I Maintained Keto at Disney World and Here’s How I Did It
The new year is here and of course I over-indulged during the holidays so I decided that in order to reel things back in, I would go back to a meal plan that has worked for me in the past and is usually realistic to do in most situations, Keto.
I managed to drop my diet down to near 0 carbs a day while increasing fats for a full 7 days with no issue, but ahead of me was a hurdle that I knew would be challenging – 5 days in Disney World while running two races (a 10k and a half marathon).
I decided to give keto my best shot in Disney World and see if it could be done, in a place not known for particularly low carb foods, and share how I did it with you. I was partly successful – I maintained keto the entire time! However, I did sort of fail at one thing: running 19.3 miles in just 24 hours on zero carbs is not a good idea, more on that later.
The important thing for the average, non long-distance running Disney World guest is that maintaining your keto diet is possible at Disney World and here’s how I did it plus some quick tips and food ideas to help you stay in ketosis in the place where dreams come true.
I was staying at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin so that affects my items below but here’s a rundown of keto friendly foods you can find around the resorts.
The Swan and Dolphin’s Picabu Buffeteria offers a nice assortment of salads (chef, Caesar that has no croutons, and southwest). These are great lunchtime offerings for when you first arrive or happen to be at the hotel in the afternoon.
I love a snack in the evening, but my choices here were more limited. I was dying for something salty, but the beef jerky they had was all heavily flavored with sugary additives so I skipped that. They did have some great nut options such as salt and vinegar flavored almonds. This was a great salty snack with a crunch that didn’t put me over my daily carb limit and gave me some needed fats.
On a different night I was really craving something sweet before bed. That’s when keto can get really challenging. In Fuel, the other take-away locations in the swan dolphin I did manage to find a few options to satisfy my sweet craving. I grabbed on of these little chia dessert cups that only had 14g of carbs. I had been so low on carbs this would still keep me under my daily rate. I picked up an RxBar to have in the morning on the way to the race so I’d have something in my stomach and it contained 16g of carbs. Not exactly keto, but a lower carb option that I was perfectly willing to accept before running 13.1 miles!
Overall I wasn’t thrilled with the options the Swan/Dolphin had. On another night coming back from EPCOT, I decided instead to pop in to the general store at the Walt Disney World Beach Club. These little shops, which tend to be at Disney Vacation Club properties, offer a broader selection of foods for the longer term guests that are staying in the Vacation Club Properties and making use of their kitchenettes. Here I found take-away meat and cheese packs (I tossed the bread slices), babybel cheeses, hard boiled eggs, and beef jerky that had much less added sugar than what I had seen over at the Swan and Dolphin.
They also had a wide selection of cold cuts and cheeses available.
Cold cuts available in the general store of the Beach Club Resort
I never miss a coffee at Joffrey’s and I usually get the shot of Kahlua. But, wanting to minimize sugar and alcohol I opted for a regular large iced coffee with room. I then loaded it up with a healthy dose of cream to get my fat intake, and sweetened it with a Splenda. It tasted like a milkshake only with no carbs, no sugars, and plenty of fat. I was hungry though and I had a fast pass for Soarin. So off I went to The Land to check out what food items were available there. I checked out the breakfast options at Sunshine Seasons and it came down to two. A meat and cheese plate with grapes (grapes aren’t keto) or a caprese salad. I didn’t want to pay for a meat and cheese just to throw away the grapes, so I opted for the not-so-breakfasty caprese salad. Not ideal breakfast food, but it was tasty and met my nutrition needs.
A bit more research would have told me that I could have gone over to the bakery in the France pavilion and eaten a breakfast quiche, so long as I didn’t eat the crust.
