In 2018 over 58,000,000 people visited Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom combined. That’s a lot of people wearing Mickey Mouse hats and enjoying the food in the parks! Since many people are putting travel plans on hold due to COVID, this is a perfect time to seize the opportunity to bring Disney foods into your home.
Ashley Craft, the author of The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook which will be published in December 2020, grew up 15 minutes outside Disneyland Resort in California. Her family often went to the park to enjoy the rides, and sometimes just for the food. She had two Disney internships as a college student and eventually started to recreate Disney-park inspired foods from scratch at home. The book includes 100 recipes and dedicates a chapter to food from Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney California Adventure.
Many people leave healthy eating habits at home when they go on vacation or out for a special occasion weekend. The majority of the recipes in the book reflect that idea, with about 45% of the recipes featuring sweet snacks and desserts. Use these tips to identify healthier recipes that still capture the Disney magic:
- Look for recipes that contain fruit, such as Mango Popsicles from the Mexico section of Epcot that blend vanilla yogurt and fresh or frozen mango pieces with sugar. Make this recipe even healthier by choosing sugar-free vanilla yogurt and reducing the amount of added sugar.
- Soups can be an excellent way to enjoy the magic of Disney in a healthier way. Tomato Basil Soup from Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom uses fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, seasonings and chicken broth. Reduce the sodium by using a low-sodium broth and adjusting the seasonings.
- The majority of the beverages in the cookbook use high amounts of sugar and ice cream, but the Green Milk from Star Wars Galaxy Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios combines fruit juices, coconut and rice milk, food coloring, and a smaller amount of sugar. Make this beverage lower in sugar by reducing the amount of corn syrup and use unsweetened coconut and rice milk.
- Many of the main dishes incorporate healthier ingredients. Carnitas Tacos from Hollywood Land in the Disney California Adventure feature seasoned pork (you could substitute chicken) cooked in a pressure cooker, and then combined with red and green shredded cabbage and salsa in flour tortillas.
- Look for recipes that feature vegetables – and we’re not talking French fries or tater tots. Chili-Lime Corn on the Cob from Pixar Pier in the Disney California Adventure feature grilled corn on the cob with butter and chili-lime seasoning so you can decide on the amount of butter you want to use.
- If you really want to make a treat shaped like Mickey Mouse, try the Mickey Waffles from Africa in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Purchase a Mickey waffle iron for the iconic shape, and then top the waffles with fresh fruit and plain Greek yogurt for a healthier breakfast.
Use our tips not only with this cookbook, but also with every other specialty cookbook to help you make fun foods part of an overall healthy, nutrient-dense eating plan:
- Disney is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of us. Think of the sweets, fried snacks, and desserts in that same way: enjoy them for a very special occasion in small amounts, and not for everyday -- or even every week -- eating.
- Reduce the amount of sugar, salt, and added fat in recipes by at least half.
- Bake foods instead of frying. For example, instead of frying potatoes in oil for the Mt. Karmal Seasoned Fries from Asia in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, spritz the potatoes with cooking spray, then them bake in a hot oven.
By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDE, CPT, CHWC
- Magicguides.com. Walt Disney World Statistics. https://magicguides.com/disney-world-statistics/ Accessed 10-29-20
- Craft, A. (2020) The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook. Adams Media
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.