It’s no secret that my daughter Louisa is more than a little produce averse. There was a period of about four years when NO fruit or vegetable crossed her lips, and even now at age 12 she still has to be cajoled into having more than a bite or two of something as innocuous as sweet potato or banana.
So you can imagine my surprise when, on a recent trip to the Animal Kingdom’s Yak & Yeti restaurant, she consumed nearly the entire plate of wok-fried green beans we had ordered for the table. It was one of those parenting moments where you hold your breath and move slowly so as to avoid breaking the spell.
Those Yak & Yeti yummies didn’t turn Louisa into an inveterate bean eater, but she is now occasionally willing to nibble on a tempura string bean if we’re out for Japanese. Based on our prior track record with legumes, I’m going to count that solidly in the win column.
The Theme Park Food Effect
What was it about the Yak & Yeti beans that made Louisa such a fan? Yes, they were quite tasty, and yes, the green part was handily obfuscated by a crunchy, yumtastic fried breading coating; but we had tried similar ploys in the past to no avail. My theory is that the Yak & Yeti beans were flavored by the spice of (cue the orchestra) The Theme Park Food Effect.
Much like campers will say that meals eaten on the trail are the BEST, you know that their experience is colored by the fact that their senses are overwhelmed and they’re starving from an exhausting walk in the hot wilderness. The Theme Park Food Effect is the same thing, only substitute “hot theme park” for “hot wilderness.” In other words, your defenses are down and you’re positively famished, so everything tastes better.
We had previously experienced the Theme Park Food Effect with Louisa’s twin sister, Josie. Josie is generally a far more adventurous eater than her sister, but she too has pockets of food aversion, one of which was non-fish seafood. An order of calamari from Mama Melrose’s at Disney’s Hollywood Studios changed her mindset, and now she’ll readily eat calamri, clams, mussels, and scallops. Score one for the Theme Park Food Effect.
Of course, the Theme Park Food Effect does have its limits. I’m reminded here of a line from the sitcom Seinfeld. Jerry is speaking about his nemesis neighbor’s eating habits and says, “Newman wouldn’t eat broccoli if it were deep fried in chocolate sauce.”
Some kids will never be willing to eat certain foods, even if they’re deep fried in chocolate sauce and personally served to them by Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, and the entire cast of High School Musical. For example, Louisa was going nowhere near that calamari.
And that’s OK, but just in case your child has some food fears or aversions that are nearing the breaking point, The Theme Park Food Effect may be exactly what you need.
“Magical” Disney Foods May Change Your Kids’ Minds About Food Fears
To point you in the right direction, here are some typical food fears, and the Walt Disney World dishes that could possibly work the Theme Park Food Effect magic on your children.
If veggies are a no-go for your kid, try:
- Wok-fried green beans. Yak & Yeti, Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
- Capricossa pizza (with eggplant and artichoke). Via Napoli, Epcot. Pizza is a great delivery method for any new food.
- Carrot cake cookie. Writer’s Stop, Disney’s Hollywood Studios; and other locations. For some kids, even this little bit of “orange food” is a good start.
- Okonomi Yaki.Katsura Grill, Epcot. This pancake-like dish has some shredded veggies in the batter.
- Sweet potato pancakes. Boma, Animal Kingdom Lodge; and The Wave, Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
If your little one won’t eat fruit, try:
- Caramel apples. Main Street Confectionery, Magic Kingdom; and other locations. They may try to eat the candy off of the apple, but it’s worth a shot.
- Pineapple bread pudding. ‘Ohana, Polynesian resort. If your child does eat this, ask for the recipe, it’s readily available.
- Frozen banana. Frozen novelty carts throughout all four theme parks.
- Chocolate and caramel covered grapes. Karamell-Küche, Epcot.
- Chocolate covered pineapple. Main Street Confectionery, Magic Kingdom; and Karamell-Küche, Epcot.
- Chilled strawberry soup. 1900 Park Fare, Grand Floridian. Tastes like a smoothie, but sometimes the presentation as soup draws curiosity.
If your kiddo has an aversion to spices, try:
- Chicken curry with rice. ABC Commissary, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Mild enough to be a starter food.
- Pumpkin spice funnel cake. Funnel cake stand, American Adventure, Epcot. Even cinnamon and nutmeg are too strong for some children. Fried dough is about as appealing a delivery vehicle as could possibly exist.
- Beef Brewat Rolls. Restaurant Marrakesh, Epcot. On the appetizer menu. Lightly sugar-dusted beef pastry with cinnamon.
If your child doesn’t eat seafood, try:
- Fried Calamari. Mama Melrose’s, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Raglan Road, Downtown Disney. Via Napoli, Epcot. Other restaurants serve this option as well.
- Shrimp stir fry. Teppan Edo, Epcot. Sometimes the presentation is enough to distract a child. If an adult in your party orders the shrimp, ask the chef if he will offer a bit to your child.
- Fried rock shrimp. Kona Cafe, Polynesian resort. Sometimes the sweeter rock shrimp has more appeal to children than regular shrimp.
- Scallop forest. Raglan Road, Downtown Disney. Deep fried AND a festive presentation.
- Smoked salmon. Akershus Princess Fairytale lunch or dinner, Epcot. The lunch and dinner meals here come with an included stop at the Norwegian-themed cold appetizer buffet. The buffet features a variety of cold (and thus less smelly) fish dishes.
- Lamb meatballs. Kouzzina. Disney’s Boardwalk. If your child will eat regular beef or pork meatballs, then presenting other meats in this form can be helpful.
- Duck meatballs. Le Cellier, Epcot.
- Tandoori lamb. Sanaa. Animal Kingdom Lodge.
- Mediterranean Sliders Combo. Tangierine Cafe, Epcot. Start with the chicken slider, then move on to the lamb.
“Different” Meats Aversion
If your kids would rather not try meat other than beef, chicken, and pork, try:
Eidtor’s Note: If all else fails, try the tactic of drowning uneaten veggies in whipped cream and sprinkles like they do at 50’s Prime Time Cafe! Or…maybe not…
So parental units, have you had any Theme Park Food Effect moments in your life? Is there something that you thought your child would NEVER eat, but consumed with gusto at Walt Disney World?
Let us know your picky eater secrets in the comments below!