I can hardly believe that the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is already nearly upon us! The festival starts August 29 this year and runs through November 23, which will give you plenty of time to indulge in the smells and tastes that the World Showcase has to offer.
I mention this every year, but in case this is your first Food and Wine Festival, have no fear: none of these menu options are huge enough to derail your efforts on Weight Watchers, My Fitness Pal, etc. So while I would not recommend sampling everything, I do always recommend sampling strategically: this way, you can do so without guilt and really enjoy what you want with no regrets.
There are a few new booths this year, so I’m really excited to see what they all have to offer!
This Father’s Day, we took a trip over to Paradiso 37 for a Taste of the Americas! My dad had been wanting to try this place out for a while but we don’t go out to eat super often, so Father’s Day was the perfect excuse to check it out.
The atmosphere was great with some hints of Central and South American flair, but not too much as to represent all of the countries in the Americas. It was pretty laid back, which felt nice compared to the hustle-and-bustle that Disney Springs provides. Because it covers everywhere from North to South, there are quite a few menu options, many of which I found to be great for dieters. There’s something for everyone here, and as I’ll get more into, they work with you if you want to change something around!
I honestly don’t really have any negative things to say about this restaurant. They were so accommodating that the only thing I could potentially list as a con would be if you struggle to control yourself when faced with tortilla chips at a Mexican restaurant.
Everything was absolutely delicious and I did not feel guilty walking out of this restaurant, which made me so thrilled!
My dad really wanted one of their burgers that has pineapple on it, but with grilled chicken since we don’t eat beef. They were able to make the switch for my dad without any problem or eyebrow raising, and my dad said that his chicken was grilled to absolute perfection. If you’re watching what you eat, his order - the Columbian Bacon-Pineapple Burger - also usually comes with queso, cilantro-crema, and (as the name suggests) bacon, but it made for a good cheat meal with the grilled chicken swapped out for beef. But if beef is your thing, it’s normally cooked with an
8 oz. Angus steak burger.
Anthony got the ribs and also said they were great, so if you or someone you know is curious about these, they sound worth it based on Anthony’s description!
He mentioned that the meat was tender, but still stayed on the bone so it was easy to eat. They came with fries, but if you wanted a different side, I'm sure they'd be more than happy to oblige. Anthony is just lucky and has the metabolism of a Derby race horse, haha!
My mom and I both got the fish tacos, but with a twist. I asked if it was possible to get grilled fish as opposed to battered like it lists on the menu, and again, this was absolutely no problem. The grilled fish was perfect and everything came on the side: corn salsa, a lightly dressed cabbage slaw, and the cilantro-lime crema. There are enough generic options of all of these things to track it with a good guesstimate in My Fitness Pal or Weight Watchers, so I was able to do so with confidence and feel in control of how much food I was eating.
The service was great, the food was wonderful, and I couldn’t recommend this place highly enough! I also wanted to give an honorable mention to their house-made fire-roasted salsa. It comes when you order some tortilla chips, and it was super smooth and mild with a great black bean salsa flavor.
Have you been to Paradiso 37? What did you think?
In the mood for Italian?
I recently went to Tony's Town Square at the Magic Kingdom with my soon to be in-laws and parents! It was the only place I could grab a reservation for as we planned the Disney day with them on a relatively short notice (at least in the world of Disney reservations where things get snagged so far in advance), plus Anthony had been wanting to try this place for a while now.
The atmosphere was very charming once you got past the waiting area (a noisy spot next to the lobby where you go to meet Mickey or Tinkerbell), with cute nods to Lady and the Tramp throughout the restaurant. But I couldn't help but worry about my Weight Watchers points and calories since everything on the menu was looking to be high in carbs and loaded with sauces.
But all hope was not lost! With some mild caution, you too can make it work here without fearing the scale the next day. Here's my full review, keeping a Weight Watchers oriented lens on the whole while.
From a healthy eating standpoint, none of your options are truly healthy. Even the salads are loaded with stuff! That’s not necessarily bad - just head in to the restaurant with the mindset that you’re going to enjoy an Italian meal in a pretty location and track as best as you can.
My mom had the margherita pizza, which wasn’t really a margherita pizza - it was basically your typical thin crust cheese pizza with basil on it, so she was a bit disappointed that it was lacking in plum tomatoes and ricotta cheese. The pizza wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t extraordinary either, so if you’re tracking Weight Watchers points or calories, I’d recommend spending those points or calories on something else.
There are a few menu options here that are very trackable. My dad enjoyed his gnocchi, which appeared to be about a cup’s worth so he could track that with ease. My spinach and ricotta ravioli, as well, was trackable, especially since I found a generic option for spinach ravioli in my tracking apps. The sauce is what the diet killer here is, but I found that my plate was essentially a pool of it when all was said and done, so you can easily still enjoy the flavor of it without overindulging. Also, both my dad and I found that our plates had a decent amount of vegetables!
