Vacations are meant for lots of fun, not strict dieting or driving yourself 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 is not the way to go either.
With that said, there are plenty of ways to stay on track nutritionally while enjoying new foods and indulging for the fun of it. Here, Ashley Craft, author of the USA TODAY bestseller The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook offers her best tips on how to eat clean while traveling about and not missing out.
Pack Clean Snacks
Having clean snacks readily available (especially when traveling), strengthens your line of defense against binge eating due to an unpredictable schedule. “Some ideas for clean snacks would be nuts or dried fruits since they are super packable, or some little beef sticks are great too,” says Craft. If you can’t or don’t want to pack your own snacks, you may be surprised that certain vacation destinations like Disney, offer a lot of clean eating options at many of their stands and food establishments. “Most stands that sell ice cream bars or popcorn, also sell pieces of whole fruit, so be on the lookout for that when vacationing,” she adds. When it comes to hydration, many destinations provide free cups of water in case you left your bottle back at the hotel.
View Restaurant Menus Online Before Dining Out
Dining at new restaurants is exciting and should be stress-free when it comes to enjoying new foods. Simply pulling up the restaurant menu before arriving will help you navigate what foods you’re looking to enjoy and what you may want to steer clear of. Most menus have nutrition facts as well as allergy warnings.
For example, a great resource when ordering food at a Disney Park is to pull up the menu on your phone and scroll down to the bottom.”For most menus, “Allergy-Friendly” choices are listed and often include clean foods like roasted carrots, fruit salad, or brown rice,” says Craft. You can choose these items as your side instead of the typical fries or mashed potatoes. If you’re eating at a counter-service place, the choices might be more limited, but almost always there will be a salad instead of fries or something similar. The objective is to remove last-minute stress by possibly having to make quick ordering decisions when selecting meals.
Enjoy Dessert but Use Portion Control
When it comes to eating something sweet while dining out, it can be hard to find clean or light desserts almost anywhere, in that case, “Your best bet is going to be portion control,” says Craft. This way you get to enjoy rich foods on your getaway without going overboard or feeling deprived.
Splitting a dessert with a family member or friend will allow you to sample delicious desserts without experiencing a sugar hangover. (Or regret).
Try These Clean and Tasty Recipes at Home (or when visiting Disney)
A few of Craft’s favorite clean dishes shared from her book, ‘The Unofficial Disney Parks EPCOT Cookbook,’ are packed with flavor and health in mind.
Grilled Baby Vegetables (Serves 4)
(From the Flavor Full Kitchen, EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival)
A delicious vegan appetizer made of yummy vegetables. The combination of hummus and red pepper coulis creates a parade of new flavors in your mouth.
- 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 stock
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 4 pieces 1 medium yellow squash, halved and sliced lengthwise into 4 pieces
- 4 medium cherry tomatoes
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced on a diagonal into 4 pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper 4 tablespoons plain hummus
- Heat olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add red pepper and onion. Stir and cook until soft and slightly charred, 3–5 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully pour the mixture into a blender. Add wine and vegetable stock and blend 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 soft and slightly charred, 5–7 minutes. (If you don’t have a grill, heat vegetable oil in a clean large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add zucchini, squash, cherry tomatoes, and carrot. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Stir and cook for 5–7 minutes until vegetables are soft and slightly charred.)
- Scoop 1 tablespoon of hummus and red pepper coulis onto each of four medium plates. Add 1 piece of each vegetable. Serve immediately.
Power Greens Salad (Serves 4)
(From Regal Eagle Smokehouse, The American Adventure Pavilion)
This quick-service restaurant is known for its tender smoked meats served in various styles from across the United States. Sometimes, to break up a meaty meal, a nice refreshing salad is in order. This one certainly fits the bill, with a tangy dressing and an array of lettuce with fun toppings. The citrus adds a pop of bright flavor designed to balance out the heavy meats.
- 3⁄4 cup olive oil
- 1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons pulp-free orange juice
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar Zest of ⁄2 medium lemon
- 1 teaspoon salt 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 8 cups mixed salad greens 4 tablespoons roasted, salted sunflower seeds
- 4 tablespoons dried cranberries 1 medium orange, peeled and diced 2 medium radishes, sliced thin
- In a small bowl or 8-ounce Mason jar, add olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon and orange juices, sugar, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
- Mix or shake well until combined. The dressing will last in a sealed jar for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
- For each serving, place 2 cups of mixed salad greens in a large bowl and top with 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds, 1 tablespoon cranberries, 1 quarter diced
- Orange and 1⁄2 sliced radish.
- Drizzle with citrus dressing and toss to combine.
Excerpted from The Unofficial Disney Parks EPCOT Cookbook by Ashley Craft. Copyright © 2022 by Ashley Craft. Photos by Harper Point Photography. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved