Low-Carb Dining Tips and Restaurant Guide
by Blaine Helmick
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Please do not consider the opinions offered in this column as expert medical advice, and consult your physician or medical professional before embarking on any special diet.)
DVC Low Carb Cooking Tips
If you’re a Disney Vacation Club member staying at any of the 1-Bedroom or more villas, it’s not only a moneysaver to have a meal or two a day in your room, but it’s also a carb saver. By eating low to no carb for the morning meal you could perhaps splurge a bit on your meals out in the parks. Here are some tips for cooking Low-Carb in your room:
- Never underestimate the egg – We like to buy a large pack of eggs and make them in the mornings for a quick low-carb, high protein meal. They can also be hard boiled and kept in the fridge for a quick snack or taken into the parks if you have an ice-pack with you. Safety Tip: Once a hard boiled egg goes above 40 degrees it must be eaten within 2 hours to ensure it remains safe.
- Cheese Sticks aren’t just a snack – We buy lots of cheese sticks because they’re a quick low-carb snack, the kids love them, and as an added bonus they are an ingredient. Buy a multi-pack of cheese stick flavors for variety. In the morning, cut them length wise, rotate and cut again lengthwise to get four long but small logs. Then cut across to make tiny cubes. These cubes can be sprinkled into am omelette to add cheesy low-carb goodness.
- Bacon. You can never go wrong with Bacon. – Because it keeps so well and it adds needed fats for the low-carb dieter I just can’t recommend enough a good slab of bacon. Enough said.
- Salt and Pepper are essential – You can buy pepper and salt in small jars with built in grinders now that are not only economical but allow you to get that freshly ground pepper and salt taste. Don’t underestimate the importance of these two ingredients when cooking with only a few ingredients.
- Blue, Goat and Feta cheeses are amazing – Not only are they low carb but they are BIG on flavor. Buy a small tub of one of these cheeses to crumble over eggs.
- Don’t forget the Heavy Whipping Cream – Heavy Whipping Cream is practically no carb. Use it instead of milk in your morning coffee or tea to get that creamy goodness without the carbs. Also, if you like scrambled eggs put about 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream in prior to scrambling. They will lighten the eggs and make them fluffier and give a luscious mouth feel especially when combined with cheese.
- Ask for your food to go in the parks – Yes, you can take your food with you. If you can’t finish that steak, take it back and cut it up in the morning then add it to your breakfast scramble for a decadent and free reminder of your prior day’s meal. Safety Tip: If you are taking food with you make sure to get it in a fridge within two hours of it being prepared. Any more and you risk contamination. Furthermore, make sure to thoroughly reheat any left-overs to ensure any introduced nasties are killed off.
First and foremost, ALWAYS ask your server if they have any low-carb or diabetic alternatives for any menu item. Specifically, alternate desserts can be provided more often than not. Also keep in mind that “low-sugar” or “no-sugar” does NOT mean “low-carb”, but these can be reasonable cheats while on vacation.
‘Ohana @ Polynesian – Dinner
Carb-Magic Rating: 7 of 10
Overall: You can’t go wrong with meat on spits for low-carb. This is definitely a destination to chow down without guilt; but there are some mine fields to watch out for.
Go For It: The meat! While specific cuts may change, generally you can expect beef, pork, and seafood (usually shrimp) to come by. Eat ’till your heart’s content. The veggies are also a good choice; just eat around the water chestnuts.
Carbs in Disguise: While the meats are the draw, you’ll sit down to well sauced chicken wings and scrumptious looking gyoza (pork dumplings). The chicken wing sauce is very sweet, and therefore full of sugar so they should be avoided. The same goes for the gyoza, the pork dumpling is mighty tasty but chock full of carbs in the wrapper so it should be avoided as well. Also, the lima bean salad is good but the dressing is definitely sweet (most dressings are sadly) and the beans themselves are a bit carby as well.
Steer Clear: The Bread. Noodles. Bread Pudding.
Making It Work:
- Open the gyoza and eat the inside!
- You can absolutely ask for the salad without dressing. They won’t make the salad without the beans however but they can easily be avoided if you’d rather not nosh on the legumes.
Reasonable Cheat: Have a chicken wing or two if you don’t mind the sweet sauce; the same goes for the salad dressing. Also, the ice cream served on top of the bread pudding would be a decadent cheat that will be higher in fat but certainly not low-carb.
Tony’s Town Square Restaurant @ Magic Kingdom – Dinner
Carb-Magic Rating: 3 of 10
Overall: The experience here is always awesome especially if you score outdoor seating on a beautiful fall or spring evening; however I’m afraid the focus on the pasta is particularly pervasive in this menu. That focus does limit your low-carb choices and led to this low rating.
Go For It: The fish. During our visit the offering was tilapia, always an easy low-carb choice albeit very low in fat, which is typically not a good thing for many low-carb dieters. Other good options are the Pork Tenderloin, NY Strip Steak, and the Shrimp Scampi. The problem with all of these is they come with something very starchy as a side. Our server was happy to replace the starchy sides with vegetables!
Carbs in Disguise: Tomato and Mozzarella Salad; sounds low-carb right? The Balsamic Dressing I’m afraid is the killer here as it’s loaded with sugar. If my palate serves me correctly, it’s the Balsamic Dressing from Heinz, which their ingredient list confirms has sugar. I’m sure your server can request the dressing be left off or on the side. Also be careful of the breading on the calamari, zucchini fries, and chicken parm.
Steer Clear: The pasta in all its forms.
Making It Work:
- Ask your server to replace starchy sides for vegetables; do be careful of all carrots as initially we were offered carrots as an alternative. While we love carrots they are not as low-carb friendly as other veggies and too many aren’t a good thing.
- The kid’s menu has a fruit salad and apples on it. While fruits of course have sugars there is often a significant amount of fiber in them to offset the carbs. And I think we can all agree apples are lower carb than an ice cream sundae.
- Ask for the mixed green salad sans croutons.
- The Tomato and Mozzarella salad is a great choice if you leave off the dressing.
Reasonable Cheat: The seasonal melon with prosciutto sounds like dessert to me! This appetizer can easily stand-in as a desert and the prosciutto will add a bit of needed fat. If you’ve never tried the combination of smoked meat and melon, DO IT!
Coral Reef Restaurant @ Epcot – Diner
Carb-Magic Rating: 8 of 10
Overall: For its wide variety of both surf and turf (mostly surf) and friendly substitutions for starchy sides Coral Reef deserves its very high rating. Plus who doesn’t like watching sharks swim by your face while you dine.
Go For It: The numerous fish options are all solid choices along with the pork, beef, and chicken dishes. The minefield with any of these is the starchy sides; our server was happy to accommodate with buttered green beans as a substitute.
Carbs in Disguise: The Tuna Tataki sounds like a good appetizer, but the Yuzu Syrup that is ladled over is high in sugar. The Octopus appetizer also comes as part of a potato salad and the Srirach Srimp appetizer is sadly breaded.
Steer Clear: The Lobster Manicotti.
Making It Work: Not much was needed at the Coral Reef to make it work, as there were many great choices here. Just ask for those starchy sides to be substituted and you’re all set.
Reasonable Cheat: Grapes are on the kids menu if you want a fruit option for dessert. But if you’re throwing caution to the wind so to speak then splurge on the Baileys and Jack Daniel’s Mousse. This mousse, while clearly sweetened did not appear overly so; this is probably due to the heavy cream used.