I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We were able to spend it with our family in a unique way this year. We had the opportunity to take a trip down to Disney World during, apparently, the busiest time of year to visit! For this crowd-shy introvert we couldn’t have picked a worse time, but really it wasn’t all that bad. With the FastPass we were able to get into almost everything we wanted to see and I don’t think we stood in line more than 20 mins for any ride on standby. My only wish is that we had taken more pictures but we were having so much fun that sometimes you just don’t want to view your whole vacation through a camera lens.
But y’all, I was SO NERVOUS about eating Paleo on our trip! I’m not someone who eats on this diet because it sounds good for my health. I HAVE to eat Paleo or I feel miserable. One meal with the wrong ingredients and my stomach becomes a disaster for a good two weeks. While some eat 80/20 on the diet, I don’t have the luxury of cheating every now and then. For me, it’s Paleo 24/7 or nothing. Thank goodness I had heard that the parks are open to helping people with special diets enjoy their meals. So, since I learned so much I thought it would be a good idea to share the information. Save it for later! I hope it helps you plan your trip out and not have to worry so much about your meals.
Eating Paleo at Disney World isn’t really as hard as you might think!
Downtown Disney – We pulled into Orlando around dinner time and spent a few minutes stretching our legs at the hotel before jumping back in the car. We had late dinner reservations at Fulton’s Crab House in Downtown Disney. It was pretty easy to pick out a few dishes that worked for a Paleo diet – no fried, breaded or scampi. The Ahi Tuna with Papaya Mango Salsa was an easy choice, and it was great! The waiter talked with the chef himself to make sure that my selection was safe to eat.
Lunch – San Angel Inn (Mexico) – This is one of our favorite restaurants within the parks. Each time we visit we make a reservation to eat at the Inn and have consistently had great meals. It was no surprise that this meal was equally as good. The menu actually had several dishes I couldv’e eaten without too many modifications but I chose to inform the waitress just in case. The chef actually came out to the table to discuss what dishes he could prepare and how he could adjust a few to suit my needs. We agreed upon the chef’s special of pork tenderloin with roasted peppers (Lomo de Puerco en Pipian). Normally it’s covered with a spicy tomato/pepper sauce that’s dairy-based but he offered to bring a chipotle sauce on the side. I am SO GLAD it was on the side because it was beyond my level of spice tolerance! In all, the meal was great – the pork was cooked perfectly and the peppers and onions were good but I’m sure the normal sauce would have brought it up a notch.
Dinner – Nine Dragons (Japan) – I thought this would be an easy restaurant to adjust for eating Paleo but it turns out I was wrong. Still, they were very accommodating, just like in Mexico, by having the chef come out of the kitchen to talk with me about my options. They offered many Paleo-approved dishes, such as stir frys and a crispy chicken but I wanted something in between. The chef offered to create his Canton Pepper Beef with a special sauce. They called it a “white sauce” only because they left out the soy sauce while cooking. When they brought out the dish they offered gluten-free tamari on the side to pour over the meal. It turned out pretty tasty but left me a little disappointed. Next time instead of going middle of the road, I would recommend trying a lighter stir fry or go ahead and save your large meal for here. The chicken looked delicious.
Snacks – This is a park you’ll want to pack your own snacks for. The snack carts along the side of the walkways were filled with pastries and sugary foods. We were amazed by the gigantic cinnamon buns that had to be as big as one of Princess Lea’s buns. They must have been 8-10 inches across! I was grateful for my fruit and Lara bars.
Lunch – Liberty Tree Tavern – We hit the jackpot here. The chef came out and introduced herself, listed a few options and adjustments she could make, and we settled on the pot roast without gravy and mashed potatoes made without milk. Awesome! I devoured the dish and never even missed the milk or gravy. And then she asked me what kind of dessert I wanted. Dessert? Just out of pure curiosity I asked what was offered. Woah! A gluten-free/dairy-free chocolate chip cookie with my choice of either soy, tofu or coconut ice cream a la mode. There was little room left after the pot roast but I wasn’t going to pass this opportunity up!
Dinner – Crystal Palace – Located on Main Street, they offer a buffet, which worked well for everyone’s tastes and allowed me to pick and choose what to eat. Some of the Paleo options were tilapia, green beans and a Greek chicken dish, if you scraped off the feta cheese. Winnie The Pooh and friends were walking around to the tables so we were able to keep the kids entertained. One word of caution: don’t book your meal during a parade. When walking out of the restaurant we were in the back of a line 10 people deep and struggled to find our stroller. Then in order to go to a Fast Pass in the back of the park, we had to go all the way around Cinderella’s castle and battle the crowds.
