A trip to the Disney theme parks isn’t usually synonymous with healthy eating. The Dove dark chocolate Mickey ears, deep-fried churros and Carnation Café creations don’t exactly scream conscious cuisine. As a vegan, a recent family trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., had me a bit apprehensive about enjoying my visit while maintaining my compassion for animal welfare, the planet, and my body through whole foods and plant-based nutrition. So, I began searching the Disney Dining options online prior to departure to see what, if any, vegan options were available.
Armed with that knowledge, I set out to see whether a vegan could find her happy place in the happiest place on earth.
Vegan Dining at Animal Kingdom
It was easy to stay a vegan and not fall prey to becoming a cheagan (a cheating vegan) at this park. Due to the varied cultural cuisine at Animal Kingdom, a plethora of vegetarian options exist here.
We began our trek by eating lunch in Asia at Yak & Yeti. This is a quick-service restaurant with aesthetic outdoor seating; they also offer a pricier table service venue nearby. My husband and I enjoyed a delicious Roasted Vegetable Couscous Wrap (sans the yogurt sauce) and a glass of Besa Del Sol Sangria (I said we were vegan, not boring!) in lieu of the fries, beef and pork menu options.
We didn’t make it to the Harambe Market in Africa, which is also a quick-service establishment, but ohhh, their Grilled Vegetable Stack with Green Papaya Slaw and Black-Eyed Pea Salad looked tantalizing. Also in Africa is the Harambe Fruit Market, boasting oranges, apples, pineapple spears, strawberries, apple slices and caramel, fruit cups, carrots and celery, fruit and nut trail mix, dried cranberries, clementines, watermelon, bananas, and more. Mamas and papas (and fruitarians), take note of this thatched-roof cart when your kids need a healthy pick-me-up of nourishment, not a sugar rush.
After a few rides and outdoor shows, our group was predictably ready for a sweet indulgence. While our extended family members embarked upon the decadent delights at the Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery, I was on my own African safari to hunt down the one healthy dessert in the park. Luckily, my taste buds were satisfied at Tamu Tamu Refreshments, where the hubs and I savored the Pineapple Dole Whip Cup! If you’ve never indulged in this, do yourself a favor. It’s a delicious fat-free, dairy-free and gluten-free treat.
In Discovery Island, there’s a small hut called Terra Treats. I took a peek at the menu and was pleasantly surprised to find Hummus with Vegetables and Rice Chips. In Asia, you can also nosh on Hummus or Edamame at Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks. On the way out of the park, I smelled the aroma coming from Mr. Kamal’s. I wish I’d seen this tiny vegetarian shack (which isn’t featured online at Disney Dining) earlier, as I would have chosen its Samosa or Falafel Sandwich for lunch.
Vegan Dining at Epcot Center
If you haven’t been to Epcot Center at Disney World before, prepare for a culinary trip around the world. While visiting, the Food & Wine Festival was also going on, creating a cornucopia of choices. One of my favorite (new) food items was the Hummus Fries served at a kiosk in — where else? — Morocco! We were thrilled to see this a hit with our non-vegetarian/vegan family members as well. (I think it was the word fries at the end.)
It’s no surprise that Morocco has vegan options of Falafel & Lentils at the Tangierine Cafe and Couscous with Vegetables at Restaurant Marrakesh. Or, you can also enjoy a Vegetable Roll and edemame at Tokyo Dining. However, Ron and I had fiesta on the brain while we savored the Guacamole with Totopos overlooking the World Showcase Lagoon at La Cantina de San Angel (the Ensalada Mexicana also looked great and is 100 percent vegan). Later that night, we dined at San Angel Inn (an exquisite dining experience located inside an Aztec pyramid, overlooking a river and stunning backdrop). We enjoyed the Tacos de Vegetales and a vegan entree from their specials menu. It was absolutely delicious and our entire group enjoyed their dinner here.
Vegan Dining at Magic Kingdom
For lunch, we tried Columbia Harbour House in Liberty Square, which offered Vegetarian Chili (one of our favorites). It started to drizzle outside, so this was the perfect lunch stop and offers an abundance of seating indoors, both upstairs and down. For a snack, another Dole Pineapple Whip Cup in Adventureland at Aloha Isle.
Dinner was, by far, the best experience of our entire trip at Be Our Guest Restaurant in Fantasyland. We weren’t able to secure reservations prior to our visit (on the phone or online), so a little pixie dust was certainly required from Tinkerbell that day. We enjoyed a late-night dinner in the fabulous Rose Room while meeting the Beast character himself. Ron and I were thrilled to find Layered Ratatouille on the menu, which was 100 percent vegan and 100 percent perfect.
To be vegan, you must be committed, flexible and prepared. But, with a little magic, you really can eat healthy just about anywhere. While this isn’t a comprehensive list, I hope my above recommendations help you. For me, the happiest place on earth just got a little happier … and healthier.