Is Disney World Manageable For People with Special Dietary Needs?

In our experience, Disney World is an awesome destination for those with special dietary needs including allergies, gluten intolerance or celiac, diabetes and more.

Those with special dietary needs will usually feel like kings and queens at Disney World. We’ve found it to be easier to maintain a special diet there than anywhere else we’ve ever traveled to. We haven’t come across any place like it. The lengths that Disney World goes to for their guests with special dietary needs are way beyond what we’ve seen almost anywhere else.

When you’ve lived with dietary restrictions, it can be exciting to see how many options you’ll have at Disney. For my wife who can’t eat gluten or milk, her main problem is trying not to gain weight on each visit! She finds that there’s tremendous culinary variety and freedom there, especially compared to other travel destinations.

Even if your special dietary needs are not mainstream, most of the time you’ll find that Disney will be able to help you to get your needs met.

Who might do very well diet-wise at Disney World?

Disney bends over backwards for those who must maintain special diets including:

  • Allergies (even multiple allergies including the top 8 allergens (lactose or dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy)
  • Gluten-free (Celiac, gluten intolerance)
  • Diabetes
  • No sugar added
  • Sugar-free
  • Low-fat
  • Low-carbohydrate
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Low-sodium

Who Might not do so well diet-wise at Disney?

The one special dietary need we’re aware of that Disney can’t usually accommodate is the need for organics. If you require organic foods, consider staying in a hotel or rental property with a kitchen. You can bring your own food to the parks, but remember that the restaurants will not be able to heat your food for you. If you’re from out of the area and unable to bring groceries with you, there’s a Whole Foods store in the area where you can get organic foods. You’ll need a car or a taxi.

Whole Foods
8003 Turkey Lake Road,
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 355-7100

Also Publix supermarkets carry some organic foods. You can find these all around the Orlando area. Ask at your resort for the nearest one

Disney World trains its people for handling special dietary needs

When you’re dealing with special dietary needs that require strict controls, it can be scary to travel. Disney has its own culinary school, and their chefs and restaurant managers go through allergy awareness training. This means you won’t be starting from scratch trying to explain your needs every time you order. We received this description of Disney’s staff training program from Disney Catered Events:

“All hourly culinary Cast Members must go through Basic Food Safety Training, an on line class, every three years.  Our salaried Chefs must attend Food Safety for Leaders every five years, and pass a state administered test.  The salaried leaders must also take a class called WDW F&B Allergy, online, and pass an allergy training assessment on the material covered in the class every year.  If they don’t pass the assessment, they have to take the online class again, and then pass the assessment.”

The great thing is that in all the full-service and most of the counter-service restaurants you can always talk to someone who is trained in handling special dietary needs.

Most foods are researched already by the chefs and management

In the “real world”, one of the challenges of dining out with special dietary needs is that most chefs have not researched their ingredients for things like allergens or gluten. This can make the ordering process very stressful and difficult.

This is one of the great things about dining at Disney. At all of the full-service and most of the counter-service restaurants, we find that the Disney staff usually knows which foods will meet special dietary needs. This is especially true if you’re staying away from commonly avoided items such as gluten, or one of the top 8 allergens (lactose or dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy).

Also, many of the Disney restaurants have allergen and gluten free menus, and all of the counter-service restaurants keep an ingredients list that you can request to see.

You’ll still want to be careful when you’re at Disney World.

Check out our page on Cross-Contamination & Other Possible Mistakes or Problems. 

Not all restaurants on Disney property are owned and operated by Disney.

Though they’re all required to follow the same procedures as in the Disney-owned restaurants, they’re not required to put their staff through the same training that Disney employees must go through. This means you may not always get the same standard of service. Still, we’ve found that many of the non-Disney owned restaurants on Disney property are also sensitive to special needs.

On this site we’ll be letting you know which restaurants are owned by Disney, and which are not. We have not been able to get a confirmed list from Disney, so we’ll inform you wherever we have been able to confirm this information. Keep in mind that we may be unaware of non-Disney ownership (sometimes even the workers at the restaurants don’t know), and restaurants at Disney can change.

Remember that Disney is in a constant state of change.

Verify everything! Do not rely on the contents of this website. This is here as a starting point for your research and to give you a general idea of what to expect. If there’s something important you need to know in order to stay safe and healthy, please contact Walt Disney World in advance of your visit to request up-to-date information and recommendations, and double check that information. Once you’re there, do not rely solely on your advance research, on the contents of this website, or even on the word of a Disney cast member. Research and make your own educated decisions.

For more information on Disney World Dining visit here. 

For more information on Disney World dining with special dietary needs, visit here. 

For more Disney World planning tips, check out this page here:

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