I was lucky enough to spend this past week in the happiest place on earth, Walt Disney World. It was a well needed break from the cold New England temperatures and weather, which just seem to drag on and on at this point of the year.
If you’ve never been to Disney World, don’t worry. This post isn’t so much about Disney itself as it is about my experience attempting to maintain my diet while on vacation. That being said, it will be helpful to those looking to maintain their keto diet at Disney.
My experience is applicable almost anywhere because Disney is the most difficult place to maintain any resemblance of a diet in my experience.
Disney is absolutely filled with food. Unfortunately, most of it is junk food. From the Mickey ice cream bars and pretzels to the candy stores and restaurants, there’s certainly no shortage of high-carb sugar laden deliciousness to tempt one.
It’s hard to avoid stuffing your face all day and night. My last trip to Disney was a free-for-all of eating and I paid the price big time. By the time the trip had ended, I felt full, bloated, sluggish and just downright awful.
It took a few weeks to undo the damage that my overindulgence had caused in terms of weight gain. After that, I vowed that I wouldn’t do that to myself the next time I went to Disney.
Over the past 6 months or so, I have been experimenting with the ketogenic (keto) diet and have had some truly amazing results.
In the weeks leading up to my Disney trip, I was following the keto diet very strictly. I feel so great on it that I decided I was going to do my absolute best to maintain the diet during my 6-day trip at Disney.
Unlike other diets, falling off a keto diet can be more challenging due to the carbohydrate and sugar cravings you will likely experience.
Your body will quickly come to crave both again quite rapidly no matter how long you’ve been on the diet, and I certainly wanted to avoid that.
Now that my trip is all over with, I’m happy to document my Disney keto experiment. It was not perfect by any means however, it made me realize that with some discipline and motivation, maintaining a keto/low-carb diet on vacation can be done.
Before we go any further, I want to say that I am far from an expert on the Keto diet. I have read and studied it a fair deal however, I know the Keto hard asses will point out “that’s not keto”, with some meals I ate.
I’ll be the first to admit that not everything I ate was perfectly keto however, doing my best to follow the diet allowed me to come right back from vacation and easily continue the diet strictly as I had done prior, with very few carbohydrate or sugar cravings.
I think that the easiest way to document my eating during my time at Disney will be to break it down day to day so that you can have a blue plan of what to expect and look for when you’re trying to maintain your keto diet the next time you’re at Disney.
Sunday-travel day and Disney Springs
I typically prefer to fly as early in the morning as possible to get it over with because I’m not a huge fan of it however, flights were significantly cheaper in the afternoon, so we opted to fly then.
As I didn’t have to get up and run out of the house early, I was able to get a standard keto meal in before we left for the airport.
I had to make a last-minute run to Whole Foods to get one of those tiny little travel toothpastes so I just grabbed breakfast at their hot bar.
I just went with bacon and eggs as I knew that I wouldn’t be able to eat a full meal for hours and both have adequate fat and protein to keep me full for a long time. Also, the Whole Foods near me has the most delicious bacon I’ve ever had.
A few hours later, we were at the airport and I made it through screening after getting my back searched by a rather grumpy TSA employee due to the Field Of Greens powder I had in my bag.
At that point, it had been a few hours since breakfast and I was starting to get hungry. I stopped into the airport convenience store and was happy to find mozzarella cheese and pepperoni roll-ups.
I bought two of the slightly overpriced roll-ups, eating one right away and throwing the other in my carry-on bag to eat during the flight.
About two hours later, we were up in the air and I was on my way to beautiful Florida. I usually enjoy the preflight snack and most airlines have done a good job at providing healthier options however, they are usually carbohydrate-based snacks like chips and crackers.
I passed on the delicious Popcorner chips and opted to eat the other cheese and pepperoni roll-up I had stashed away in my bag. It did the job and controlled my hunger enough to finish the flight.
By the time we got to Disney and settled into our resort, it was about 6 p.m and time for dinner. We had a reservation that night at a restaurant in Disney Springs called Paradiso 37.
While I had never been there before, Paradiso 37 was good. The menu had a lot of Caribbean/Southern American type cuisine on it.
