Friday, May 14, 2010

Around The Mouse Fitness - Healthy Eating In Epcot

Epcot is the King Of Dining in The Mouse. It really is. Just think about how many restaurants - both table service and counter service - they have all around the park. Some of the best establishments in both categories are present: Le Cellier, Sunshine Seasons, Les Chefs de France, Tangerine Cafe, Biergarten, Coral Reef, and Teppan Edo just to name a few. The options are almost limitless.

But what about options when it comes to eating healthfully? What if a guest needs to limit or balance their calories? What if they don't want to blow their eating habits out of the water by coming to the vacation kingdom of the known world? Is it even possible to not blow it up?

It is possible. And it's very doable...especially at Epcot. You just have to pick your battles and know where to look.

First, let's be honest: most people who come to Disney World are on vacation and want to splurge - and they have every right to. And WDW has some of the best food you'll EVER taste, period. You don't want to miss it, and shouldn't miss it. But you can control it. The secret lies in eating healthy when the options make it at all possible, so it helps balance out the few times you truly splurge because the best options might not be there. That means knowing where those healthy options are present.

One of the best places to look for healthy options is the winner of Around The Mouse's best counter service restaurant, Sunshine Seasons. Don't get me wrong - there's plenty here that's REALLY unhealthy - so just going to this expansive restaurant in The Land pavilion doesn't make all the choices optimal. Amongst the best from which to choose from in Sunshine is:

Black Bean Soup
Seared Tuna on Mixed Greens
Spicy Thai Chicken
Oak Grilled Vegetable Flatbread
Grilled Salmon with Kalamata Olive Pesto
California Sushi Rolls
Cous-Cous side
Mixed Green Salad with Apple-Balsamic Dressing
Broccoli side

Our vote for healthiest choice would be the Seared Tuna on Mixed Greens (with Seasame Wine Dressing) with a side of black bean soup. The soup is low in calories and fat while being high in protein, fiber and complex carbs. The Tuna & greens is relatively low in calories, high in Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals. Just be careful with the dressing - there are worse dressings out there (anything in the cream dressing department), but you don't want to go overboard. Also, just a little sushi goes a long way - the white sticky rice is nutritionally empty and very high on the glycemic index (see more on the Glycemic Index here). It is packed with veggies, however, at least giving it some nutritional punch.

Another great option in Future World comes from the surprising Electric Umbrella. This counter services next to Innoventions and across from Mouse Gears offers a good old fashioned Whole Wheat Turkey Wrap. Ask for no cheese and you have a low calorie, low fat, high protein and moderately high fiber meal. Mustard or a light Italian dressing can provide some extra flavor.

Moving over to World Showcase, the Yakitori House in the Japan pavilion offers their broiled Chicken Ginger Salad and Miso Soup. Both are low on calories and the Ginger salad high in protein and low in fat. The Miso Soup may be an acquired taste, but I love it.

The Tangerine Cafe has some offerings that can help a healthy diet. The vegetarian platter is wonderful, as is the Mediterranean Chicken Wrap. Sides of hummus, tabouleh, lentil salad and cous-cous are also good choices with quality nutritional value.

Of course, the stars of the dining world in Epcot are the table service establishments. Almost all of them will be more than willing to work with you on creating healthier options for your meal - remember, you're never relegated to only what's on the menu. The server and chefs will definitely assist in providing something tweaked to be healthier (no butter while sauteeing, dressings/sauces on the side, veggies instead of rice/pasta, extra spices or seasonings to add flavor, lower sugar options, etc.). Don't be afraid to ask.

Two places that might give you an issue as far as healthy options is Biergarten and San Angel Inn. And the Inn might be able to work with you as far as switching out ingredients or altering preparation, but Biergarten is a buffet - a buffet I love - but it is a LOT of heavy calorie, heavy sauce, heavy carb dishes. They do have some salads, but I don't know if I could justify spending upwards of $30.00 per person for a salad buffet. It pains me to say it because I flat-out love the place, but enter with caution.

In the end, Epcot has tons of options, even counter service options that can help you come to Disney World and not consistently have a 4,000 - 6,000 calorie day. That can add up quickly. So when you have an opportunity, look for some of the above recommendations if you need to watch your caloric intake.

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