Let’s face it. Everyone’s got a picky eater. Whether it’s your kid, your Mom, your husband, or YOU, someone in the group doesn’t eat salad, stays away from seafood, or has a thing about not eating anything that isn’t peanut butter.
The great news is, Disney parks are destinations where none of that has to matter. There are enough choices (whether they’re on the menu or not) that everyone can find something to fill their tummies.
Here are a few tips I’ve gleaned from my personal experience and from readers about navigating the parks with a picky eater. These are highlighted (and even illustrated) with some great comments from Disney Food Blog Facebook Fans!:
Contact Disney Ahead of Time
If the situation is dire and you liken the picky eating behavior to a special dietary need, you can always call Disney ahead of time to be sure that your needs will be taken care of at any table service restaurant where you’ll be dining. Check our Special Diets at Disney resources to learn more.
From Linds P: If you have something you know they’ll like, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org with your pre-made reservations info. You can make sure the foods you like will be there.
Christina W. says: My best friend is a vegetarian who also needs to eat low-carb. She doesn’t like a lot of dairy either. We’ve found that eating at TS restaurants are better for us because she can get specially made meals. She’s not picky (she’ll eat a salad and nothing else) but she likes good food. We ordered a vegetarian sushi platter at California Grill last December that was really amazing. It was almost too pretty to eat.
Victoria S. mentions: I was able to special order chicken fingers & French fries at liberty tree tavern for my niece & nephew. Call the special diets number that is on your confirmation email online or ask when you’re on the phone. Buffets are a good for grazing and getting picky ones to trying something new- they’re not stuck with a whole plate of something they don’t like.
Choose Restaurants With Lots of Choices
Buffets and all-you-can-eat spots are great for this sort of thing, as they usually offer options for every palate. Buffets will always include a kids’ section with dishes like pasta marinara, mac and cheese, chicken fingers or chicken nuggets, pizza, etc. They’ll also have salad areas (for lunch and dinner) and make-your-own-omelet stations (for breakfast), so guests will be able to choose exactly what goes into their meal.
Crystal B. mentions: Buffets for table service meals are the best bet because of the wide variety of options! And the Disney chefs are great at accommodating! When my daughter was 2 1/2 she refused to eat anything but cheese one night when we were at Crystal Palace. The waiter asked why she wouldn’t eat and I told him. He came out with the biggest bowl of cheese cubes I’ve ever seen! She was happy as a clam!
Kristen H. chimes in: I think buffets are great for 2 reasons. 1) There’s bound to be something that they like, and most DW buffets include some sort of mainstay like chicken fingers, etc. 2) If you’re an adventurous eater, you can get something out of their comfort zone, eat it and moan with pleasure, and make the picky eater try it. I really picture Boma in this situation.
Nancy M. proves out Kristen’s theory: I am a little afraid of new “foods.” I usually get my hubby to order something and then I steal it from him. Works every time
Sandra G. says: Husband is diabetic, son is autistic, and I try to eat vegetarian for most meals. We don’t want to spend huge amounts of time and money eating Table Service meals as we have wonderful restaurants in our home area near D.C. That means mostly Counter Service for us–and we find the good old food court at our resort (All Stars Music) works great. My husband loves the turkey dinners, our son will eat most fried items, and I go off the veggies at least once per trip for the salmon dinner.
We also like Sunshine Seasons for the variety; you will find something there for the pickiest eater of any age. Places like Columbia Harbour House, Cosmic Ray’s and the Backlot Express also will accommodate a range of tastes and dietary preferences, including kosher.
And Boma is wonderful for those who want something exotic/vegetarian/meaty/familiar. My son wasn’t the only adult chowing down on chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, fruit and cookies! We got to enjoy some great new tastes and he was happy too.
Melia S. says: Ha ha! That’s me… my family usually eats at buffets, which are good for picky eaters. And then if I end up not eating much, I just get snacks (popcorn, pretzels, mickey ice cream bars…) before or after to hold me over.
Amber H. replies: I’m a picky eater myself, so when my husband & I were planning our trip, we made good use of online menus to plan our restaurants before we left. Buffets & food courts were great choices … but pretty much everything had at least something I’d eat!!
But a word of warning…
Christina W. says: Buffets work well with picky kids, but some of the pastas are a little iffy. Take the mac and cheese, which you’ll find on every buffet at WDW. My kids won’t touch it. They did like the pasta and red sauce at Boma. I wish they’d have that everywhere. Counter Service works pretty well for them also.
Head to “Meat and Potatoes” Places
When it comes to Disney table service restaurants, you can usually find at least one steak, chicken, and/or pasta dish listed that can be modified to fit any picky eater’s requirements. That said, if choice is what you’re looking for, there are some restaurants that are known for their meat and potatoes reputation.
Eric L. relays this story: My friend “D” doesn’t actually eat food. She lives mainly on frozen food-like objects like chicken fingers and Papa John’s Pizza. She’s also an obsessive Disney geek. I’m a top down food eater. I’ll attempt just about anything (provided it doesn’t bite back or contain mushrooms that could kill me). We tend to stick to places that appear “safe.” There are plenty of meat and potatoes places like Le Cellier, Rose and Crown, Sci-Fi, or 50′s Prime Time. Sometimes I do want to eat somewhere more exotic, like Sanna or my beloved San Angel Inn. In those cases we are perfectly happy to split our party — even if it’s into parties of two or three and one. Flexibility is the key.
Erin T. says: I have the pickiest boyfriend! However, I have noticed if there is a good sized steak with a type of potato…we are golden! I will eat anything, so I got him to eat at Tokyo Dining with the promise of steak. It was his favorite meal! Plus, I got to indulge in my favorite…sushi! Win win!
Use the Vacation to Explore Outside the Comfort Zone
Because Disney food is usually so safe for picky eaters, it’s also an opportunity to try some new items while knowing you have a back-up plan of mac and cheese if need be!
Nikki N. takes the risk: I’m a fairly picky eater, but I try to put that aside when I’m at Disney World. I tell myself that I have to step out of my comfort zone and try new foods! Being on the free dining plan helps that a bit because if I don’t like it…well, there’s plenty other food to choose from later!
Thanks to everyone for these great tips and tricks! Disney parks are safe havens — both table service and counter service restaurants — for picky eaters, but that last tip is a good one. Consider stepping out of your comfort zone to try a few new items; you never know what you’re going to find!
Do you have tips for eating with picky eaters in Disney parks and resorts, or are YOU a picky eater who has found some good staples in the restaurants? Let us know in the comments section below!