The consensus of the table was to start off with the tortilla chips and guacamole appetizer. Although the chips were gluten-free, I did my best to limit how many I had. I was afraid of falling into the high-carb trap right off the bat. I made sure to load the few chips I had with guacamole.
For the entree, I went with the ranchero steak salad. It was an iceberg wedge salad with chipotle ranch dressing, applewood smoked bacon, queso fresco, avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes. Overall, it was very good and helped me start off the trip on the right foot diet wise.
The first full day at Disney, we went to Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom is my favorite park at Disney. I love how authentic each part of the park is. It really feels like you’re in Asia and Africa as you walk through them.
I packed 3 boxes of protein bars to last me the week, so I brought on of those with me for breakfast on Monday. One odd thing I found is that it’s very difficult around the Disney resorts to find any standard breakfast food. Can’t a guy just get a couple eggs?
There were a few carbs and sugars in the bars that I brought however, it was the best option I had that allowed me to save some money while maintaining something close to my normal diet.
I also recalled from my previous Disney trip that they sold Babybel cheese wheels at Animal Kingdom, which have become a weekly snack staple in my keto plan.
Around lunchtime, I was excited to find that they still sold Babybel cheese at a little market in the Africa portion called the Harambe Fruit Market.
Sadly, the little package only contained three cheese wheels, but it was something and helped me survive the rest of the day without being too hungry.
That night we had reservations at the Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant called Be Our Guest located in Magic Kingdom.
I had been there before, so I knew that they had keto-friendly options although, I found that the menu had changed a bit since my last trip.
Although the basket of bread they dumped on the table looked delicious and I was starving, I was able to resist it. I’ve found that diving into the bread right of the bad usually leads to overeating throughout the rest of the meal.
The new menu at Be Our Guest forces you to choose an appetizer, an entree and a desert. After perusing the appetizers, I went with the Maine lobster bisque.
I know that Lobster Bisque is made with heavy cream and typically low-carb, so I knew it would be a good choice. It was quite delicious although, the serving size was small.
For the entree, I went with the roasted pork tenderloin which came with caramelized cipollini, roasted asparagus, brussels sprouts, cauliflower purée and sprinkled bacon Dust.
For desert, you were provided with a sampling of almond macaroon, dark chocolate truffle, and a white chocolate chip cup aka “the grey stuff”. I wish I could say that I didn’t eat it, but the truth is that I ate every single delicious morsel of that desert.
Since my daily sugar intake had been extremely low in the weeks leading up to my vacation, I thought that the desert would have a noticeable effect on me.
Aside from feeling a little cloudy, I felt fine after the meal. I think the low-carb intake from the rest of the day really helped me out and gave me a cushion to absorb the desert without any major issues.
Tuesday- Magic Kingdom
I started off the day with some coffee with cream and one of the protein bars that I bought. I have almost all but stopped drinking coffee due to the effect caffeine has on me but I was just craving it.
I knew from my last trip that I was going to hit up the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn for lunch because it has a free salad bar of sorts, which they call a “topping bar”. It has everything you need to make a decent salad to include shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, and salsa.
The topping bar is free for anyone to go up and use. The last time I was there they provided fairly large food boat style trays which were just enough to make yourself a small salad.
While there’s no meat at the topping bar, there are enough things to make a small keto-friendly salad which can hold you over for a few hours without spending any money. I have done it myself on more than one occasion and nobody said anything to me there.
There are very few things for free at Disney so this topping bar is a big deal. Disney must have caught on to the scheme however, because instead of the spacious food boats they used to provide at the topping bar, I found that they had been replaced with small plastic serving cups.
I ended up ordering the Southwest salad with chicken which had mixed greens topped with seasoned chicken, roasted Corn and bean salsa, tomatoes and tortilla crisps. It wasn’t the perfect keto salad due to the corn, beans and tortilla chips however, I did my best to eat around those things.
I put my disappointment aside over the replacement of the food boats and still took full advantage of the topping bar. I loaded up with the sour cream, cheese and lettuce and added it to the salad. Even shared between two people, the salad was enough to hold me over until dinner.
For dinner that evening we had reservations at the San Angel Inn located in the Mexico section of the Epcot World Showcase.
