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A dietitian's guide to Disneyland

2007-03-15

By Robert Niles: The Orange County Register's Yvette Cabrera invited a dietitian to join her on a visit to Disneyland recently, to check out the food options at the park.

Healthy eating has become a popular issue for theme parks, as parks announce plans to eliminate trans fats from their menus, and to offer other healthier dining options, especially for kids.

A Bloomberg report last year blasted the Magic Kingdom for its oversized, fat-laden fare. But Cabrera and dietitian Linda M. Gigliotti, from UC Irvine, found a reassuring number of healthy options this month at Disneyland.

"Sometimes the problem when you get into a controlled environment is that you're really stuck with what they have there," says Gigliotti. "I thought given the environment that it is, that they did have a good range of choices. There were vegetarian items; there were some low-fat items."

She especially liked the vending carts loaded with items like freshly cut fruit, trail mixes, and water, and felt they were as accessible as the carts selling popcorn or ice cream bars.

Are you looking for better food options at your favorite theme park? What have you found?

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on March 15, 2007 at 12:42 PM
Well what I found at Disney World in regards to healthy eating. Granted, its not probably still the healthiest, but its better than the usual fattening stuff. Note most of this is chicken or wraps of some sort!

Tusker House-AK (Real Chicken!)

Sunshine Food Fair-EPCOT (Decient Salads!)

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe-MK(makes some good wraps)

Most of World Showcase (its just a matter of portion size)

It honestly is a matter of looking around for your dining options.
I think it all depends on what you are expecting for food. Since my family and I have gone there so many times, we really are not into the hamburgers or pizza which I realize is their biggest sellers. It puts the parks into a bit of a condtrum because even though people want to eat better, the most fatening foods are still the most popular foods. Just look at McDonalds which have some pretty good grilled chicken sandwiches, but Big Macs are as popular as ever.

I really never saw Disney World selling THAT bad of food. Granted, all the pizza and burgers would be fatening, but it offers so much more along with Universal and Busch. I think the bigger issue is portion control. Too much of a good thing can be fatening!

From Mark Freedman on March 15, 2007 at 5:36 PM
Ms. Cabrera, quit telling us what to eat. The problem has little to do with quality and everything to do with shoveling piles of food down one's gullet in an orgy of mindless gluttony. After all, we live in a country where thin people are called anorexic and fat people are called big & beautiful. Eat what you like but eat less and spare the world your extra carbon.
From Larry Zimmerman on March 15, 2007 at 6:09 PM
Smoked turkey legs. Sushi. Vegetarian wraps. Noodles. There are alternatives to the other 3 food groups (burgers, fries and shakes) in all 4 parks. You just have to make a conscious choice to find it (and then pay for it).
From Robert Niles on March 15, 2007 at 8:24 PM
Um, Mark, what's the deal? I didn't read that column as calling for a ban on any food, just an attempt to see if there were some healthy options available, too.

You don't want tofu and salad? Fine. But I don't want to visit a park that offers me nothing but fat-fried meat and bread. If you are entitled to your favorites, why shouldn't I be entitled to mine, too?

I think it's great that parks are recognizing that some people care about the quality of the food they eat on a vacation day, and that those people do not equate "special" with "more calories and fat," as the theme park industry appeared to believe in the past. I love walking into chef-driven restaurants like ones at SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Legoland and Universal Orlando (and even a few at Walt Disney World) and finding a great, tasty and healthy meal.

From Robert Niles on March 15, 2007 at 8:32 PM
By the way, here are my favorite theme park restaurants from visits over the past two years, ranked only by distance from my house:

Redd Rocket's Pizza Port, Disneyland
Catal Restaurant, Downtown Disney Anaheim
Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, Downtown Disney Anaheim
Sports Cafe, Legoland
Shipwreck Reef Cafe, SeaWorld San Diego
Mythos Restaurant, Universal's Islands of Adventure

From Anthony Murphy on March 15, 2007 at 8:38 PM
I really gotta try Mythos!

Again, I think the bigger issue is that the portions are too big. I do not think it takes too much intelligence to realize that theme park hamburgers and pizza are not good of you! Fish is also another dish you can't go wrong with in the health department (unliess its fried). I liked the Shark Reef Cafe at Seaworld Orlando. That was pretty tasty! Emerils is pretty good too, especially with portions though it will cost you. His dishes are also very tasty which helps with the less food!

From rick stevens on March 15, 2007 at 11:34 PM
I have to agree with Robert. I have had nothing but great food from Catals and the Uva bar. Had some problems with Jazz Kitchen, but I think it was a really bad waiter that did some interpretive billing. Had some problems with reservations and not being able to actually reserve.

I really liked the DCA pizza kitchen. We split a slice of BBQ Chicken and a pizza salad. Great combo and much better then expected. I have friends that rave about Napa Rose, but I was not that impressed with the experience.

I really think that you can get health conscious food at any Theme Park; it is just a matter of going for it. It is always much simpler to grab a Churro and a Coke then to hunt out good food.

From Jason Moore on March 16, 2007 at 8:30 AM
I don't know about others, but I find myself desiring healthy options even MORE when I'm out theme parking. I'm out there running around being active all day. I know that eating unhealthy foods will make me feel unhealthy in that situation. A big greasy fried meal will slow me down and leave me feeling bleh. I'd rather have something lite and healthy that will keep me energetic and feeling good.

Of course, that's my personal preference. That's me knowing my own body and how it will react to what I feed it. Others may have different experiences, but I for one am thrilled to see more healthy options available everywhere I go. Hopefully this will be a long tern trend and not just a fad.

From Anthony Murphy on March 16, 2007 at 9:08 AM
The theme parks are starting to sell fresh fruit!

Thats a start!


I is especially good in Animal Kingdom by Kilmanjaro Safari. It just seems to fit in with the theming!

From rick stevens on March 16, 2007 at 11:30 AM
I noticed more fresh fruit at Disneyland. It is in the Safari area, but it was also on a Main Street cart.
From Keith Rayment on March 16, 2007 at 12:42 PM
I can't get over 'dietician' being spelled 'dietitian'. Maybe it's our common language corrupted by the Atlantic Otean [sic]?
Keith, England
From Robert Niles on March 16, 2007 at 1:32 PM
You know, Keith, that looked weird to me, too, but that's the way it was in the original article, and it passed spell check, too. I look it up on Dictionary.com, and the two spellings were both offered as correct. Perhaps that's the preferred spelling by folks who do that work these days? Anyway, given that both appear correct, I went with what was in the original.

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