The world capital of theme parks might not seem like the place to grab a healthful meal, but Orlando offers an abundance of healthful restaurants, ranging from local neighborhood haunts and you-pick farms straight to Walt Disney World kiosks.
The residential and commercial areas of downtown Orlando, Winter Park, Audubon Park, Mills 50 and College Park offer a variety of farm-to-table restaurants, vegan cafes, tea houses and juice bars. In the heart of downtown Orlando, locavores flock to The Rusty Spoon and Artisan's Table for their creative menus that reflect what's in season. Ethos Vegan Kitchen in Winter Park offers an array of flavorful burgers, curries, sandwiches and breakfast items that are all vegan. Another popular spot, the Dandelion Communitea, serves filling wraps and salad bowls stuffed with fresh ingredients like black beans, quinoa, vegan cheese, peppers, tomatoes and sweet corn served with a tall glass of iced, house-brewed tea.
Not far from there at East End Market, Skyebird Juice Bar and Experimental Kitchen makes juices, smoothies and kombucha teas to order, using local and organic raw produce. With locations in Winter Park and College Park, Grounding Roots cold presses four to six pounds of fruits and vegetables from kale and celery to orange peel and pomegranate to produce 12-ounce bottles of wholesome juice.
Theme Park Dining
All of Orlando's theme parks are stepping up to the plate to accommodate guests with allergies and special dietary needs, from vegan and gluten-free to kosher. Restaurants and food kiosks at SeaWorld can accommodate guests with food allergies. Guests first obtain a Chef Card, outline the foods they need to avoid, and present the card to the restaurant staff to ensure their food is safe and free from any allergens. SeaWorld also carries pre-packaged snack packs that are free of all common allergies, including nuts, eggs, dairy and gluten.
Universal Orlando Resort also can accommodate guests with food allergies. When making dining reservations in advance, guests should let the staff know about any food allergies or intolerances so the culinary team can prepare something specifically for them. If you didn't have the chance to make a reservation, simply speak to the chef once you've arrived at the restaurant. In addition, Universal provides kosher menu options at Lombard’s Seafood Grille and Finnegan’s Bar & Grill at Universal Studios and at Confisco Grille and Mythos Restaurant at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Last spring, Walt Disney World announced allergy-friendly menus at 120 quick-service and table-service locations. In 2013 alone, Disney cast members assisted with more than 650,000 special dietary requests. The menus focus on the most common allergens like gluten, dairy, nuts and fish. Kosher and halal meats are also available on menus and by request. Guests are encouraged to communicate special dietary needs in advance. At Disney Springs, Erin McKenna Bakery NYC has just opened with an all-vegan and gluten-free menu. Look for a full selection of award-winning doughnuts, cookies, bagels with vegan butter, and lots of cupcakes, from vanilla with zesty-lemon frosting to brownie cupcakes with decadent chocolate icing.
At all the theme parks and in the resort areas, more healthful dining choices are available than ever before. Grapes, apples and carrot sticks are being served on kids menus in lieu of French fries. Complimentary fresh fruit is more readily available in hotel lobbies, fitness centers and around the pool, and fresh fruit and trail mix can be found for purchase at the theme parks for a healthy snack. Plus, at all area theme parks, guests are permitted to bring a small cooler of their own food, snacks and drinks, which is a savings when it comes to calories, time and money.
With a nearly year-round growing season, finding fresh produce in Central Florida is a snap. Visiting a farm with children is a great way to teach them where their food comes from, and they'll have a ball picking it themselves to fill their baskets and bellies with fresh goodness. Showcase of Citrus is an ideal spot in the winter for picking dozens of varieties of citrus from grapefruit to Meyer lemons and lots of Florida oranges. In the spring, the strawberry capital, Plant City, is worth a visit for its abundance of luscious berries. Long & Scott Farms is known for its sweet Zellwood corn, abundant from fall to spring, and Blue Bayou Blueberry U-Pick is one of the largest you-picks in Central Florida, open May through July. Nearby, Yalaha Bakery offers organic, sugar-free and gluten-free cakes and breads.