November 1st is World Vegan Day- and what better way to celebrate than by eating all the delicious vegan delicacies at Walt Disney World!? For those not familiar with veganism, it is the practice of consuming an all plant-based diet with zero animal meat or animal products (no dairy, egg, fish, poultry or meat). Some vegans abstain from honey as well. Reasons for following a vegan diet may include animal rights activism, environmental protection, and/or health purposes. For many, it is an easily chosen way of life and personal preference. Years ago, it was quite hard to travel to any destination in the United States and readily find an appealing variety of vegan dishes and menu items, let alone at a theme park. However, it is no surprise that Walt Disney World has made considerable efforts to answer the demand of vegan, vegetarian and plant-based consumers by integrating these choices on their menus throughout the parks and resorts. As a Dietitian, I am thrilled to see a shift towards plant based eating. Thankfully, the culinary experience during a Walt Disney World visit now includes all eating preferences. Eating Vegan in Disney World makes food an attraction in and of itself!
You may have heard of the launch of the NEW plant-based menu icon now circulating around Walt Disney World menus, and soon coming to Disneyland in Spring 2020. This leaf icon will help guests quickly identify the plant-based options that will appeal to vegan and vegetarian guests. Additionally, guests with egg, dairy and fish allergies will also find this menu icon helpful. However, those with food allergies should always speak to a Chef or cast member about their allergen when ordering food. The icon is a helpful way to highlight some possible menu items, but in some cases, shared fryers or prep-spaces may be of concern. It is always important to mention your comfort level with cross contamination during the ordering process when eating vegan in Disney World.
While plant-based items have been present for some time on Disney property, this new launch added many more options to all dining establishments – kiosks, quick service and table service restaurants. Have you seen or tried any of the new menu items? They’re enough to make any meat-eater go green! In addition to the new menu icon you will find in-person when dining on WDW property, Disney also launched an exclusive website where you can preview dishes and ingredient information before your trip or dining reservation. Places previously famous to Disney guests for their meat-filled menus now accommodate plant-based diners such as Flame Tree Barbecue and Casey’s! It is so nice for vegans to have options at places they may have never felt comfortable stepping foot in before. Some places even offer an ALL plant-based menu, like at Leaning Palms at Typhoon Lagoon (ask for Vegan Menu at Counter).
So, what are Disney Chefs using to create these meat-free dishes? Well, that depends on which place you’re dining at. You’ll find Gardein, Beyond Meat and Impossible products used for items to substitute chicken, hot dogs or burger meat. These products can be used as convenient replacements for vegans, however some people prefer the use of a more limited-ingredient dish and Disney has options for that too! Other meat-based entrées are generally swapped for meals containing beans, lentils, tofu, seitan, tempeh, nuts, and seeds. You’ll also find plant-based milks, like Silk, and scrambled tofu alongside scrambled eggs at many brunch spots. Tofutti and Rice Dream frozen desserts are sold alongside regular ice cream. In vegan baked goods and desserts, you’ll find honey is substituted with plant-based sweeteners like molasses or maple syrup, and raw eggs with flax or chia seeds. ALWAYS check the ingredient binder since supply chain, and therefore ingredients, may change without warning. Fruit, vegetables and whole grains are the shining stars of the plant-based dishes, making them fiber-filled and nutrient-rich options (and this Disney-loving Dietitian very happy)!