It’s generally pretty easy to find or make a keto-friendly meal at a Mexican restaurant however, it can be hard to avoid the carbs.
I just can’t go to a Mexican restaurant and not try the guacamole, so we again ordered the tortilla chips and guacamole as an appetizer. It was totally worth it. The guacamole was two thumbs up.
After looking over the entrees, I found that there was a lot more carbs on the menu than I had anticipated. I went with the Pollo a Las Rajas which was grilled chicken breast over a bed of roasted garlic potatoes with onions, red peppers, corn, and poblano pepper cream sauce topped with queso fresco.
Luckily, there was not a ton of potatoes and overall, it was vegetable centric and definitely a good choice compared to the other options.
There was no desert that evening and that was the last meal of the night.
We spent the day at Epcot on Wednesday. Epcot probably has the most food options of all the parks due to their world showcase which features food from various countries to include Mexico, Japan, China, Morocco, Italy, France and America.
There is also always some type of special festival going on around Epcot with pop-up food booths, which serve high-quality gourmet items that are different from the rest of the park.
I never have any difficult finding something to eat in Epcot however, it was a bit of a challenge initially that day to find something keto-friendly.
I was feeling like I had a few too many carbs from the day before and was looking to avoid them the best that I could that day.
After walking through the American section, I initially was going to settle for one of the famous turkey legs however, I spotted a menu with a chicken cobb salad at the Liberty Inn at the last second.
The salad was very keto-friendly from the description and included field greens, grilled chicken, avocado, egg, bacon, tomato, cucumbers, apples and blue cheese tossed in a sherry vinaigrette.
The salad was definitely a diamond in the rough. It was a good salad as far as Disney salads go and filled me up enough to go on the rest of the afternoon.
We stayed in Epcot for dinner as well and had reservations at the Coral Reef Restaurant. As you might guess from the title, it’s a seafood restaurant. The dining room is in front of a huge aquarium which was really cool.
Seafood restaurants are typically great options for those on keto diets because you can almost always find an entree with a baked or seared fish and vegetables.
I am a New-England clam chowder fiend so when I saw it as an appetizer on the menu, I knew I had to try it. While the chowder was delicious, it had far too many potatoes and wasn’t as great of an option as I was hoping.
I was not disappointed at this restaurant and ordered a seared Mahi Mahi which came with jasmine rice, coconut cilantro-lime sauce and caribbean shrimp salsa.
The fish was perfectly cooked. I had never tried Mahi Mahi before, but it was no overwhelmingly fishy at all and I really enjoyed it. I did eat the rice that came with it as I was starving and just couldn’t let it go to waste. Luckily, they didn’t give me too much rice.
I was again able to resist the urge to order desert or find it somewhere in the park. Avoiding sugar throughout this trip really helped me to control my hunger levels and maintain my discipline.
This trip would be totally boring if I just ate well every day wouldn’t it? Well if you know me, you know that wasn’t going to happen every day. Thursday was the day of reckoning where the wheels came off.
The morning and day were very much like the other days. I held off on breakfast and fasted as long as I could until I had a protein bar which I brought with me into Hollywood Studios.
Of all the parks, I think Hollywood studios has the least amount of food options for someone trying to follow any type of diet. It’s a cool park, but I just don’t think there’s much there and there seemed to be even less this year.
I continued with the salad theme for lunch and had a Southwest chicken salad at the Backlot Express. This salad was unfortunately a disappointment. There wasn’t much to it and it did not curb my hunger for very long.
By the time dinner was approaching, I had a feeling that I was going to break my diet quite a bit. There are a fair amount of buffets in Disney and we had reservations at one called the Liberty Tree Tavern located in Magic Kingdom.
I have been dying to go to this restaurant for years. It’s an “all you care to enjoy” buffet, which includes roasted turkey breast, pot roast, and oven-roasted pork with mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, herb stuffing, and house-made macaroni and cheese. Does that not all sound amazing?
Knowing I was going to a place where it’s basically Thanksgiving every day, I didn’t have much hope I was going to keep myself from trying everything. Added to the hunger I was feeling by the time we got the Liberty Tree Tavern, I knew that I was done for.
