About three years ago, I wrote a very similar post about navigating the Disney Resort with a broken pancreas. However, times have changed, information was left out, and the post was extremely long. To follow up on this original post, I’m creating shorter series-like posts to reference at different points of trip planning.
Why is this relevant to the non-Disney fan? The Friends for Life Conference is held annually in Orlando, usually on or near Disney property. CWD is also planning a conference at the Disneyland Hotel in September 2016 and May 2017. (And if you are a parent caring for a CWD, definitely check out a Friends for Life conference if you can.) In between sessions and in the evenings would be a fantastic time to check out the Resort.
These posts are Disneyland Resort, California specific, but the tips can apply to visiting the Resort in Orlando as well. (I just live much closer to “Land.”)
I have a love/hate relationship with the food at Disney Parks. Food costs aside, this is probably one of the most frustrating aspects of planning a Disney vacation. But, there are ways to enjoy the culinary offerings in the Resort without blowing through a vial of insulin. Here are things to be aware of, plus helpful alternatives.
First, what’s a SWAG Bolus? “Scientific Wild Ass Guessing.” A term of endearment I’ve picked up from the DOC, which essentially means carb counting is futile and I just need some form of insulin on board. Correct later.
This is usually how I get by in the Parks because Disney, as accommodating as they try to be to special diets, does not provide Nutrition Information, including carb counts, for their restaurants. Anywhere.
This makes it sound like eating at Disneyland is a crapshoot, right? Kind of. In Disneyland, bread is still technically bread, garden salads are still lettuce and other veggies, a cup of fruit is just that. The Mouse does not inject extra carbs in places normally not found just to mess with us. (How’s that for a visual?)
There are two strategies to take: a) Don’t worry about it too much and the excess of carbs and treats will be balanced out by the amount of walking done (because it’s a vacation) or b) go back to basics on learning about estimated portions and be as close to the perceived normal as possible. Keep in mind that this is still a vacation with various routine changes to consider – so the best efforts could still be thwarted. (Sometimes roller coaster BGs just happen.)
There are a few blogs and websites out there to help. Since eating low-carb and gluten-free have become almost diet staples these days, these types of accommodations are readily available.
Some general advice:
- Try not to stress about wild sugar control while here. Obviously, be vigilant about treating lows when they pop up, but it’s easy to let the meal planning overtake the reason we are here – a vacation.
- Bring in your own meals/food. Pack sandwiches which have been pre-carb counted. Or…
- Eat outside of the Parks. While the Disney food is novelty, there are a ton of chain restaurants (with nutrition information available) on South Harbor and Katella. Escape and go eat… probably for cheaper. Especially if the crowds are insane.
- Seek out items you know. Like chicken caesar salads. Or a grilled cheese sandwich. Vegetable Soup. A Turkey leg. There are plenty of recognizable food items available in the Resort that don’t require strange math equations.
- Indulge in a treat here and there. I’ll cover a few “bolus-worthy items” below. Things like this keep me sane and remind me that I’m on vacation, even if I’m working hard trying to keep my health in line.
- Split/Share meals. Works great with a toddler in tow. I usually finish Bean’s vegetables and take a few bites of her mac n cheese. Then order an entree salad. I’ve also shared with my spouse. Unless ordering specific items from counter service, meals are large enough to feed two.
- Check menus beforehand. Menus for all restaurants in the Resort can be found online with a simple Google Search. Here is one example.
Some Resort Favorites for Dining as a PWD
- Carnation Cafe (Disneyland) – great comfort food selections, but they also have salads. Breakfast and lunch are great. Make reservations around Parade Time.
- Jolly Holiday Cafe (Disneyland) – The Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup combo is my go-to, but they also have salads and other low carb options. (Chicken salad for example.)
- Storytellers Cafe (Grand Californian) – They have a great breakfast buffet with several lesser known characters walking around. But, the nice thing about buffets is that I can pick out specifically what I want how much of it. So pile on the eggs and bacon or grab a mini Mickey waffle. Breakfast goers can also show their receipt at the Grand’s California Adventure gate and get early access.
- Bengal BBQ (Disneyland) – everything is on a stick! Lots of lower carb & protein-friendly options here. Plus, it’s counter service, so it’s quick and usually not crowded.
- Hungry Bear Restaurant (Disneyland) – Salads, wraps, and sandwiches. It has weird hours, so head there for lunch.
*You may notice that there aren’t any California Adventure restaurants listed. I’m sure there are options available, but M and I are so rarely in CA to eat meals, that I don’t really have a favorite. We mostly just get snacks, coffee, or alcohol while there.
Finally, Treats in the Resort that are Totally Bolus-Worthy
- Dole Whip (Disneyland) – Right by the Tiki Room. Pick the line inside the Tiki Room entrance. Much shorter. Also, it’s essentially Pineapple Fro-Yo served in a portion large enough to share. Yum!
- Churros (Various) – These carts are everywhere. Follow the smell. But again, split one. One full churro is quite overwhelming.
- Potato Soup at Carnation Cafe (Disneyland) – One of my favorites. It’s a fully loaded, creamy bowl of deliciousness. Which stays with me like a slice of pizza. Adjust accordingly.
- Mickey Waffles (Anywhere breakfast is served) – As I mentioned, these can be found in smaller sizes at Storytellers, so they don’t have as great of an impact on sugar levels – so long as not all are consumed. Top with sugar free syrup, readily available pretty much everywhere. (Aside – these apparently have a gluten free option.)
- Fried Chicken (Plaza Inn/Disneyland) – Fried chicken is tricky because it’s high protein vs. fried, carby exterior. But this stuff melts in your mouth and satisfies even the pickiest of toddlers.
- Gingerbread Beignets (or regular ones work too) – Can really only be found around Holiday time, but they come in a set of three, so easy to share.
- Bread Bowls at Pacific Wharf Cafe (CA Adventure) – Being a California native, I know how good Boudin bread is. I encourage others to explore the fabulousness of it – just maybe don’t eat the whole bread bowl.
- Mickey shaped, well, anything. ‘Nuff said.
So, hungry yet? Did I miss anything? Tell me below in the comments. Enjoy exploring the different culinary options available in the Resort.
This is also the last installation of the Disneyland with T1D Series. Hope to have helped with planning this great trip. Be sure to check out the Friends For Life Conferences either in Anaheim or Florida if the travel dates align.