It was 1980, and it was my first trip to Disney. My dad and my sister and I hopped in the family car and made the voyage down the coast to the “Happiest Place On Earth.” The memories of that trip run together like the huge “swirly lollies” Disneyland sells throughout the park. I can see the 1980’s version of “Splash Mountain,” “It’s A Small world” and “The Disney Parade.” from my ten-year-old height and it makes me smile.
Many of these flashback memories also involve copious amounts of food. Crap food, if you will. Colorful, sweet, delicious candy and crap that my sister and I mainlined by the pound. Flash forward 36 years and I no longer can go 10 miles, 23000 steps and nine hours in Disney sustained only by cotton candy, fries, and Mickey Mouse ice cream bars.
[Tweet “Colorful, sweet, delicious candy and crap that my sister and I mainlined by the pound.”]
Two decades later, being somewhat older and wiser, I have a richer sense of the “food is fuel” concept. If you work your way through Disney eating like a troll you will pay for your choices in sputtering energy, increased immunosusceptabilty (think about all those million kid-germs stuck to that roller coaster handrail you just let go of!) and a generalized depressed sense of experience. A depressed sense of experience? What? Yes, guess what? Your brain, and thus how you take in your environment, is THE most sensitive of all parts of your body to crap nutrition.
Then how do we eat clean at Disney? Is there actual food even available? After five days of research and food testing, I can safely tell you yes, yes there is.
Concerning food for the day at the park, you MUST pack whole food, fuel-rich snacks. Here is what went into our families’ backpacks. Disney allows you to bring in snacks and water with no issues. Thank you, Disney!!! Carting your snacks along for the day will keep your energy up and will also save you money!
If you do decide to purchase snacks inside the gates, there are some excellent food options. Throughout the park, there are carts with fruit, water, and snacks. They have fresh apples, bananas, and oranges. These carts also had delicious pineapple spears, little boxes of papaya and, of course, the “super pickles” which the boys loved!
My second favorite snack in Disneyland, is, of course, the giant turkey leg. It is drippy and messy and warm and so flavorful you might cry. It is wonderful as a midday snack if shared! You can get a turkey leg next to Big Thunder Mountain, and also between the Matterhorn and It’s A Small World.
For an actual meal, there were way more options for PALEO, gluten, and dairy free than I thought there would be within the gates of Disneyland.
Here are my favorite places to eat clean in Disneyland:
- Bengal BBQ: Fabulous meat, vegetable, and bacon/asparagus skewers. This glorified food truck is my favorite for sure. If you want strict paleo, just ask for the skewers without the sauce.
- Plaza Inn: I mention this restaurant because they go to great lengths to accommodate allergies and modifications. They have a grilled salmon on the menu that comes with green beans and mashed potatoes, and they were happy to modify it to just salmon and grilled veggies.
- Tortilla Joe’s: This is in Downtown Disney but was fantastic and, therefore, worth mentioning. The fresh guacamole made right at the table was perfect. You can order a side of fresh or grilled veggies to dip in guacamole (cleaner then friend corn chips! And Paleo!) I ordered the Ceviche and it was delicious. There were TONS of GF options clearly marked on the menu.
- UVA Café: This place is kind of dreamy. We like to eat out on the patio part, but there is inside restaurant seating upstairs. I enjoyed a lettuce wrapped burger and sweet potato fries and a lovely green salad. All the food at UVE was fresh, and service was excellent They also seemed very willing to make adjustments to the menu. It was date night. I was so enamored with my MOO (husband) I forgot to take a picture!
Other Bloggers Suggestions:
Napa Rose: Located in Downtown Disney. Pricier but some organic produce and some excellent food options. The promote that they are farm to table. We didn’t get a chance to eat there because it was Valentine’s Weekend and they were booked solid.
Carnation Cafe: There were some great salads and adaptable burger options on this menu.
The trick to eating clean, whole food in
Disney is to stick to the sit-down restaurants!
In summary, take lots of fuel rich snacks like Epic bars, Eden Organics products, LARA bars ad RX bars. All of these snacks are PALEO, gluten and dairy free. I took peanut butter packets, which are not paleo but you can get almond or walnut butter packets easily that are. I loved the nut butter on a banana mid-day!
Finally: If you decide to indulge make it a good one. Remember, there is no CHEATING just informed CHOICES when it comes to what you decide nutritionally. The “Matterhorn Macaroon” was an informed choice for me on the final day, and it was ridiculously good! You can get these at the on Main Street.
[Tweet “There is no cheating, just choices when it comes to your diet.”]
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DISCLAIMER: Please note that none of these suggestions are fully researched for celiac. Eat at your own risk park goers!