Paleo at the Parks – Part 1 [Adventures of Mommy Mouse and Baby Knightly]
It’s time for another edition of our popular Adventures of Mommy Mouse and Baby Knightly column! This time, we’re highlighting a new way of eating (for both mommy and baby) at Disney Parks that’s influenced by a diet crazy that’s growing around the world.
Learn how to survive at the Disneyland Resort while you’re on the Paleo diet below!
How does a foodie survive Disneyland when you’ve got special dietary needs?!
You step through the turnstile, hear that whistle, and BAM the scents are all around you.
…Sweet ice cream
…Roasted turkey legs
…Fresh hot corn dogs
It can be absolutely maddening to any Disneyland guest. But, especially, if you’ve got special dietary restrictions or allergies. So what’s a person to do? Can you survive Disneyland on a special diet?
As we picked the brains of Disneyland passholders and fans, we were told dismally: “you can’t eat anywhere” or “there’s nothing that’ll be good” or “just bring all your food”.
We have been annual passholders for years. But we had other members of our family plan a trip to Disneyland while we were on one of the strictest diets out there:
Due to health conditions, we’ve been on one of the strictest (but honestly wonderful) diets out there: The Whole30
It’s Paleo on steroids. A 30 day commitment. No excuses, cheats or slips. No eating any:
- Added sugar (real/artificial (i.e. honey, agave, stevia etc) even in any sauce (fruit juice is the only exception)
- Added alcohol, even for cooking or in any sauce
- Grains (includes corn)
- Legumes (except green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas)
- Dairy (except for clarified butter/ghee)
- Potatoes (except for sweet potatoes)
So when our family decided to schedule a Disneyland trip during our 30 day commitment, we wanted to curl up in bed and cry. After years of being Disney passholders, we know all the delicious, scrumptious goodies available – and we thought we’d be crawling our way around the park in agony over smelling the delicious foods that we could not partake.
But we found out something amazing, whether you have to eat gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, MSG-free, corn-free, you name it, you can not only survive Disneyland when you’ve got a serious allergy or diet, you can have DELICIOUS meals to satisfy any foodie.
So if you or your loved ones have ANY kind of special diet or food allergy – Disney can work their magic for you!
Now here’s how we tackled dietary dining at Disneyland. How we went…
Paleo at the Parks
(Knightly’s dinosaur hoodie sweater designed by Busy Belle)
There are over 625,000 guests who visit Disney World and Disneyland with food allergies (courtesy of Allergy Free Mouse’s interview with Gary Jones of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts). Often, they get 3 or more food allergies per guest.
That made us feel better.
So we got to work and contacted Disney straight away.
interview with Chef Bill Orton
We had the pleasure of getting to hang out with Chef de Cuisine Bill Orton who oversees culinary training, chef recruiting and special dietary programs at the Disneyland Resort. He was a sweet gentleman who helped us through all our dining worries and took great care of us during our two-day visit.
So, naturally, we picked his brain.
How many meals does the Disneyland Resort customize for people with special dietary needs?
We get over 100,000 special dietary meal requests per year at the Disneyland Resort. Daily, there are hundreds of guests who walk into our restaurants with allergies. I personally get about 20-25 emails per day.
Does Disneyland Resort (or will it ever) offer organic produce or sustainably raised and fed meat?
Carthay Circle Restaurant may have some organic produce. The only other place that would have organic or sustainably raised meat options would be at Napa Rose. I spoke with our meat buyer about those options but currently we don’t have any grass-fed beef options in the park. I don’t know if everyday guests would want to take on the added cost of offering those options in the parks.
Which restaurants do you feel are the best to check out for people with special dietary needs?
Stick to table-service restaurants for sure. They have a lot of ingredients available to them. My personal recommendation would be: Carnation Cafe, Blue Bayou, Carthay Circle Restaurant and Napa Rose.
We were given easy-to-follow directions for how to plan for delicious dining at Disneyland with special dietary needs. You can skip to the end to see how!
This was our adventure.
Mommy Mouse + baby Knightly’s dietary 2-day dining experience
Honestly skeptical as to what the food would taste like (and how weak we may end up feeling when smelling all the wafting delicious fragrances around the park), we packed for the worst:
our Disneyland-on-a-diet packing list
- Gourmet Grassfed beef jerky (David’s favorite) – They’re offering our DE readers a special promotion!!! Order these yummy beef jerky here and use coupon code “fitmickey” for 10% off and free shipping!