Also worth noting that there are some nasty reviews of Tony’s on TripAdvisor, but it appears as if they’ve revamped their menu and tried to make it a more enjoyable experience for guests. If you go into it expecting it to be a step or two above Olive Garden or Carrabba’s, then you definitely won’t be disappointed.
Tips for success
Have you ever eaten out and thought to yourself, "Oh no, this meal was so not worth it?" Let's chat about our restaurant blunders in the comments!
We've got exactly one month to go for the Flower and Garden Festival at Walt Disney World! This is my all time favorite festival because it makes a stroll around Epcot that much more of an experience with the different topiary characters, flowers in full bloom, and butterfly garden! Now, the festival also has food stands that offer seasonal treats for sampling (a la the Food and Wine festival). After strolling around the world a few times, here are my personal recommendations if you want to try to not overdo it as you sample (but, luckily, you can still indulge if you want without guilt, as the sizes are much smaller!).
Arbor at the Gardener’s Terrace
I’d say your best bet here is the Smoked Salmon Stack with Avocados, Tomatoes, Sour Cream, Caviar, and Focaccia Crostino.
Flavor Full Kitchen
Either of the non-dessert options look like they’re on equal footing, depending on if you eat fish or not: Citrus-poached Salmon with Ancient Grain Salad, Roasted Vegetables, and Citrus Greens, or From the Garden: Roasted Beets, Cashew Cheese, and Micro Herbs with Lemon-Oil Dressing. Both are safe if you have a gluten intolerance!
La Isla Fresca
While I’m more prone to reach for shrimp before red meat, the Jamaican-braised Beef with Pigeon Pea Rice and Micro Cilantro is probably the better bet since the shrimp is a sugar cane shrimp.
The Citrus Blossom
Your best bet is one of the seafood options: Lobster Tail with Meyer Lemon Emulsion and Grilled Lemon (gluten free!) or Tuna Tataki with Spicy Yuzu Glaze, Mango, Avocado, and Pappadam Crisp.
Dole Whip is here, my friends!
The Honey Bee-stro
Your best bet is the gluten free and vegetarian friendly option: Roasted Cauliflower with Buckwheat Honey Carrot Purée, Wild Rice Pilaf, Asparagus, Honey-blistered Grapes, Sunflower Brittle, and Coriander Flowers.
Northern Bloom (Canada)
This gluten free option sounds pretty tasty: Seared Scallops with French Green Beans, Butter Potatoes, Brown Butter Vinaigrette, and Applewood Smoked Bacon. Because it’s a sampling size, the brown butter vinaigrette doesn’t worry me as much as it would if it were on a full-sized entree.
Fleur De Lys (France)
Your healthiest option sounds like the Vichyssoise aux Concombres: Chilled Cucumber Vichyssoise Soup (gluten free and vegetarian). There’s also the Canard Confit à la Provençal: Braised Duck Confit with Tomatoes and Olives on Polenta.
Florida Fresh (between France and Morocco)
Neither option sounds super healthy, but these are probably on equal footing: Carne Guisada with Black Bean Cake and Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream, or Spicy Blackened Shrimp and Cheddar Cheese Grits with Brown Gravy and Local Sweet Corn Relish. I personally would go for the shrimp and just be cautious of how much gravy they put on it.
Taste of Marrakesh (Morocco)
The Harissa Chicken Kebab with Dried Fruit Couscous Salad sounds delicious and healthy!
I highly recommend the Frushi: Fresh Pineapple, Strawberry, and Melon rolled with Coconut Rice, sprinkled with Toasted Coconut, Whipped Cream with Raspberry Sauce on the side. It’s lightly sweet and great if, like me, you tend to get a sweet tooth after a meal but don’t want a full blown dessert!
The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews (America)
Of all of these, none of them sound good for you, but the lesser of evils would be the Pulled Pig Slider with Coleslaw.
Primavera Kitchen (Italy)
The Pizza Toscona and the Tri-colored Tortellini are probably on equal footing, however you probably get more protein out of the Pizza Toscana’s toppings (Sweet Sausage, Caramelized Onion, Mozzarella, Asiago, and Parmesan Cheeses)!
Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market (Germany)
I’d go for the Potato Pancakes with House-made Apple Sauce (which is also vegetarian!).
Lotus House (China)
The Vegetable Spring Rolls would be my personal pick!
Jardin de Fiestas (Mexico)
These are probably on equal footing!
Trowel and Trellis (near Mexico)
They’re offering Grilled Street Corn with a savory garlic spread that’s gluten free and vegetarian friendly! I’d go that route for sure.
Have you been to the Flower and Garden Festival? Let's chat in the comments about your favorite part of the festival!
