French fries or apples? Apples, please.
Believe it or not, the above was a real, unprompted exchange between a Disney cast member and my 9-year-old son at the Corn Dog Castle at Disneyland. I don’t know what was more impressive, that he opted for apples over fries or that apples were even offered at a theme park.
Recent visitors to Disney World or Disneyland may have noticed a change in food offerings at the iconic theme parks. The shift started back in 2006, but was most noticeable on my last visit in 2014. Disney now serves well-balanced kids’ meals at its parks and resorts, which automatically include nutritious sides and beverages such as carrots and low-fat milk, unless parents opt out. Surprisingly, of the more than 12 million kids’ meals served last year at Disney Parks and Resorts in the U.S., parents stuck with the healthier options 6 out of 10 times.
Now to be fair, my son’s apples were paired with a not-so-healthy corn dog, but Disney isn’t out to take away your Dole Whip. They are simply offering alternatives to these celebratory foods and that’s a mission I can get behind. Here are five ways to eat healthier at Walt Disney World.
1. Look for the Mickey Check
The Mickey Check is a tool to make it easy for parents to identify nutritious choices while on vacation. Menus have the Mickey Check displayed by foods that meet Disney nutrition guidelines developed by health experts and aligned to federal dietary guideline recommendations. Mickey Check meals are available in US parks at both quick-service and sit down restaurants. Need more specifics on the Mickey Check Guidelines, visit www.disneymickeycheck.com.
2. Try It
Not only is Disney improving their nutritious options, but they are also on a campaign to inspire kids, and adults to try new foods. The Try It! Campaign is designed to inspire kids to try new foods and new activities. At EPCOT it’s easy to visit a new country and try one of their foods, in China we found sweet and sour chicken on the kids menu. Disney also has a host of vegetarian options too.
On a recent trip to Disney World, one of our party had several food allergies. Rather than take a chance, the chef came out to our table and discussed the allergies directly with our friend. They discussed what she could and could not have and he was even honest enough to say “I can’t guarantee no nuts in our kitchen.” In the end, they were able to settle on a dinner that was enjoyable and allergen free.
3. Go for the Fruit
We’ve noticed a lot more fresh fruit carts with other healthy offerings like hummus and fresh veggies at the Disney parks. Apparently, that wasn’t my imagination. Disney has been working to offer more ‘better for you food stands’ in the parks. This post from the Disney Blog showcases all the locations throughout Disney World to get fresh whole fruit and other better for you foods.
4. Plan Your Dining Before You Arrive
With Disney’s new My Disney Experience, you can plan all your meals before you arrive, and have an itinerary ready to go. This way you can plan for healthy meals, rather than just grab and go in the parks. The only downside at this time is you can’t search dining establishments by the Mickey Check program, which would be nice. Perhaps that’s coming in the next wave.