- Primal Pacs (Knightly loves the little pieces we’ll give him from this great snack pack- and Daddy gets to eat the beef jerky)
- RxBars (my personal favorite)
- 2 Pre-Made Paleo meals in Knightly’s milk cooler (fits with his bottle!) with ice pack
- List of allergy restrictions (to show as needed)
Now onto the main event, dining at Disneyland:
Day 1 | Disneyland Park + Napa Rose
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breakfast at Carnation Cafe
Our first visit was to Carnation Cafe. Admittedly, I was nervous how this whole experience would be and how “annoyed” the cast members/chefs may end up acting towards us because of how restrictive our diet was.
But, as soon as we checked in, we saw a carnation attached to our names and knew we were in for some special Disney treatment.
We were greeted at our tables by Chef Oscar Martinez, with over 58 years of Disney history (making him the longest Disney cast member). He was so warm and darling to us and gave baby Knightly a “1st Visit” Mickey Mouse button. Our server, Pamela, told us that so many families will just come and be greeted by Oscar by name since he’s come to know so many of the guests over the years. He even has his own entree “Oscar’s Choice” on the menu!
Guiding us through the menu, his assistant discussed what they could do to help customize our meal for our diet. And VOILA:
Sirloin Steak and Eggs cooked in Clarified Butter and Served with Fruit
Spinach and Tomato Egg White Frittata
A recommendation from Chef Bill Orton and our FAVORITE meal we’ve had at Carnation Cafe ever
lunch at Blue Bayou
Just 4 months into working at Blue Bayou, Chef Jesse greeted us when we arrived. Chef Jesse has worked for Disney for over 20 years and served as a Chef at the famous Club 33 for 10 of those years.
It’s not about having 36 ingredients. It’s using what you have with good care to make great food. – Assistant Chef Edek of Blue Bayou
For the appetizer, Chef Jesse and his assistant Edek served us a special off-the-menu SURPRISE!
Poached Jumbo Shrimp Pureed and Wrapped in a Melon Blanket with Melon Caviar
Disney, you MUST add this to the menu. One of the most delicious entrees we’ve ever had at Disney (Paris and Disney World included).
Now the main entrees:
Filet Mignon with Asparagus and Hollandaise Sauce
Grilled Salmon with Tomato Juice and Olive Oil with a Salsa Relish
dinner at Napa Rose
We had our highest hopes and expectations with Napa Rose especially because of its emphasis for seasonal flavors and farm-to-table fare emphasis. Unfortunately, this restaurant was where we had our hardest experience.
Greeted by a kindly server with a wonderful demeanor, appropriately enough named Mickey, he let us know in his own charming way that the chef and team would do all they can to create a wonderful meal with our specifications:“Once we serve it, you don’t have to worry about it. This is your house. Don’t worry about a dish.” – Mickey, our waiter at Napa Rose
Sadly, as wonderful a service as he and the team gave, we did have to worry. This is where we had several lessons learned.
We did enjoy:
Roasted Winter Beet Salad
Non-dairy Apple Salad Medley
Sautéed Scallops with Lobster Mango Sauce Appetizer
Sautéed John Dory with Brown Rice Pilaf
The MOST delicious fish served at the restaurant. But what’s that – Rice Pilaf? You can’t have that, right? Right. An assistant server placed it on our table and David caught it just in time and requested it be removed. The server apologized.
A few minutes later, the server returned and placed the plate on the table. It looked like the rice pilaf was replaced by beets so David took a bite. Not beets. They were potatoes. He asked me to take a bite to be sure.
And with one bite, we both had to restart our 30 days of Whole30. *teardrop*
We asked a nearby server if those were potatoes…just to be sure.
The server returned with a second server as well as what looked like a manager in a suit who looked over the item. The manager told us, “No, these are beets. They’re roasted in a way that gives them that potato texture and feel.”
Ah, beets – we should be okay. We thought. Really, we should’ve trusted our gut and asked the chef to clarify. After clearing the plate, David’s stomach started feeling weird. So we decided to ask our original server, Mickey, to ask the chef what those were.