For Easter this year, my family and I went to Whispering Canyon Café, where they were serving an all you can eat Easter brunch. This got me thinking: a lot of people ask me what I think of the Disney buffets because they’re worried they’ll completely go off the wagon. Surprisingly, if you play your cards right, they can actually be one of the healthier routes for meals at the parks. Hear me out - you can have your Mickey Waffles and eat them too! - and enjoy some of my best practices for handling the two types of Disney buffet.
Firstly, it’s important to note that there are two types of buffets at Disney World. Some restaurants will bring you a platter or skillet of sorts with multiple food options for the table and serve it family style. From there, if you want more of specific items in your platter, you can let your server know. Others are a more traditional buffet. You’re seated, order your drinks, and then get up and serve yourself from the buffet options. Here’s a list of all the different restaurants on property that offer buffets or family-style meals at Disney World:
And, in case you’re heading to the west coast, here are Disneyland’s buffet and family-style offerings:
And, of course, some of these restaurants will have characters that come to mix and mingle with you, or one of the mealtimes (i.e. breakfast only) will be a character breakfast. These can be a little bit more pricey, but are great for either families with children who want to get a bunch of signatures in a short timeframe, or for the kids at heart who don’t feel like waiting in lines to meet characters!
Because you have control over what goes on your plate, buffets are usually options that can be pretty good for calorie counters, Weight Watchers, etc. You can bulk up on lean proteins, veggies, and fruit but still indulge a little on some special Disney treats you won’t get to enjoy once you’re back home from your vacation or, if you are a local like me, usually refrain from having. But that can also be dangerous if you worry about portions, so here are some of my best practices to follow when you’re enjoying a Disney buffet.
Which Disney buffet is your favorite? Characters or no characters? Let’s chat in the comments!
If you've logged into Instagram any time within the last year, you've probably seen about a dozen different snacks at Disney worthy of their own posts!
While some of these may be better suited for Instagram than WW or My Fitness Pal's logs, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself while on vacation and completely give up. If you're going to indulge, though, you want to make sure it is worth it, right? At least that's how I'm wired! So without going for the cupcakes or cookies, let's take a look at some of these Instagrammable Disney treats and if they're worth the splurge or not!
*Disclaimer: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, these are products I genuinely endorse!
BEST: Dole Whip
Dole Whip is a great cheat meal treat that has a bit of a cult following on Instagram - and now some more variants - that you can enjoy without guilt. At only 90 calories per half cup per Dole's website, you can try the various flavors at the parks and it makes for a great treat on a warm day. In my experience, I typically get about 1 full cup in my Dole Whip cups from Disney (if you really aren't sure, you can bring a measuring cup and scoop it in there - they even make collapsable ones so you can shove it in your bag without worrying about it being bulky or in the way).
While the classic pineapple-vanilla swirl is my favorite, I heard the Rapunzel inspired lemon cone made with Dole Whip is also delicious! They also have a Hei Hei cone inspired by Moana (pictured above) and an Up-inspired cone (with white chocolate bits) made with mango and raspberry flavored Dole Whip, respectively, as opposed to pineapple. Over at the Pineapple Lanai at Polynesian Resort is the Heart of Te Fiti cone featuring lime flavored Dole Whip (which is the base of the Peter Pan float in Magic Kingdom)!
BEST: Prepackaged treats
It’s hard to say exactly how many calories are in a Disney churro because while the estimated amount per churro is about 150-250 calories (depending on size), Disney’s are very long (so likely closer to a 200-250 range) and I question their definition of a serving size because some of the serving sizes on their cookies is for half of it. However, regardless, this sweet treat is a bit lighter than many other options if your sweet tooth is feeling needy, and if you aren’t terribly hungry but just need a bite of something sweet, they’re great to share with a friend! Plus, because churros tend to be lighter, they probably won't sit as heavily in your stomach as something else that's super high in carbs or sugar.
WORST: Mickey Pretzel
WORST: Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar
WORST: Mickey Rice Krispy Treats
There are a variety of rice krispy treats available at the parks, so the calories can vary from whether you want chocolate dipped ears, the entire thing with chocolate and candy, or just a traditional rice krispy. You may think you're not doing too bad by having a plain one... but they come in at 270 calories! Ears alone covered in chocolate? That number spikes to 300. If you really want a Rice Krispy Treat with manageable calories, just have the name brand mini ones! This is a shame, too, because they used to make a plain one that was 170 calories... but that seems to be a thing of the past.
(Worst of the) WORST: Turkey legs
Love them or hate them, these snacks are pretty popular… and also probably the worst possible thing you can get at Disney for your health! Your average roasted turkey leg runs at about 1,100 calories and 54 grams of fat, per the USDA. Need I say more?
Remember, most of my recommendations wouldn’t classify as healthy... but are more so meant to be enjoyed on occasion if you’re determined to have something but not experience guilt. What’s your favorite Disney snack? Let me know in the comments!
