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!
As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. Read more here!
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.
Hollywood Studios - please note that there are MANY changes coming to this park over the next few years what with the addition of Star Wars and Toy Story lands, so this list may be updated more frequently than others as new things pop up around the parks:
Picture this: you're at a restaurant fit for royalty, the food is expensive, a princess is due at your table any minute... but you have no idea what to order.
If all of your options are looking like bad options at a table service restaurant where you can't order a Mickey Check kids meal, don't freak out. Disney is extremely accommodating and if you have any questions about what the chef can or can't do; just ask your server and they'll get someone to ask the chef for you.
For example, my family and I had a reservation at Be Our Guest and when we went to order, we were set up with a server who could contact the chef and see what they could arrange. On the kids menu there is a grilled shrimp and broccoli option, so we were able to order that but in a larger, adult size (plus some mashed potatoes without butter to go with it) after asking if it was possible. Our meal turned out to be delicious, easy to track, and we weren't worried the whole day about how much we ate!
This can work at any restaurant - don't be shy. Disney prides itself on good customer service and they understand that everyone has different dietary needs and restrictions.
This page is not dedicated to me telling you to not eat the cupcakes at Walt Disney World. I know you know that already.
Because Disney Parks doesn't currently have exact nutritional information available, it can be easy to fall into a trap of, "Oh, well this looks like something that might be healthy," when in reality, it is far from it.
Sure, something may look like it is something healthy that you make at home... but it's not what you're making at home. Everything is likely to be full fat, high calorie, tons of oils used in the process (and things like oil alone can really add up in Smart Points), and let's not even get started on how high the carb and sugar counts probably are.
I searched for hours on this subject alone - what is the exact nutritional information for entrees at Walt Disney World? It simply does not exist.
In a letter written to a guest from Walt Disney World that was shared on Disney Food Blog, they will provide a menu that is allergen/special dietary needs friendly but they still won't tell you exactly what is what. An excerpt from that letter:
"Unfortunately we do not have, and therefore we cannot provide you with accurate or reliable nutritional information, and we would not want you or any other Guest to rely on what could only be our 'best guess.' We can however, attempt to work within your dietary requests and suggest some menu alternatives and solutions that may satisfy your needs. We strive to provide all our Guests a magical experience by offering a wide array of dining locations, experiences and menu options, and we trust that among all those selections you will find menu items that meet your needs."
Example: Be Our Guest Restaurant at Magic Kingdom
The only restaurant that has provided nutritional information for their menu items as of right now is Be Our Guest... and the numbers are as high as I guessed they would be in the first segment of this post. Last I saw, it was at the menu boards when you go to order, but if you want to look online ahead of time, a quick Google Image search of "Be Our Guest nutritional information" includes not only photos guests have taken of these boards, but screenshots of these items when Disney was testing Fast Pass options for lunch a while back.
For an ever quicker look, here's the full list that someone shared on Reddit of the lunch menu. Note all of the sugar values for the desserts are "0g" - I have a very hard time believing that!
Before Weight Watchers, I used to order the carved turkey sandwich, which is served on a baguette with dijon mayo, and I would order it with the green beans instead of French fries. That sandwich has 787 calories, 41 grams of fat, 1505 mg of sodium, and 56 grams of carbs. I get about 1,300 calories per day on My Fitness Pal, so that's more than half of my day! For my Weight Watchers friends, that's a 22 Smart Point sandwich... and I only get 30 Smart Points per day excluding weeklies on Beyond the Scale and 23 on Freestyle.
Oh, and "The Master's Cupcake," aka the cupcake with "The Grey Stuff"? They don't even provide the nutritional information for that. But instead, let's look at Be Our Guest's triple chocolate cupcake. It claims to have 440 calories, 48 grams of carbs, and so much sugar they don't even bother to list it. I think we can safely assume that there's a ton of sugar in these cupcakes, especially given that they're massive. I'm wondering if this information even includes the frosting because their cupcakes are larger than my fist (and no, that's not an exaggeration).
My Fitness Pal lists some food items at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but I'm not sure how accurate these values are since we don't know who put them in the database for it to be a true test. You could probably use it to roughly ball park it, but again, since Disney won't provide this information for you, I would take anything you find on My Fitness Pal that you can't scan for yourself at the parks (like the pre-packaged snacks at gift shops) with a grain of salt.
On My Fitness Pal, it lists Disneyland churros as being 8 SP per churro (but we don't know how much of a churro is a serving; I only question this because some of the cookies at Disney World are actually two servings for one cookie!), 8 SP for an order of fries (but doesn't define approximately how many fries you get for an order and the amount you get could vary based on who is working that day), and 7 SP for four chicken nuggets. There are so many variables that aren't specified that it's hard to know how accurate this even is regardless of if we knew how reliable the information given was.So, what can you do?Don't assume something is innocent enough, and if you find yourself in a situation where the meal in front of you is pretty daunting in terms of how many Smart Points it may be, just stay calm and do your best. Try to use generic values of things on the app and maybe double or triple how many servings the generic value is for depending on how much you eat. Try to avoid things with cheese, and since they are accommodating regarding dietary needs, they won't know the difference between lactose intolerant and someone just trying to eat kind of healthy at the very least. If ordering a salad, get dressing on the side. If ordering a sandwich, take off half or the entire roll. If you're not at a table service restaurant, see what Mickey Check meals they have to offer on the kids menu.
If you don't mind skipping out on the park food, pack your own meals and track them before your trip or the morning before you head into the parks. If you will be eating at the parks, Walt Disney World's website does provide all of their menus so you can plan ahead; do not be afraid to ask for modifications.