He came back..and yes they were potatoes – Amorosa potatoes.
Tip: Ask the chef to be sure of what ingredients were used – before and after the meal is served. Just. In. Case.
But it was one negative experience from an overwhelming positive experience with all the other restaurants, and, albeit the rest of the night even at Napa Rose (granted looking back, we’ll never bring a baby to Napa Rose again – wait ’til they can sit still…because that’s just another nightmare)
But what about the rest of our meals? Well, they were actually quite delicious.
Grilled St. Pierre Fish with Cauliflower Fresco and Roasted Asparagus Filet
Petrale Sole with Winter Kale and Mushroom with Lemon Juice
Now on the Whole30, you steer clear from dessert but we wanted to see what Disney could make based on our dietary restrictions (and because it hurt inside to see the rest of our family eating the ridiculously delicious looking desserts). Here’s what the amazing pastry chef came up with:
Poached Pear with Roasted Walnuts, Candied Blueberries and a Sangria Shooter (with no alcohol or added sugar)
Even if we weren’t on a diet, this dish was amazing. And special thank you to Executive Chef Andrew Sutton and Chef Gloria for all their culinary efforts to make it a special meal for us!
That concludes Part 1 of our Paleo at the Parks story…which means there is a part 2! Be sure to check back on DisneyExaminer soon as we continue our Paleo journey at Disney California Adventure Park with more restaurants, more delicious food shots, and Disney fun.
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Have you been on a diet on vacation before? What was the hardest thing you had to stay away from? Did you know that Disney could specialize all your foods to meet your diet needs and restrictions? Comment and share your thoughts below!
Do you mind if I ask the price of the meals? It already costs $100 to get into the parks and the not so good for you food is ready expensive. Those meals look amazing but VERY pricy, if I know Disney! Thanks for your blog!
Hi Stephanie! The meals cost the same as any meal you’d order in the park – they’re the same price but just customized for your diet/palate. We spent a total (after tax and tip) of $29 at Carnation Cafe, $94 at Blue Bayou and $217 at Napa Rose (the most expensive of all the places we checked out). If you need to stick to Whole30 or paleo at the parks on a budget, it’s best to bring in food such as Pre-Made Paleo as everything else that’s not table service will have been premade with ingredients that are probably not permissible on the diet (unless you try the raw fruits, apple crisps or salads and have your own sauce, etc.). We spent less in the other restaurants that will be featured in the 2nd feature. Stay tuned!
Oh and by the way that’s for a family of 3! 🙂
Wow, these pictures are gorgeous! I’m sure I couldn’t afford to eat like this… but I did enjoy taking the beautifully-depicted food journey with you.
You’re a sweetheart, Chantelle. Thanks so much for your comment <3
I don’t think most people could afford those meals…breakfast, lunch, and dinner??! How about some options that don’t require a reservation at the pricest restaurants there?
Great comment, Arrietty! We’ll be sharing more in future features. But see my response to mrsg above! In general, you can contact Disney Dining for ANY restaurant that you prefer (so you can pick the less pricier ones) and they should be able to customize for you. Unfortunately the table service ones have that flexibility for our specific diets and the other quick service/food carts do not, but perhaps with whatever diet you’re pursuing they can address that. Almost all places have gluten-free options for example. But call Disney Dining and they can address your concerns more specifically!
A bit ridiculous. Who can afford to eat at those places along with all the other costs of going there? Also, completely self- imposed dietary restrictions are a faux problem, especially compared to those experienced by people who have restrictions due to a real medical need. So glad that having lots of $$ bought you all of that bending-over-backward by Disney chefs and staff. How about an article showing how to eat healthy at Disney that’s realistic?
