The holidays are for lots of fun, not for strict dieting or driving you crazy with calorie counting while dining at new restaurants. On the other end of the spectrum, falling off the wagon during your getaway so badly it takes weeks to beat the bloat and button your jeans isn’t the way to go either.
That said, there are plenty of ways to stay on track nutritionally while enjoying new foods and having fun. Here, Ashley Craft, author of USA today Bestseller The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook offers her top tips on how to eat healthy while traveling and not miss a thing.
Pack clean snacks
Having clean snacks on hand (especially when traveling) strengthens your line of defense against binge eating due to an unpredictable schedule. “Some clean snack ideas would be nuts or dried fruit because they’re super squishy, or some small beef sticks are also great,” Craft says. If you can’t or don’t want to pack your own snacks, you may be surprised that some vacation destinations like Disney offer plenty of clean-eating options at many of their food stalls and establishments. “Most stalls that sell ice cream bars or popcorn also sell whole pieces of fruit, so be on the lookout on your vacation,” she adds. When it comes to hydration, many destinations offer free cups of water in case you left your bottle at the hotel.
Check restaurant menus online before dining out
Dining at new restaurants is exciting and should be stress-free when it comes to enjoying new foods. Just checking the restaurant menu before you arrive will help you figure out which foods you want to enjoy and which ones you may want to avoid. Most menus contain nutritional information as well as allergy warnings.
For example, a great resource when ordering food at a Disney park is to open the menu on your phone and scroll down. “For most menus, ‘allergen-free’ choices are listed and often include clean foods like roasted carrots, fruit salad or brown rice,” says Craft. You can choose these dishes as a side dish instead of fries or typical mashed potatoes. If eating at the counter, the choices may be more limited, but there will almost always be a salad instead of fries or something similar. The aim is to take the stress out of last minute potentially having to make quick ordering decisions when selecting meals.
Enjoy dessert but use portion control
When it comes to eating something sweet at a restaurant, it can be hard to find clean or light desserts almost anywhere, in which case, “Your best bet will be portion control,” says Craft. This way, you can enjoy rich foods on your getaway without overdoing it or feeling deprived.
Sharing a dessert with a family member or friend will allow you to enjoy delicious desserts without getting hungover. (Or regret).
Try These Clean and Tasty Recipes at Home (or While Visiting Disney)
A few of Craft’s favorite clean dishes shared in his book, ‘The Unofficial Disney Parks EPCOT Cookbook,’ are full of flavor and health in mind.
Small Grilled Vegetables (For 4 People)
(From Flavor Full Kitchen, EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival)
A delicious vegan appetizer made with delicious vegetables. The combination of hummus and red pepper coulis creates a parade of new flavors on the palate.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- 1⁄2 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 1⁄2 cup vegan white cooking wine
- 1⁄2 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 4 pieces 1 medium yellow squash, halved and cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
- 4 medium cherry tomatoes
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced diagonally into 4 pieces
- 1 tsp salt 1⁄2 tsp ground black pepper 4 tbsp plain hummus
- Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add red pepper and onion. Stir and cook until tender and slightly charred, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully pour the mixture into a blender. Add wine and vegetable broth and stir until smooth. Pour into a container, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Rub vegetables with oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Grill over medium-high heat until tender and slightly charred, 5 to 7 minutes. (If you don’t have a grill, heat vegetable oil in a large, clean nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, squash, cherry tomatoes and carrot. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Stir and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until vegetables are tender and slightly charred.)
- Place 1 tablespoon of hummus and red pepper coulis on each of four medium plates. Add 1 piece of each vegetable. Serve immediately.
Green vegetable salad (for 4 people)
(From Regal Eagle Smokehouse, America’s Adventure Lodge)
This quick-service restaurant is known for its tender smoked meats served in different styles from all over the United States. Sometimes, to break up a meaty meal, a nice refreshing salad is a must. This one certainly does the trick, with a zesty dressing and an array of lettuce with fun toppings. Citrus adds a burst of lively flavor designed to balance heavy meats.
- 3⁄4 cup olive oil
- 1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons orange juice without pulp
- 4 tablespoons caster sugar Zest of ⁄2 medium lemon
- 1 tsp salt 1⁄2 tsp ground black pepper
- 8 cups mixed greens 4 tablespoons roasted and salted sunflower seeds
- 4 tablespoons dried cranberries 1 medium orange, peeled and diced 2 medium radishes, thinly sliced
- In a small bowl or 8-ounce Mason jar, add the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon and orange juices, sugar, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
- Mix or shake well until combined. The dressing will keep in a sealed jar for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
- For each serving, place 2 cups of mixed greens in a large bowl and top with 1 tbsp sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp cranberries, 1 quart diced
- Orange and 1⁄2 sliced radish.
- Drizzle with citrus vinaigrette and toss to combine.
Taken from the Unofficial EPCOT Disney Parks Cookbook by Ashley Craft. Copyright © 2022 by Ashley Craft. Photos by Harper Point Photography. Used with permission from the publisher. All rights reserved