*Disclaimer: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, these are products I genuinely endorse and those of you who have been following me for a while know that I've been recommending these things since I started!
There are a few go-to snacks that I like to bring to the parks with me when I know I'm going to be a while and I don't feel like spending money.
Same goes for bottles of water; they're about $3 in the parks, so it depends on what bag you're bringing, how long you're planning on spending in the parks, and your food budget if you bring it or just buy a whole case at the grocery store and pack some in your bag. You can also get free cups of ice water from Starbucks and snack stands.
You can also get some portable measuring spoons as well, which come in handy for measuring things like coffee creamer or when you bring your own PB2! They also make measuring spoons that act as a digital food scale, and this way you're only carrying one around (and will be a great little tool to have at home, too!).
Looking to meal prep a little bit more? You can get reusable containers to pack your meals with you if you don't want to use plastic baggies!
Starbucks is located in all four parks and also has two locations at Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney).
Here's a list of the locations:
Magic Kingdom: Main Street, USA, on the right hand side. It's about halfway down Main Street, where the bakery used to be if you've ever been to Walt Disney World before Starbucks was there. It's still called the Main Street Bakery.
Epcot: To the right of the fountain behind Spaceship Earth before you get to the World Showcase. Next to Club Cool.
Hollywood Studios: Under the name Trolley Car Cafe, it's near the intersection of Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd when you first enter.
Animal Kingdom: Under the name Creature Comforts, it's located just before the bridge that takes you to the Africa section of the park on your left hand side.
Disney Springs: One is near World of Disney, and the other is on the other side of Disney Springs near Cirque du Soleil and House of Blues (directly across from the Star Wars Galactic Outpost and next to the food trucks).
So, what's the big deal?
Starbucks being at Disney is a Weight Watcher member's or calorie counter's dream come true because it's something you can track and be certain about. Not only are there so many 0 Smart Point drink options available (an unsweetened iced tea on a hot day at the parks? Yes please!) and some other low point and calorie drink concoctions that we've all whipped together at Starbucks, but unlike the rest of Disney Parks, you can actually accurately track the food here since Starbucks offers more than just junk food and pastries. If you're desperate and you don't mind skipping out on park food (which, in my opinion, isn't anything super special so you wouldn't be missing much) if you're eating at the park, know that these are options available to you that you can count your points for.
What is a Mickey Check Meal?Mickey Check was introduced to kids menus at Disneyland and Walt Disney World in 2013 to all menus - quick service and table service.
In case you aren't familiar with Disney Dining terminology, quick service restaurants are grab and go type places whereas table service is more of a traditional, sit down type of restaurant.
According to Disney Parks Blog, Mickey Check "must meet Disney Nutrition Guidelines that limit calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar... Kid's Complete Meals must be ordered without substitutions and include at least three of the following food groups: fruits and vegetables; low-fat dairy; whole grains or lean protein, beans, eggs and nuts."
For the full guidelines, you can check out this PDF from The Walt Disney Company here. Unfortunately, exact nutritional information of menu items is not available (more on that here), but if you order off of the Mickey Check menu, this can offer you a good foundation. At a quick glance, full meals must be 600 calories or less, but you can break it down even further if you check out the charts in the PDF. That's all well and good... But it's a kids menu item. I can't order that, right?
Not necessarily true! While Mickey Check is a kids menu exclusive, if you're dining at a quick service location, you can order off of the kids menu... Even if no children are present. So if you're not at a table service restaurant, feel free to save yourself some calories and some money by ordering off of the kids menu, especially if you get something with a Mickey Check next to it.
To know if a menu item is a Mickey Check meal, it will have a little Mickey Mouse head silhouette with a check mark in the center of it next to the name of the menu item.
Here are some of the healthier snack items I've found throughout the parks, or at least things you can track and not go overboard with. This doesn't include the fruit that I've mentioned on a separate page. This page will continually be updated as I find more things, so stay tuned and keep checking back for more! For restaurant recommendations that are on the healthier side, check out my Restaurant Guide!
Gift shop snacks with barcodes and nutrition labels
While the butter that it's dipped in probably isn't the healthiest option for those trying to avoid a high-fat diet, you can get corn on the cob that is grilled with a curry flavor at the Harambe Fruit Market! Speaking of fruit, check out my Fruit Stand guide!
Rejoice, WW Freestyle followers and calorie counters! Edamame is available in both Animal Kingdom (at a kiosk that connects Africa to Asia) and at Epcot's Japan pavilion (look for the window where they sell Kakigori).
A good healthy swap for a Mickey bar is one of the fruit bars available at the ice cream stands. Most stands offer a no added sugar option, too! Regardless, the calorie count on these is usually around 70-120 depending on the flavor, etc.
Jessica is a huge Disney and Star Wars nerd who channeled that love into motivation to lose 75 lbs.