Thank you for sharing your thoughts! That’s definitely a huge concern on our part as well as we know everything can add up. Passholders do get 10% off at these places but not always possible. Our 2nd feature will have more affordable restaurant options. But if you’re on a diet as strict as ours is with the Whole30, realistically, you can’t eat at Disney without spending the $. The best option then would be to bring in food from grocery stores or pre-made Paleo (which is just like $6/meal) or eat outside the park. I addressed the concern with Chef Bill Orton and he said that the park just can’t provide the healthier foods without upping the price of the tickets, which an overwhelming number of Disney guests would just not be willing to do. Unfortunately, most people just don’t care to eat healthy when they’re at a place like Disneyland. We hope you’ll address that with Disney too though! Perhaps we can help them change 🙂
I survived walt disney world paleo because you can bring your own food in. We made breakfast at the rental packed lunch in an ice chest and brought in snacks usually ate dinner outside the park. Unfortunately Disney CA said no outside food
…they checked our bags and we had to toss our snacks even though we had dietary restrictions. No way could we afford a family of five to even eat at the park at $100 each to get in let alone another $400 a day in food…must be nice to afford that lifestyle which is unrealistic for most people
Disney CA should not be allowed to toss your snacks for dietary restrictions. I’m really surprised they did that. Next time say it’s for food allergies (which is real since we’ve all got issues with gluten or what not). If they make a fuss, ask for higher ups supervisors and say you simply cannot eat what’s in the park. I’ve never had an issue bringing snacks in and we brought full on premade paleo meals. That’s unacceptable service. I’m so sorry you had to deal with that 🙁 boo.
Thanks so much! We just got done with our Whole30 diet and we did end up at Disneyland for a day of it. I found the employees at Pizza Port in tomorrow land very helpful in creating a salad that got out needs for lunch (I brought my own dressing).
Now that we are moving towards Paleo as a way of life we are finding great ways to make that happen at Disneyland.
That’s awesome! I’m so glad to hear you were able to do Whole30 at the Pizza Port!!! That’s a good affordable option for people to check out 🙂 I’ll definitely have to do that next trip. Thanks for sharing, Katie!
By the way did you make your own dressing? or did you buy Tessemae’s or something like that? Let us know!
This was helpful, thank you. But are these restaurants willing to work with families that are not writing an article? 🙂 My family has been on the GAPS diet (similar to Paleo/SCD but completely grain/potato/legume free) for over a year and will be visiting Disneyland in a week. How soon will part 2 be released? 😉
Yes!!! That’s the exciting part, Jules. Thank you for asking. In case you can’t wait for part 2, go to this site for steps from Disney on how to request special meals: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/special-dietary-requests/. They make over 100,000 special dietary meals/year and, seriously, from the families that were pros and already knew about this customization option – they’ve gotten amazing treatment. And if they don’t – seriously just complain to guest relations or to the managers. Disney is all about service and being the happiest place on earth. If they don’t make you happy, talk to higher up, and they will. Don’t accept a dissatisfactory service that brands itself on happiness.
Do you think its possible for “just anyone” to have this experience? I mean since they knew you were going to write about them and all.
Great question, George and, seriously, fair to ask. I’ve been receiving comments from people who knew about this system and got the same service – and the same goes for people who went to Disneyworld, so, yes, you should have this great experience as well! They’re branded the happiest place on earth for a reason. If they’re not for you, let them know and it’s their job to make you happy 🙂
I’m also pretty strict paleo and the carnation cafe has a pretty amazing burger that you can lose the bun and get with fruit instead of fries. It’s got chilis on it and an amazing fried egg. Flavors that I crave and sometimes go to the park only to enjoy when I’m feeling too lazy to cook. Personally would rather have that than the corndog (which as far as my memory serves me is pretty good too).
Oooh that sounds good, Angie! I’ve got to try that next time 🙂
I don’t understand the whole30 diet. Even if you accidentally eat something on the forbidden carbs list you still have to restart over? You only had one bite each!
I am starting to think my medical diet is close to the Whole30 plan, and I’m trying to find places that are safe to eat at Disneyland. When you say sweet potatoes are okay, do you mean yams? My doctor will not allow sweet potatoes (which are white) but yams are okay.
Great info! Thanks!! Will go look for the Part 2 now! Heading to Disney World in a few weeks…been Paleo for about 2 years and will be finishing up our first Whole30 BEFORE we get there! Yay! We will try to get to some of these places for sure! When I was reading your post, I was morning the loss of the Grassfed Gourmet jerky. 🙁 They only ship to Wisconsin now….I’m still trying to figure out if I know someone up there who I can have them shipped to ….and THEN have them ship to me in Georgia! 😮 Have you found another jerky you like as much?! I haven’t found any that even come CLOSE to tasting that good….much less being Whole30 approved!
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