Theme park vacations can really frustrate our plans when it comes to providing healthy meal options for ourselves and our families. If you're headed to Disneyland in California or Disney's California Adventure, there are tons of healthy options if you know where to look. Here's your guide to staying healthy at the Happiest Place on Earth!
How did I come up with this list exactly? While I'm a veg fanatic, my husband and kids are omnivores so there are options for both preferences. Disney does not provide any nutrition facts (other than those for potential allergens) so the entrees selected have been chosen for their ingredients and manner of preparation.
Bengal Barbeque is my fave spot for a snack or midday fueling. Start off with the Outback Vegetable Skewer (or two!). Each skewer includes a mix of roasted veggies and a potato- a great pick-me-up after a long morning of walking the park! If you're inclined, add a Chieftan Chicken Skewer with tangy Polynesian sauce (but start with those veggies!). My kids love these as well so no need to worry about a separate kids menu here.
Fantasyland/Main Street U.S.A
Uh, so Fantasyland is a bit of a nutritional dud. Village Haus does offer a Grilled Chicken Sandwich (say no to the cheese and aioli) but the veggie options are lacking here to round out the meal. A better bet would be to head back through the castle to Main Street U.S.A. Just beyond the statue of Mickey and Walt is a gem of a place called Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe.
The salad options are wonderful here, just be careful about keeping dressings, nuts, and cheeses on the side so you can control the portion (or eliminate them all together). I LOVED the Vegetable and Whole Grain Salad. The dressing is rather oily so I ditched it and went with a packet of Fat Free Italian Dressing they had with the napkins and straws- worked perfectly.
For your little Mouseketeers, they have the most adorable Turkey Sandwich Meal. The sandwich comes on a cute little fish-shaped whole grain bun and options for sides include carrots, fruit, and a little bottled water. It's a ton of food for those hungry little tummies and a great value. This sandwich meal is offered around Disneyland, including Village Haus.
Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante in Frontierland has a couple of options with portion sizes that are more fitting for a dinnertime meal, after a day of wandering the park end to end. The Baked Fish tacos (without the Chipotle Aioli) work great with some pico de gallo. You can also sub the rice and beans for veggies, which I recommend. I also suggest eating the taco fillings without the tortillas to keep the meal lighter- you could also do this with the Trio of Street Tacos (chicken or veggie).
The kids were able to keep on the healthier side also with a bean burrito or chicken taco. The meal comes with rice and applesauce...and that bottled water (those things are pure gold when you're spending a lot of time in the sun!).
New Orleans Square/ Critter Country
Aside from that cute little Turkey Sandwich Meal I mentioned before, Critter Country doesn't have a lot for kids/adults. If you head back over to New Orleans Square, the French Market Restaurant adjacent to the train station offers a Pasta Marinara or Chicken and Rice entree for the kids. Not many good choices for adults here but if you head a block over to the Royal Street Veranda, you can enjoy the heartiest bowl of Vegetable Gumbo (I recommend enjoying just the lid of the bread bowl- the rest is just too much!).
If you're looking for a unique Disneyland dining experience (and you can't get in to the Blue Bayou), don't miss Cafe Orleans. We ate out on the patio and enjoyed seeing the Mark Twain Steamboat float to the sounds of lively jazz music. The Vegetable Ragout here is simply lovely and my husband enjoyed the Mardi Gras Chicken Sandwich (but get the avocado on the side- more on that in Tomorrowland). The kids enjoyed a Pasta Marinara entree that includes chicken or fish, broccoli, and grapes.
Tomorrowland Terrace would seem to be the last place you'd find healthy options at Disneyland, with their menu of all things fried. However, there are an abundance of healthy options including the Portobello and Vegetable Sandwich, the Chicken Sandwich with Avocado Salsa, and the Chopped Chicken Salad. For all, I recommend no cheese and dressings/spreads/avocado on the side. I know, avocados are a healthy fat but you still have to keep the serving in proportion (1-2 tbsps).
The kids Turkey Sandwich Meal is available here as well.
Disney's California Adventure
Your best spot for well-priced, healthy choices at California Adventure is the Pacific Wharf section of the park. At Cocina Cucamonga, I enjoyed the Fajita Salad (roasted veggies, no cheese/guac, extra pico). More than filling! Kids can choose a Bean Burrito Meal here that would be a good choice (eliminate the cheese if desired).
I wanted to recommend the Lucky Fortune Cookery but they don't offer white meat chicken or brown rice to make the entrees as nutritious as possible (but still better than a hot dog I suppose). They do have tofu but the veggies portion on the adult meals is, well, disproportionate. Don't count them out entirely- they do have edamame which is great for snacking!
The Pacific Wharf Cafe does offer that Turkey Sandwich Meal for the kids but I can't really endorse any of the adult entrees. If you've got a PB&J enthusiast, they might like to try the Peanut Butter Pita Wrap at the Paradise Garden Grill near the back of the park.
When your kids can't take one more moment of being in the parks, the Tangaroa Terrace at the Disneyland Hotel is a welcome, poolside respite. My kids shared a regular Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich while the adults enjoyed the Tangaroa Terrace Salad (no nuts, dressing on the side, shrimp instead of fried tofu).
In another post, I'll elaborate on the variety of grab-and-go options here. Great for quick breakfasts, snacks, or a lunch back at the room while the little ones nap.
What About Breakfast?
Breakfast in the theme parks leaves much to be desired. The character dining experiences were not much better (the oatmeal already had milk and sugar laced right into it!). The omelette station at the Surf's Up with Mickey and Friends breakfast buffet did offer a few options, even for those who don't eat eggs. Here's how to order:
- Ask for no oil. They use non-stick pans so it's no big deal.
- Get all the veggies. If you do eggs, get egg whites. If you don't, get a small side of breakfast potatoes to accompany those grilled veggies.
- No meat, no cheese.
Your best bet for breakfast is to either stay in a hotel that does a free breakfast with healthier options or bring your own oatmeal and cereal to eat in your room. If you are staying at the Disney hotels, you can also enjoy a few options along the Downtown Disney district (if they are open early enough that is!).
Eating healthfully at Disneyland is possible! To be even better prepared, check out the menus for all Disneyland Dining restaurants before you go.
I thought these dishes were pretty tasty but I'd love to know if you've had any of them as well!