and have done very well with the plan. The beauty of it is that you can go off the SB eating lifestyle for vacay and then go back to Phase 1. That’s what I plan to do in Sept. I rarely gain at WDW because of all of the walking. I have a Mickey Bar, Dole Whip, or other dessert every day. I do tend to choose more salad’s over sandwiches. WDW has some wonderful and different salad’s from which to choose.

  9. Cheryl says:

    Well I’m on a diet as well. I give the chef a certain amount of calories along with being Gluten free – and Ovo vegetarian when I eat out. I’ve had some great meals.

  10. chris says:

    This is a great article. I’m going to pass it onto my neighbor who eats low carb and is worried about taking her grand kids to Disney World next month.

    Thank you!

  11. Lynne says:

    I have a deep aversion to any sort of plan that restricts foods and I certainly do not believe in restriction while at WDW. I’ve managed to lose about 80 pounds over the last year and a half while eating the things that I want (counting calories) and exercising. I refuse to count any calories when I’m at Disney. I’m going to eat what I want when I want. They have plenty of healthy snacks for those times when you don’t want another ice cream sandwich. It’s all about balance for me because I believe that food (especially Disney) is meant to be enjoyed–not micromanaged.

  12. Meg says:

    I find that if we do the Disney Dining Plan, we end up eating much too much food, so this time around, we’re not going to purchase that – instead, we’re getting Tables in Wonderland, which will help us save money and we don’t feel like we have to order an appetizer, entree and dessert.

    We only drink water or unsweetened ice tea – neither of us are big pop/soda drinkers, so we don’t order that, which saves on calories and carbohydrates.

    Like others have stated, for counter service, we usually order one entree and two side salads and split the entree. Since my husband is a carb-lover and I really try to watch them (similar to South Beach way of eating), he usually eats more of the carb side-dish (if there is one). However, if we truly want something (i.e, Dole Whip – I can’t give that up), we’ll have it. We eat pretty healthy normally, keeping saturated fat and simple carbs low, so eating at Disney is just an extension of that. I do think that one has to keep in mind that you’re on vacation and allow for the occasional splurges.

    We eat a healthy breakfast in our hotel room and then when we do have table service meals, I ask for extra veggies instead of rice/noodles/potatoes/whatever.

    Great blog post!

  13. Missy says:

    I lost 80 pounds on Atkins, and am now on lifetime maintenance. So I’m glad to see articles like this, but hummus, fruit, sweet potato casserole, and couscous? Unless you’re maintaining, most of these aren’t really low-carb choices. I wish this article were headed with “South Beach” instead of “Low-Carb”, because the diets can actually be wildly different.

  14. AJ says:

    TJ — I’m inspired by your choices. Thanks for sharing some of your secrets (will definitely try the chicken breast with rice and veggies at Yak and Yeti!). Also, I can’t imagine how you ate the whole BF cupcake by yourself, but I give you kudos, my friend!

    Todd — Exactly. After the first couple of days, I dread the “recovery” time at home, so I start to clean up my choices a bit!

    Kelly and Erin — I think that makes sense. Don’t psychologically sabotage all the good progress you’ve made by not “allowing” any splurges while at WDW. Also, there are some really fun “splurges” that have nothing to do with food at WDW — treat yourself to a massage or some parasailing, too!

    John — I think splitting stuff is a GREAT suggestion! The portions are always large, anyway, so you’re unlikely to be hungry afterwords! (Plus, if you ARE hungry, you can always get more.)

    Anna S. — Thanks for chiming in! I’m looking forward to your addition to this Disney Food Blog post series!

    Elisabeth — Great point on the granola bars in the morning. I always try to bring a protein shake or nutri-grain bar to snack on before we leave the room so that I’m not STARVING by lunchtime!

    Lorie — Disney has definitely strengthened their salad offering! Any that you’re particularly looking forward to?

    Cheryl — I imagine the chefs know you and Todd pretty well now! :-) They’re SO creative when it comes to special requests and diets; I can only imagine the kind of gourmet fare you’ve received for those 300 calories!

    chris — Thanks for passing the info along! (Can’t wait to see you in October!)

    Lynne — My husband and I have tried every diet known to man, but we’ve come to realize that we simply need to manage the amount and quality of food that goes in our bodies, and move those bodies MORE! Your comment is inspiring!

    Meg — Congrats on getting Tables in Wonderland! We can’t live without it. Don’t forget to use the awesome free valet parking feature if you’re dining in a resort hotel :-) Thanks, also, for your comment — we’re trying to adopt a similar viewpoint toward food.

    Missy — I had some success with Atkins as well, and actually went to WDW while doing a long-term induction phase, so I hear you. I stuck mostly to bun-less hot dogs and burgers, and ‘Ohana was a dream come true ;-) I think that for those on maintenance in Atkins or doing other low-carb diets like South Beach, the choices mentioned could be great pinch-hitters while in WDW :-)

  15. Nate says:

    Not to hijack this post, but I was wondering if Disney releases nutritional information for any of its restaurants. I’m doing Weight Watchers, and it would be great to translate that nutritional info into “Points.” Heck, I’d be happy to share that info with everyone if I could get my hands on the nutritional info. Any leads?

    Also, I’m in the same boat with the folks who say they will eat “what they want when they want.” I’m on vacation, darn it!!! I remember, however, when I lived next to Disneyland how tempting it was to eat churros and clam chowder bowls whenever I wanted. So, maybe the Points would be more beneficial for you lucky locals. :)

  16. Kelly says:

    Hey Nate: The counter service places all have books that include nutritional information. I’m not sure if it includes calories, fat, & fiber, because it’s mainly used for allergy information. Might be worth a look though.

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