The Land EntranceWhen we first embarked on a protein-rich, low-carb diet, we had serious misgivings about how we were going to maintain such a stringent diet for an entire week at WDW. Our own Disney Resort in California had been steadily ramping up its health-conscoius options to the extent that fresh fruit and veggies and non-carbonated and unsweetened beverages were readily available in every land, and even the counter-service restaurants had healthy alternatives to burgers and fries along the lines of turkey wraps and salads. With a little resourcefulness and planning, we found we could satisfy our appetites and our health-conscious diet without leaving the park or having to pack our own meals.

Surprisingly, the concept of healthier eating had not quite made it to Disney World. In fact, one of our few moments of contention came when Mark was sure he’d seen a fresh fruit stand somewhere between Mexico and the “Outpost” and went off in search of it. Amy had stayed behind, having made her case that what he was remembering was Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom, and she wasn’t going to waste a bunch of steps in the heat and humidity for a futile effort. 10 Minutes later, a bedraggled Mark returned fruitless and frustrated and having to concede. You’d think there’d be fresh fruit stands wherever there are margaritas and native carvings, but sadly, the healthiest snack we could find was a bag of Chip ‘n Dale trail mix at a nearby gift shop.

“If I were healthy food in Epcot, where would I be?” Amy posed the question for consideration. It shouldn’t be so difficult to find a basic salad with dressing on the side, we both agreed. And yet… Where would I be?

“Shouldn’t The Land have real food?” Amy posited.

Mark perked. “Shouldn’t it?”

Why, yes, yes indeed! In fact, The Land’s food court area, Sunshine Seasons, had many healthy entries and entrees, from counter-service to individual take-out items, like tuna salad, hardboiled eggs, hummus and pita, and basic mixed greens (with dressing on the side!). And yes, fresh fruit galore!

We were able to customize a perfect lunch just from the “Grab ‘n Go” refrigerated section, and we made a picnic of it, to boot, as we brought it all outside to a shaded spot along the winding and bucolic entrance to The Land.

That had gone so well and been so gratifying that we had every expectation of a repeat performance the following year. However: [BULB] Never assume experiences can be duplicated. By time we got to the à la carte section, the pickin’s were slim and we looked at each other with glum defeat.

TIME TO LOOK AT THE COUNTER SERVICE OFFERINGS…

Sunshine Seasons has four food stations, each with a surprisingly tantalizing selection of fresh-made fare:

Asian Wok Shop—Spicy Cashew Chicken and Stir-fry Vegetables and Mongolian Beef with Vegetable Fried Rice, and Orange Sesame Glazed Vegan Chick’n Chunks with Stir Fry Noodles are among the hot and tasty options.

Sandwich Shop & Bakery—A mouthwatering selection of pre-made and made-to-order sandwiches on freshly baked artisan breads include vegetarian entries, such as the Oak-grilled Vegetable Flatbread Sandwich and Grilled Vegetable Cuban; and meat-lovers’ preferences like the Roasted Pork Banh Mi Style Panini and the Ham and Salami Grinder on Focaccia. Hard to pass up.

Soup & Salad Shop—Togarashi Seared Tuna Noodle Salad, Roast Beets and Goat Cheese Salad with Honey Sherry Dressing, and an Oak-fired Chicken Caesar Salad are definitely a cut above. The soups include a vegetarian option, a chilled option, and a chowder. Something for everyone, and particularly in the Florida heat!

Wood-Fired Grill Shop—An impressive selection featuring Oak-grilled Salmon with Seasonal Vegetables, Oak-grilled Rotisserie Chicken with Black Beans and Yellow Rice, and Slow Roasted Pork Chop with Cheddar Mashed Potatoes and Barbecue Sauce all looked cooked to perfection. We both opted for the Rotisserie Chicken which was outstanding. Yes, outstanding: Crispy skin, moist white meat, succulent dark meat, and the beans had such depth of flavor we entertained whether we could ask for seconds. We were positively giddy the meal was so unexpectedly good–and what’s more, we felt good afterwards.

SEATING

Sunshine Seasons is a food court. Its ample seating and organic configuration make it unlike the typical food court, but it’s still a food court, and it’s why we very deliberately took our grab-‘n-go to go that very first time. The instant we committed to counter service, however, we knew we were stuck. Not only was there was no sane means of getting two plates of hot food up an escalator (that happened to be out of order) and out the door, but it was 100 degrees in the shade even if we could. There had to be a special place just for us in this expanse of semicircular and sinuous seating areas, and Amy found it at the farthest edge of the court, facing the brightly painted queue for the “Living with the Land” ride. With our backs to the other tables, we achieved a sense of intimacy that exceeded the food court atmosphere and made for an unexpectedly perfect experience, and at a food court price.