How to Eat Healthy at Disney
Updated: Aug 25
Is eating healthy a priority for you? Or are you aspiring to make it one?
Do you have a family vacation to Disney, or really anywhere, planned for this year and are worried about how you’ll be able to maintain that healthy diet on your trip?
Okay, maybe you want to indulge a little bit. I mean, you are on vacation after all. But you don’t want it to derail all the healthy progress you’ve made up until that point. Am I right?
Well folks, you are in luck because today’s blog post is all about how to make healthy choices when you are traveling so you can keep those healthy habits, while still enjoying that awesome vacation.
I recently interviewed my friend and Certified Health and Wellness Coach Joshua Harrel on this very topic. He and his wife have been on their own amazing health journey, losing 70 pounds and keeping it off, so he knows how hard AND important it is to maintain healthy eating habits. He had some great advice and specific tips you can use right away.
Q: What are some important steps to take BEFORE you leave for your trip to set yourself up for success?
Josh: Plan plan plan! Failure to plan is just a plan to fail. If you go in with a plan and have committed to it (I'd even say share with someone else what your plan is!), you are much more likely to succeed :) Simply saying, "I'll just do my best to make healthy choices" leaves you susceptible to making more impulsive decisions.
Q: What tips do you have to making healthy choices during air travel? At the airport and on the plane?
Josh: We love to bring some of our favorite staple healthy snacks with us in our carry-on bags. Some examples are: Raw nuts, pepperoni sticks or no sugar added beef jerky, low-sugar protein bars. Anything that's sealed and packaged should be fine to bring through TSA (of course, it's best to check their website). At the airport, go for places with dishes that are more protein/veggie heavy. Avoid the fried and comfort foods that often boast higher fat and carbohydrate content.
Q: What are some easy exercises you can do in your hotel room?
Josh: Body weight exercises are a great option while traveling! I once heard someone say: Squats, sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups (although you may need a hotel gym to do the pull-ups). Also, there are great free resources likely 15-20 HIIT workouts on YouTube that can be done anywhere.
Q: When you are eating out most meals, how can you stay true to your diet?
Josh: I would actually say, the best way to stay true to your health goals and nutrition while traveling is to find creative ways to minimize eating out! When on vacation, especially to the Parks, our family plans for one special meal out per day. Otherwise, we pack small snacks to eat every couple of hours. At restaurants, we skip the free bread and chips at the beginning and choose dishes high in protein and low in sugar to keep us satiated and energized. Again, if you make a plan ahead of time you are much more likely to stick with it!
Q: Being that most of my readers are Disney and Universal Park goers, any tips for eating healthy at the parks?
Josh: I remember feeling so intimidated my first time going to the parks after my wife and I had lost 165 pounds together. I didn't want to go back to old habits! I was pleasantly surprised to see that most restaurants had healthy options if we just took the time to look. First, stay away from the carts (I know the giant turkey legs are delicious, but if your goal is healthy choices maybe look at other options :) ). Second, I'd recommend looking up the menus of the restaurants you intend to eat at ahead of time and decide on 1-2 options you'll pick from that meet your health goals. That way, when you arrive, your decision is already made :)
Q: Since you do a TON of walking at the parks -- we are talking miles and miles a day for several days -- what type of foods should you be eating to keep your energy and stamina up day after day?
Josh: High protein, some healthy fats, and minimize the carb heavy meals. If energy is the goal, then this is the best combo. Eat every 2-3 hours as well, so you don't get overly hungry or worn out too easily.
Q: Any tips for getting those young picky eaters to eat healthier while on vacation?
Josh: We keep it simple. We find the 1-2 healthy options that our boys will eat consistently and we LOAD UP on those. It's not a lot of variety, but with all of the variables in a vacation, it can help to have regular staples that you know they'll eat.
Q: What would be the one takeaway you hope people reading this walk away with?
Josh: A vacation does NOT have to be a doomsday to your health goals. You can enjoy your vacation to the fullest and still stick with your goals! Set positive expectations for yourself that you will choose healthy options and because of it, feel amazing and enjoy your trip even more!
If you would like to connect with Josh to see how he can help you with your own personal health journey, you can find him on Facebook, @coachjoshharrel on Instagram, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is great advice and could apply to any vacation: the beach, Universal, National Parks, etc.
Disney gives you some great tools to help you make healthy choices and plan ahead. First of all, Disney World has a ton of amazing plant-based food options. Just look for their specialty plant-based icon on the menu: a green leaf.
You can also look at most of the restaurant menus ahead of time on their website. That way when you are making your table service restaurant reservations in advance you can choose the restaurants that align with your diet and have options that appeal to you.
And what if you are already in the parks and just looking for a quick bite close to your current location? No need to walk to every quick service restaurant to see the menu. Simply pull up the Disneyland or Disney World app, click on the map, choose “Dining” from the pull-down menu at the top, and all the restaurants that are close to you will pop up on the map. You can then select the name of the restaurant, view the menu, and even order your food right from the app. Easy peasy!
What are some of your favorite ways to maintain healthy eating habits when you are on vacation? Share in the comments!
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