Snacks – The Magic Kingdom snack options were pretty much the same as Epcot, with one exception. When our girls asked for some ice cream we headed back to Main Street to the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, which offered soy and tofu ice cream options. I can’t say I was overly excited to try them so I passed but on a hot day they may be a good option.
Disney Hollywood Studios:
***Hollywood Studios seems to have a policy if a reservation does not show up they will not allow a walk-in to take the table. After trying for months to make lunch and dinner reservations at the park we were unable to snag anything. To make matters worse, we ended up in a downpour the entire day. The rain didn’t hamper our spirits but we were frustrated when we were turned away from empty restaurants because of their policy. And, since we couldn’t find an open dinner reservation we ended up leaving early and eating closer to our hotel.
Lunch – Pizza Planet Arcade – Good food…if you’re not on a special diet. Ugh. The only option was a Antipasto Salad on greens with an Italian Vinaigrette. The dressing was questionable but I wasn’t left with many options. In fact, all of the quick meal restaurants in the park seemed to offer the same thing. Lots of heavy carbs and one small salad option.
The menus at the other restaurants didn’t look very promising – heavy carbs, fried and sugary foods. Maybe if Hollywood Studios had been more open with their reservation policy I would’ve had a chance to talk with the chefs about modifying the meals. Hollywood and Vine did offer some good meat options on their buffet.
Snacks – There were many quick snacks stands located throughout the park that offered fresh fruit, yogurts and other healthy choices.
Lunch – Yak and Yeti – Hands down my favorite meal out of the entire trip. We struggled to find lunch reservations at the park, as well, but we walked up and took a chance and got into Yak and Yeti in 10 minutes, with lines out the door. (It may have been because it was just my husband and I) The chef came out and was very careful to point out one of my suggestions had dairy in the sauce and instead he recommended the Duck with Anandapur Glaze, with jasmine rice and stir-fried vegetables. I subbed brown rice for the white. IT.WAS.AWESOME! The duck was cooked perfect, the skin was crispy, the sauce was a perfect touch of sweet and I couldn’t get enough of the vegetables. I was so impressed I asked the waitress to thank the chef for the best meal we had during our stay. We will definitely eat here again next time we visit.
The Flame Tree Barbecue would have been another great option, and rated very highly on UrbanSpoon. Tamu Tamu Refreshments offers a chicken or vegetarian Curry over jasmine rice, that looked and smelled delicious.
Dinner – Rainforest Cafe – And while lunchtime was the high point of the meals, dinner was the lowest point. We tried for weeks to get a reservation at the Rainforest Cafe because we thought the kids would enjoy the atmosphere and clearly, we forgot how terrible the food was from our last trip. I was going light that night since lunch was so large and opted for the Volcanic Cobb Salad. It was terrible. The bottom half of the lettuce was old and wilted. They covered it with another type of fresh lettuce hoping I wouldn’t notice. The meats were tasteless. The dressing was non-existent. If I’m served a meal that I’m not very happy with I normally keep eating just so I’m not dying of hunger later but I just couldn’t finish even half of this. To make matters worse, I ordered a strawberry mojito, which turned out to consist of only sprite and strawberry flavoring. Gross. It was worse than the salad. My mom ordered a pasta dish that was literally swimming in sauce. The chicken nuggets on my girl’s plate were clearly frozen beforehand.
Snacks – I was very, very impressed the sensitivity the Animal Kingdom Park showed to those on special diets. There was one stand in particular that offered someone to speak with that could recommend certain dishes/restaurants according to your allergies/special needs. The stand even offered snacks like hummus and vegetables and dairy-free ice cream. Some of the other food stands offered more exotic foods, such as Thai Coconut Soup. There was a great fruit market in Africa.
After spending four days at the resort, I’ve come to the conclusion that each park operates independently, to an extent. They all seemed to offer different options for those that are on special diets. I was grateful each chef I met seemed genuinely interested in coming out to speak with the guests and making adjustments to the menu.
And if you’re visiting with kids, I highly recommend using Kingdom Strollers. We rented a double stroller, which is the nicest stroller I’ve ever used. It practically pushed itself! It was delivered right to our hotel and then picked back up when we were done. And the cost turned out cheaper than if we had rented one of the hard plastic strollers from the park.
As an added bonus, you can also have groceries delivered to your hotel room through StrollersandGroceries.com. They offer a limited selection but did have fresh fruits and other gluten-free snacks.
And, of course, a few more gratuitous photos of my lovely girls 🙂