Anything But More Chicken Fingers: A Tour of Healthier Kids Meals at Disney World Resorts

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t_logo_fbWelcome to Menu Monday. If your diet started today, we apologize. The TouringPlans Blog is trying out themed days for our content – starting with a consolidation of food and restaurant reviews on Mondays. Let us know what you think by email blog at touring plans dot com.

A challenge many vacationing families face is the seemingly static food offerings for the youngsters. Hamburgers and fries, chicken tenders and tater tots – those are the options you will find almost everywhere. Stop at your typical restaurant off the interstate on the way to Walt Disney World, and one, if not both, of those will certainly be among the kids’ selections.  It can be frustrating, but if you have elementary school-aged children, a cycle of repetitive fast food is sometimes almost a necessary evil.  By schedule, convenience, or even vacation, we’ve all been on a run of eating out just a little too much, to the point where the mere sight of your eight-year-old popping down one more chicken nugget drives you to your wit’s end.

You wonder, possibly even aloud: “Am I going to have to make the kids drink nothing but water for the next month to flush all of the grease from their digestive systems?”

Well, good news! While many of the kids’ menus at Disney also feature these good ol’ standbys, a little exploration of your resort restaurants will open up the meal options for the children.  Here are some of my clan’s favorite healthier choices at restaurants found at Walt Disney World resorts.

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Whispering Canyon Cafe

Whispering Canyon Café – Grilled Fish of the Day, $8.99. Long a family favorite for its campy servers and rough and tumble Wild West attitude, Whispering Canyon Café at the Wilderness Lodge caters toward the cowboys and cowgirls who need to graze on the spoils of the day’s hunt. But, while the adult menu is peppered with all sorts of hearty, meaty meals, the kids’ menu is relatively bland, which is odd considering that the antics of the wait staff are often a hit with the children. If you’re looking to go healthy, while still entertaining the kids, don’t skip on Whispering Canyon due to the menu – order the Grilled Fish of the Day. Plus, the rice pilaf adds some flavor for the finicky ones who don’t like regular rice. And, of course, ask for extra ketchup.

 

Riverside Mill – Freshly Sliced Meats, $6.99. The food court at my favorite resort, Port Orleans-Riverside, offers up several healthy options, but none better than the sliced meats found at the carving station each night for dinner. Freshly sliced turkey is served seven days a week, while roast beef and ham alternate throughout the week. All three are delicious and more than enough for one child. The roasted potatoes and corn that come with it are also outstanding and cap off a fine meal that encapsulates Riverside’s Southern charm. (Don’t forget that if you are on the Disney Dining Plan, you can use kids’ counter service credits to get adult meals! The build-your-own salad on the grownup menu is another healthy, tasty option.)

 

Olivia’s Cafe – Grilled Salmon, $8.59. The grill stays hot at Olivia’s at Old Key West. Kids have not one, not two, but three grilled meats to choose from: chicken, the “Catch of the Day,” and our favorite, grilled salmon! All three are served with rice pilaf, green beans, and carrots, making quite the little meal. And the yogurt parfait for dessert is always a crowd-pleaser.

 

Jiko – Pan-Seared Scallops, $12.00. At the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Jiko serves up African fare, including fish and chicken plates. However, if your son or daughter is a young seafood connoisseur, you can also find my all-time favorite: SCALLOPS! Once upon a time, a long time ago, after 45 minutes of trying, my Uncle Bill convinced five-year-old-me to try a scallop. I’ve been hooked ever since. They’re served with “ancient grains” and vegetables, which, at first glance, don’t appear the most appetizing, but still… SCALLOPS!

 

LandscapeOfFlavorsParfait
Build Your Own Parfait

Landscape of Flavors – Build Your Own Yogurt Parfait, $5.59. As noted above, don’t feel cornered into kids’ meals when taking in counter service if you’re on the Dining Plan – kids’ counter service credits can go toward adult meals. While not a lunch or dinner option, for a healthy breakfast and kid-friendly engagement, Landscape of Flavors at the Art of Animation resort offers up a Build Your Own Parfait option. Our girls loved this! A sizeable serving of yogurt, topped with kid’s choice of fruit, granola, berries, nuts… who wouldn’t love that? The best part is the kids get to pick out their ingredients as the server whips it up!  Check out the full breakfast menu at the Landscape of Flavors food court for some other healthy choices at Art of Animation.

 

The Wave – various options, each $8.99. For variety in children’s platters at table service locales, The Wave at the Contemporary Resort is a pretty good bet. It isn’t a restaurant particularly geared toward the younger set, but the menu is loaded with healthy choices for the kids. Baked chicken strips might suffice for the picky eaters in the group. They can also choose from grilled fish or grilled pork tenderloin, or, for a non-meat offering, penne pasta marinara. These are all served with green beans and/or rice, along with apples for dessert. For the young carnivores in your party, perhaps they would like the Petite Filet steak. The steak plate offers the most dessert options, though the vanilla gelato sundae or brown sugar apples push that diet toward the “not-so-healthy” end of the spectrum.

