Low-Carb Dining


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(EXPLANATION OF SORTS: The Czarina is a Real Person who eats -- a lot ­ at Disney World. She takes sole responsibility for all opinions stated below.)

Dear, Beloved Public ­

Your Czarina has been a devotee of the low-carbohydrate way of eating for several years now, and we believe some of you may be doing likewise. Having just returned from a most enjoyable WDW vacation that included stays at Port Orleans (French Quarter), the Disney Magic 7-day cruise and a few days at the Grand Floridian, we thought you might like to hear how we managed, cuisine-wise.

Please be aware that the recommendations below adhere only to general low-carbohydrate, high-protein principles. They are not strictly Atkins or any other specific plan. They are an attempt to show how enjoyable dining, avoidance of sugars, bread, grains, potatoes and other starches can be combined with a WDW stay.

It is wise to bring with you a few simple items, mostly so you are not ambushed by the bagel chips on the plane, or in case of late-night cravings. Some suggestions are:
Macadamias, walnuts or pecans in Ziploc bags -- please do not bring peanuts on a plane, as many people are allergic.
Pork rinds, if you like them.
Beef or other jerky, ditto.
Atkins or other protein bars.
Fiber crackers.

Should you have a refrigerator in your hotel room or suite, you might make a stop and purchase:
Strawberries or sliced melon
Whole-milk cottage cheese
Cream for coffee (not dairy creamer or half and half)
Whole-milk plain yogurt (difficult to obtain in the World)

Your Czarina confesses that all she brought along were the nuts, and she made out just fine.

For some years, I have had the same breakfast at home ­ a smoothie made with cottage cheese, plain yogurt, Crystal Lite or sugar-free Tang, and a small amount of fruit (usually strawberries). This is pretty difficult to do at WDW, unless you have a kitchen. However, you can probably manage the cottage cheese and berries. One night, as an experiment, I put a breakfast order on the Grand Floridian room card that specified strawberries with heavy cream, not half and half, and they sent it up just as I asked. It was a lovely, legal treat.

Eggs and bacon or sausage are fine, of course. This is where breakfast buffets can be very useful. The Disney Magic buffet includes fresh-made omelettes, and also cheese, plain yogurt, cut-up fruit and bowls of nuts. Hollywood and Vine has pastrami salmon (a form of lox). Hold the bagels!

For a nice sit-down lunch, I love Teppanyaki in Japan with its many low-carb options ­ delicious shrimp, scallops, chicken or beef with vegetables. All you need do is be careful with the sauces, which tend to contain disguised sugar; however, they are served on the side. Have your meal without rice. And don't forget the iced green tea.

Another standout lunch is the famed Cobb Salad at the Brown Derby in MGM. This delicious, entrée-sized salad, which includes bacon, blue cheese and avocado, is a wonderful low-carb option. Just substitute oil and vinegar for the dressing, which does have sugar. The Brown Derby makes a special effort to provide sugar-free desserts ­ a rhubarb crisp the day I was there. Unfortunately, low-sugar does not always equal low-carb; I could not eat the pastry.

For lunch on the run, a hot dog at Casey's (use the bun as a holder, but don't eat it) or a cheeseburger anywhere (again, discard the bun and get a knife and fork) work fine. For dessert, you might try the sugar-free vanilla ice cream available at all food carts and at Scoops (MGM). However, I do not have a carb count on this, so beware. The soft-serve sugarless ice cream at the Plaza and Main Street ice cream parlor is, I am told, loaded with carbs (unfortunately).

If you are in Epcot, remember the Fountainview café has a sugarless cheesecake among all its pastries, which has no crust and is very good indeed. Likewise, a chocolate Mousse at Kringla og Bakeri in Norway is loaded with cream and chocolate, but sweetened with aspartame.

In the Animal Kingdom, the Flame Tree Barbecue is a possibility, though I'm not sure how much sugar is in that barbecue sauce.

You can have dinner anywhere ­ even Beaches and Cream! Although I wouldn't want the temptation of avoiding their sundaes. Menus at the parks, resorts and especially on the ships can be easily adapted ­ and no, you don't have to call in advance, though if you want something very special it might be a good idea.

Rule Number One: Tell your server! I found that by saying "I don't eat bread, rice or potatoes, can I substitute a green vegetable?" I would always end with a fine meal. Sometimes the server would handle it on his/her own, and sometimes the chef would come over and discuss it with me. Chef Richard at Mama Melrose adapted a sausage-and-pasta entrée, adding julienned peppers and extra cheese and subtracting the ziti.

Believe me, this technique is much, much better than saying nothing and trying to find the will-power to push aside that creamy mound of mashed potatoes on your plate.

If you like beef, consider the steakhouses ­ Yachtsman, Contemporary or Le Cellier. They are probably the easiest ways to low-carb at dinner.

On the Disney Magic, where your server is always the same person, it was even easier. I just stated my wishes on the first day, and they took care of the rest. Often, they would combine a small steak and fish from two different entrees, and add a salad. They had a different sugarless dessert every night, many of which I could eat. Fresh raspberries were always available.

Low-carb folk ­ if you eat carefully and involve your server in your choices, you never have to feel deprived at WDW. You can still be on vacation and enjoy yourself at the table, without being "on vacation" from your low-carb way of eating. Have fun!


Low-carb Updates (9/02)

The sugarless chocolate mousse, listed as available at the bakery in Norway, can also be found at Pure and Simple Guilt-Free Goodies in the Wonders of Life pavilion, in Future World.

El Pirato y El Perico in Adventureland makes a very good, fast-food taco salad loaded with cheese, meat, tomatoes and lettuce with salsa. Just avoid the taco shell it¹s served in, and you have a fast and complete low-carb lunch! (Great idea before or after Pirates)

The sugarless vanilla ice cream in cups, which should be available at any vendor cart in any park, is not always stocked at every cart. However, Ice Cream Central (wherever that is) has it, and also frozen-fruit bars with no sugar (8 carbs per bar). Simply ask the CM at the cart for these items, and they will get on their walkie-talkies! The ice cream will be at the cart in about five minutes, if you don't mind waiting. I asked why they aren't always stocked. "Well, people forget about their diets when they go on vacation and we don't get many orders for them". Low-carbers, make your wishes known!

I recently dined at Artist Point, where they make a superlative fresh berry cobbler, including strawberries, raspberries, black and blueberries. I asked if they would give me the unsweetened berries with some heavy cream. They did ­ a dish heaped high with beautiful fruit, and a small pitcher of cream. What a divine dessert ­ who needs the pastru!

For sugarless candy, try the jelly beans, turtles and peanut butter cups available at Main Street Confectionary in the Magic Kingdom, and also at Sweet Treats (MGM) and the Contemporary¹s 4th floor shop.

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