I was at EPCOT for dinner that evening and searching for place to eat. Being on a low carb diet, one would assume I would pass right by Italy given the large offering of carb-heavy foods such as pasta and pizza. However, we stopped by one of my favorite places in all of Walt Disney World, Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar. This restaurant is a gem whether you’re on Keto or not. It has an authentic feel inside and you can usually find a table pretty easily for a glass of wine and some great small plates. I had the very Keto friendly Carpaccio di Manzo. If you haven’t had it, it’s a plate of very thinly shaved, charred wagyu beef with arugula, parmesan cheese, and lemon and olive oil dressing. Get it even if you aren’t on keto!
Carpaccio di Manzo from Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar at EPCOT’s Italy Pavilion.
I arrived at Magic Kingdom and went straight for Starbucks. Starbucks is known for having heavy cream available for coffee so this was easy. They also offer meat and cheese options for a nice European style breakfast with your coffee and heavy cream.
The most obvious keto item at the Magic Kingdom (and Epcot and other parks as well) has to be the Jumbo Turkey Leg. The turkey leg has become an iconic Disney Parks food over the years with guests gnawing on the deliciously juicy dark meat legs as they stroll through the parks. The turkey leg will provide you a protein rich, and fatty (it’s dark meat) meal while completely avoiding carbs. If ripping the meat off a large bone while walking around isn’t your cup of tea there are other options in the Magic Kingdom. I chose Pecos Bill. You can order a bacon cheeseburger and then head to the toppings bar to load up on tomatoes, extra cheese, pickles, and more for a filling meal – just be sure to toss the bun! Same goes for Casey’s Corner where you can order a hot dog, toss the bun, and stack it with low carb toppings like mustard (do NOT use ketchup it’s loaded with sugar), and sauerkraut.
Bacon Cheeseburger loaded with toppings, no bun, and a side of Guacamole from Pecos Bill
If you’re looking for a salty snack, head over to the Liberty Square Market for one of their oversized dill pickles. These can also be found in Animal Kingdom, and also at a kiosk in Adventureland. You can also find the little babybel cheeses at various locations throughout Magic Kingdom.
Back at the Swan/Dolphin
After running the WDW 10k and the WDW Half Marathon I wanted to treat myself to a nice meal yet keep the carbs to a minimum. Back at our hotel we decided to give Shula’s steak house a try since we’d never been before. We started with the chilled Shellfish Trio of shrimp, crab, and lobster. It was fantastic. For my main course I had an amazing, fat-filled rib-eye and a side of grilled asparagus for a Keto friendly, delicious meal. For dessert they offer a Keto-friendly bowl of seasonal berries.
Oh, and a few things about Keto and runDisney. The 10k went fine, but around mile 7 of the half marathon I hit a wall like never before. It was like all my energy was completely gone. I’ve done this distance many times and never felt like this. I believe it was my strict adherence to Keto in the weeks leading up to the race. After I finished the run and felt like I had been hit by a truck, I googled distance running and keto dieting. It seems like this is not the best idea. I’m neither a doctor nor a dietician, but I can tell from my own personal experience, I won’t be attempting this again. I won’t go so far as having pasta and bread before a race, but I think I’ll allow myself healthy carbs such as bananas and apples before I try to run such a distance again.
What I learned was that the human body burns carbs really fast, which is good for cardio exercise. Fats, on the other hand, burn very slowly. Using fat to power a long distance run is like feeding a jet its fuel through a straw. It just doesn’t burn fast enough to sustain the energy needed for a longer duration. So my unprofessional, yet personal advice is to have some healthy carbs before any long distance running.
Once the race is over though, I can tell you nothing in that post race snack box is keto (even the beloved cheese has corn syrup in it) so if you’re sticking to keto, skip the snack box.
pack keto snacks such as nuts, beef jerky, and string cheese, to take to the parks so you aren’t relying on what the parks sell to stay full
be mindful of sauces and glazes such as marinara that often contain lots of sugar. ask your waiter or waitress for more info on what went into these sauces
be willing to toss carbs such as hamburger and hot dog buns so you can still enjoy these favorites without the carbs
ask for vegetable substitutes for carb heavy sides like French fries and mashed potatoes
bring keto friendly sweets with you as those were the hardest to find anywhere