 

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Pepper Market at Coronado Springs

Pepper Market – various options. I’ve mentioned it twice now, and it bears repeating a third time: kids’ counter service credits can go for adult meals on the Dining Plan! There may not be a better place to pull that trump card than the Pepper Market at Coronado Springs. There are so many excellent offerings at the Pepper Market, being able to snake such choices as the Carolina Roasted Chicken, the grilled chicken sandwich, the chicken tortilla soup, or the build your own chef salad with kids’ dining credits is almost cheating. (I discussed sharing meals in my last piece – that definitely comes into play here.) If you’re not on the Dining Plan and wish to stay with kid-sized portions, the Pepper Market offers a fruit plate, quesadillas, fresh fish, and penne pasta, as well, each $7.99. Don’t forget fresh apples, oranges, and bananas for $1.50 a pop, as well.  The selections here range from Mexican to American down-home cooking, making it a popular stop for resort dining.

 

Those are my family’s resort favorites. What are yours? There are nearly six dozen restaurants located on Walt Disney World property. Do you know how much amazing food there is to be consumed between that many establishments? Doing some quick math in my head, the answer is: A BUNCH! Surely, there must be plenty more healthy-ish meals served up at the Walt Disney World Resort. Go explore the TouringPlans dining pages to find your next magical meal!

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Michael Watson

"Mikey" is a Disney Dad in Texas by way of the Carolinas and Alabama, lucky enough to fall into a Mouse-crazed family. Would live at Riverside if reality allowed it. Had a brief cameo in the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular in 2011. He is also a one-time THAT GUY at the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. When not trying to make the most ridiculous poses for the Splash Mountain camera, he's a sports junkie who will watch anything with a ball or puck (and podcasts about it at sixthyearseniors.com) and handles behind the scenes administration for Wendy Prater at Magical Journeys Travel at wpmagicjourneys.com.

8 thoughts on “Anything But More Chicken Fingers: A Tour of Healthier Kids Meals at Disney World Resorts

  • August 11, 2014 at 12:38 pm
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    I called Disney about the kids meals a couple of years ago; specifically about the quick service meals. The cookie that came with these meals was so horrible, my kids wouldn’t eat it. Imagine kids turning down chocolate chip cookies! We had a stack of 15 by the end of our trip! I told the cast member that if Whataburger could make a good choc chip cookie, then surely WDW could too. Grapes & carrot packages were also a sore spot– not sure the “best by” date was checked. I requested that they have adult QS entrees in half or kid sized portions because my kids could not eat chicken nuggets and fries every day. BTW, the kids nuggets are different than the adult’s. Kids get the processed chicken “goo” style, while adults get whole breast meat.

    Reply
  • August 11, 2014 at 1:57 pm
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    Have the rules changed on the kids getting adult QS meals with kids QS credits on the dining plan? The last time I was there with a family of 4 on the dining plan (2 kids, 2 adults) the key to the world card had the number of adults and number of kids printed on it. So while the computer didn’t know the difference between adult and kids QS credits the CMs reading the card wouldn’t let us order more than 2 adult meals at a time. The work around is of course to get in line twice and order 2 adult meals each time, but they certainly didn’t officially let people use child credits for adult meals. Has this changed with the magic band where there is nothing printed on the band to clue the CM into how many adult and child credits you have?

    Reply
    • August 11, 2014 at 2:03 pm
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      When we were there six weeks ago, we ordered adult-as-child quick service twice. It came in handy when our eating schedule got crossed up by snacking the afternoon away in the World Showcase.

      Reply
  • August 11, 2014 at 8:04 pm
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    Hi Micheal,
    Great Blog!
    I’ve found that eating Chicken fingers, hot dogs and mac and cheese everyday was really annoying. So even though it costs a bit extra, I often ate off the adults menu or shared an adults portion with my brother. The meals in the restaurants around world showcase especially. Often it is cheaper and more convenient to share a half metre pizza in Via Napoli than to each buy individual meals. This is just an example, but it is definiately a good idea to get kids to choose healthier dinners to broaden there food tastes. It is nice to see that Disney have tried to help too like in Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom where the kids menu consists of more variety like meatloaf and fish. Check out the TouringPlan review and menus. http://touringplans.com/magic-kingdom/dining/be-our-guest
    Thanks,
    Alex

    Reply
  • August 11, 2014 at 10:13 pm
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    I find myself in the same predicament all around the World. We certainly do not have “nugget & fries” kids. My son (8) could live on mussels and crab legs, and my daughter (10) can put a hurting on a salad bar like none other. We have almost completely ruled out counter service spots inside the parks because of it. But I have to say, I was blown away by how much they each ate at ‘Ohana. Especially the noodles, veggies, and wings.
    We are not huge fans of buffets in general, but our kids do like the opportunity to try things from the “adult” buffet, not just the “kids” offerings.

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  • August 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm
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    My ten-year-old gourmet is a massive fan of that petite filet at the Wave! I agree with MeLissa that the buffets are awesome for “good eaters,” and they’re pretty great for introducing new foods to pickier palates, as well. Another option at table-service is to get kids an appetizer or two. We frequently make meals out of appetizers!

    Reply
  • August 13, 2014 at 7:39 am
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    My 6 year old daughter has always loved the kids food at San Angel (EPCOT Mexico), particularly the chicken/rice/veggies. Otherwise, we skip the kids menus altogether and order from the adults menu for her.
    It amazes me that Disney restaurants continue to think that children will only eat nuggets or mac & cheese.

    Reply

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