Low-Carb, Low-Fat, Vegan? Disney Restaurants Rise to Challenge

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Plenty of vacationers are ready to splurge and leave special diets behind. But for some Walt Disney World guests, a restaurant that caters to dietary needs is essential.

"At any of our restaurants we can accommodate guests' requests for special dietary needs and lifestyle diets," said Ed Wronski, executive chef of Walt Disney World Product Development. "We have a team of very passionate chefs who get together and discuss guest needs and trends. They love the challenge."

With a call three days in advance, Walt Disney World full-service restaurants can accommodate special dietary needs such as allergies to gluten or wheat, shellfish, soy, lactose or milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, or eggs.

Lifestyle diets -- no sugar, low fat, low sodium, vegetarian or vegan -- are easily accommodated. When guests call 407/WDW-DINE, they can make the request and then talk with their server or the restaurant manager when they arrive at the restaurant. "All of our chefs consider custom-made menus part of the guest experience," said Wronski. For dinner shows, a 24-hour advance notice is requested.

Kosher Meals

Kosher meals are available at most full-service restaurants and need to be ordered at least 24 hours in advance by calling 407/WDW-DINE. Meals are Glatt Kosher, prepared in Miami and flown to Walt Disney World Resort.

If you don't order in advance, kosher meals are always available at the following quick-service locations: Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe in Magic Kingdom, World Premiere Food Court at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort, Intermission Food Court at Disney's All-Star Music Resort, End Zone Food Court at Disney's All-Star Sports Resort, Everything Pop Shopping and Dining at Disney's Pop Century Resort, ABC Commissary at Disney-MGM Studios, Riverside Mill Food Court at Disney's Port Orleans Resort, and Pizzafari at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Healthful Dining

You'll still find hot dogs and hamburgers in the four Walt Disney World theme parks. But now there's bottled water, fresh fruit, yogurt and other healthy choices offered from food carts scattered throughout the theme parks, water parks and resorts. In Magic Kingdom, Disney-MGM Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom, you can munch on a smoked turkey leg (zero grams of carbs, and big enough to share). Every park has dozens of appealing ideas for nutritious eating.

In Magic Kingdom, if you're in a hurry, head to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe for a freshly tossed Caesar salad and vegetable soup, or rotisserie chicken (skip the mashed potatoes if you must). More leisurely dining is at the newly renovated Crystal Palace, where you can control your calories from a buffet that includes peel 'n eat shrimp, salads, grilled vegetables and meats. At popular Pecos Bill Cafe, try the chicken wrap with carrots instead of fries. Just a snack? The Citrus Swirl in Adventureland's

Sunshine Tree Terrace is frozen orange juice and non-fat vanilla yogurt.
At Epcot, you can dine around the world (and if you walk World Showcase Promenade, it's 1.3 miles of exercise). World Showcase restaurants have plenty of healthful choices, from the abundant smorgasbord of meats and vegetables at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway to the vegetable couscous at Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco. In Japan's Teppanyaki Dining Rooms you can go meatless or ask the chefs to toss shrimp, beef or chicken on the communal grill.

In Epcot Future World, Sunshine Seasons in The Land has a “nothing fried” menu with five food stations -- a wood-fired grill, sandwich shop, Asian shop, soup/salad shop and bakery, with everything from grilled salmon to a tofu noodle bowl.

At Disney-MGM Studios you can't go wrong with The Hollywood Brown Derby's Cobb salad, perfect for low-carb fans (though the dressing has a little sugar). At Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano, you can order a simple grilled flatbread with your choice of toppings, a bowl of vegetarian minestrone or grilled salmon over roasted vegetables. Grazing fans will enjoy the buffet of grilled meats, vegetables and salads at Hollywood & Vine.

At Disney's Animal Kingdom, food focuses on counter service, with healthful quick bites like pot stickers in broth from Chakranadi Chicken Shop, Pizzafari pies (try the Vegetable Deluxe with fresh spinach, tomatoes, Portobello mushrooms and a touch of pesto) and a broad selection at Tusker House Restaurant, including grilled salmon and rotisserie chicken.

Delicious Resort Dining

At Artist Point at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, the menu focuses on protein and vegetables, like the signature cedar-plank roasted salmon that's served with two vegetables (in the winter it's green beans and celery root smash).

Some of the best seafood in Central Florida is at Flying Fish Cafe at Disney BoardWalk, where there is a sophisticated spin on everything from tuna tartare to pan-roasted halibut.

At Jiko-The Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, there is a low-fat approach to dining reflected in the restaurant’s lyrical menu. Sublime sauces and South African spices liven up the creations, like the roasted chicken with preserved lemons, olives, roasted garlic herbs and harissa, or the golden bass steamed with spicey “chaka-laka” sauce. And Jiko chefs relish the opportunity to create a vegetarian or vegan extravaganza for guests.

Guests rave about the low-fat, no-starch sauces at California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort, and the fat-free, low-carb berry dessert at Disney's Grand Floridian Café. And nothing beats the customized menus at Victoria & Albert's, where Chef Scott Hunnel gets kudos as Central Florida's only AAA Five-Diamond chef.

With all this focus on eating, keep in mind, Walt Disney World Resort is twice the size of Manhattan, so there are lots of places to exercise. And theme park adventures burn plenty of calories. Or there's golf, tennis, swimming, sailing -- plenty of ways to stay in shape, and the perfect excuse to enjoy a heavenly crčme brűlče at Chefs de France.
"No one really wants to count calories on vacation," said Wronski. "We simply take a healthy approach with our menus."

Thanks to wdwnews.com