Don’t give up on healthy eating just because you are on vacation. Here are 5 tips for healthier eating at Disneyland that let you splurge on treats and still stay on track!
My sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew, and I just got back from a 5-day trip to Disneyland. We had a blast! Of course, the rides were fantastic. The smiling, helpful staff was wonderful. The parades were so fun. The characters were adorable.
But my sister and I both share the same top priority – the food!
We have been searching blogs, Instagram feeds, and message boards for months to make sure we didn’t miss out on any amazing eats! But, let’s face it. Most of the must-eat foods at Disneyland are pretty unhealthy. Fried churros, sugary ice cream, and all kinds of calorie-laden treats.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
I should also add that walking all over the park every day helped a lot. This week is still not a way of eating I would bring home as my “normal,” because we still had a lot of splurges that would eventually add up. But for a week of vacation eating, we sure found a great balance!
Here’s how I got through the week without gaining an ounce, eating my way through my Disney food bucket list and still making healthy choices along the way.
5 Tips for Healthier Eating at Disneyland
1. Split the splurges
Sure, you could come to Disneyland and bring your own healthy options to eat the entire trip, but there were so many foods that you can only find at Disney that we wanted to make sure to try!
When it comes to those super high-calorie treats, the best thing to do is share. There were 5 of us and we split just about everything the whole trip – churros, Mickey macarons, cream cheese filled pretzels, Dole whips. None of us ever felt deprived and we got to try every food we wanted to while splitting the calories.
2. Choose healthier sides
Disney has made it a lot easier to do this with every meal, but especially with the kids’ meals. We were able to get apple slices or baby carrots at just about every meal, which was fantastic! Sometimes we ate them with the meal, sometimes we saved them for snacks to eat later on in the day.
Even the corndogs we bought from the Little Red Wagon (the best spot for corndogs!) came with a choice of chips or apple slices. You don’t have to go to Disneyland to get chips. Opt for the apples! They’ll give your body more nutrients and help hydrate you in the heat, too!
Prioritize the treats you most want to eat at Disney, then fill in the rest of your meals with lighter fare. We opted for salads, grilled chicken, veggies, and fish in between our fried, cream-filled, and sweet treats.
3. Eat a protein-filled breakfast
I can’t emphasize enough how important this one is! If you start your morning with a donut or waffles, you are more likely to crave sugar for the rest of the day. When you are trying to live it up at Disneyland, you want energy to keep you going, not empty carbs that will leave you hungry again in an hour!
We found egg sandwiches, breakfast burritos in whole wheat tortillas, fruit, and yogurt on most mornings either in Downtown Disney or in on-site restaurants at our resort, but we also brought Nature Valley Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein Bars with us just in case.
4. Eat when you’re hungry
Don’t get hung up on your normal eating schedule here. I typically eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner like clockwork at home, but that’s just not how things work at Disney! You get caught up in ride lines or waiting for parades and sometimes normal meal times just don’t happen (and, to avoid the crazy lines, eating at non-peak times is better anyways!).
And most of the foods that were top on our priority list were snack foods, which meant we weren’t always hungry for normal meals. Don’t eat stuff yourself by eating full meals in between a ton of snacks. Listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry, not when your watch tells you that you “should” be eating.
It worked for us this trip! One day was so hot that my sister and I decided to share a salted caramel brownie sundae at Ghiradelli for lunch because the cold ice cream was the only thing that sounded good to us! We weren’t hungry again for hours.
5. Ask for free water.
It’s barely the beginning of May and, let me tell you, those sunny afternoons in Disneyland were HOT! It is always important to stay hydrated, but especially so when you are walking all over the place and standing in lines under the hot sun.
Dehydration can make you crave junk food and it can be really tempting to fill up on sugary drinks and sodas all day long when you are hot and thirsty. Now, we did usually get one mid-afternoon slushy-type drink to share to cool off, but the rest of the day, we drank a lot of water.
Disneyland has a good number of water fountains around, but sometimes they aren’t the coldest. When I was researching where I could fill up my water bottle throughout the day before we left, I found out that any of Disney’s counter service restaurants will give you free cups of water if you ask, usually with ice! Every time I asked, the workers were really sweet and when they saw the size of my water bottle, they just handed my two cups without question. It was a lifesaver (and a money saver)!