My initial plan was just to focus on the meat and veggies and just “taste” the stuffing, potatoes and macaroni and cheese a bit.
Wouldn’t you know it that they didn’t bring too many veggies however, there was quite a bit of stuffing and macaroni and cheese. Everything was served family style as well so there were just bowls all over the table staring at me.
I will say that the pot roast they served was amazing. It was perfect tender and fell apart in your mouth. As much as I ate of that, I just couldn’t keep from everything else.
I ended up having a few servings of the stuffing and macaroni and cheese. Maybe it was because I was so hungry, but both were delicious, and it was totally worth cheating for.
The desert is what really did me in. This was the best desert I have ever had at any restaurant in Disney in all of my three trips.
The desert was a large plate to be shared with everyone which included ooey gooey toffee cake, apple fritters and warm banana cake. I just couldn’t resist that and tried all three. Of everyone at the table, I probably ate the most of the desert. Oops.
By the time the meal ended I was uncomfortably full. Fuller than I had been at any meal in months and I knew I had overdone it.
One thing I have found with the keto diet is that for some reason my body seems to handle cheat foods much better than it did before. Even after stuffing myself at dinner that night, I felt almost back to normal by the time I went to sleep a few hours later.
The next day I didn’t feel too bad either. I felt a little sluggish and bloated, but it really wasn’t too bad. I was surprised and happy that I made it through the Liberty Tree feast without ruining the rest of my vacation.
I also did not have a strong carbohydrate or sugar craving the next day like I thought I would. Even with one meal like that, I usually will have some type of craving the next day, but I didn’t.
Friday was our last full day at the park and we opted for Magic Kingdom again. Knowing that I had gotten the big meal out of the way and lived to tell about it, I was feeling pretty confident that I’d be able to skate through the rest of the trip.
I started off the morning again with some coffee and a protein bar and was able to make it late into the day without having to eat. All the calories I had taken in the night before likely helped me with that.
We ended up moving over to Epcot later in the afternoon. The highest quality food in my experience is found in the special event kiosks around Disney. This time there was an art festival going on while we were there.
We found a braised short rib in one of the kiosks near the American section. Although it was a very tiny amount, it was basically just short ribs without any carbs. It was keto but just not very filling.
We found another kiosk a little while later which served a thick pork belly with a poached egg on top of it. Even though it was again not much, the fat from the egg and pork filled me up enough until dinner.
For our last night at Disney, we went to my favorite restaurant located in Epcot, Rose & Crown Dining Room. Rose & Crown is a British pub that serves English, Scottish and Irish classics.
After the Mahi Mahi, I knew that the fish in Disney wouldn’t disappoint me. I went with the pan roasted Scottish Salmon which included fresh kale, red and green cabbage, brussels sprouts, carrots, and red lentils with an aromatic English spring pea sauce.
I was not disappointed, and the salmon was excellent. That added with the keto-friendly veggies, made it an excellent choice that left me feeling guilt-free.
I was again able to resist any desert even though it was the last night. I almost sprung for some ice-cream but decided at the last minute that it wasn’t worth it.
We left early in the morning on Saturday, so the Rose & Crown was the last place I ate at during this trip. As I look back, I ate much better on this trip than I did the first two.
While I did not maintain a perfect keto diet, I am very happy with the way it went. I was able to find a lot of high-fat, moderate protein meals that allowed me to maintain something similar to my usual diet.
The biggest thing I found was that I was able to transition right back to how I had been eating the first day I returned home from the vacation without any real issues.
I did experience some brain-fog and some carb cravings the first day or two, but it wasn’t much. It definitely did not take me weeks to return to normal like it had in the past.
The most exciting thing was that upon weighing myself when I returned home from Disney, I found that I had lost three pounds, which I wasn’t expecting.
If you’ve been to Disney, you know that you will usually walk at least 4-5 miles a day if not more. With that amount of walking and the meals I ate, I was able to maintain a calorie deficit.
Hopefully this will bring some help and guidance to those looking to maintain their keto diet in Disney. It may be difficult to do it perfectly but with some planning and discipline you can maintain the diet pretty well!
Have you ever tried to maintain a keto diet at Disney or any vacation for that matter? I would love to hear your thoughts and experience below!