So, yes, I am a self-professed “Disney snob”. I can’t help myself…I’m addicted to a mouse. We go several times a year. Well, about two years ago, I got sick and tired of living on caffeine and Imodium, while waiting for my Fast Pass time to come up. My two children used to say that my favorite ride at the parks is the bathroom!
I started doing research and discovered that gluten was causing my autoimmune issues to take over my life. During this research, I also discovered that I have sensitivities to nearly every food on the planet. What? No Mickey ice cream on a stick? I wasn’t going to stand for this, but I was also not giving up the mouse! I would cook at home every meal, everyday, if I could just enjoy that little rodent! Thankfully, I’m on the email list for about 15,000 Disney websites that are chockfull of information. Can you tell I have a flair for the dramatic? What I have learned is that, beyond my own kitchen, Walt Disney properties are probably the safest, and most delicious, places to eat and maintain a Paleo lifestyle or eat within food allergy/sensitivity boundaries. I look forward to the food as much as the rides and entertainment! What? I’m from New Orleans, eating is what we do!
Let me tell you how I do this:
Plan where you will eat. I like to plan my trips ahead of time. Which parks will we go to on which day? From that point, we start looking at restaurants. I personally like to chose a sit down restaurant without a buffet because I pack half of my food in a container and Ziplock bag in my backpack so that I can have it in the room for breakfast the next day or later the same day. However, sometimes at buffet restaurants they cook food especially for you and would rather you take the leftovers with you than throw it away.
Plan what food you are avoiding. Before you make reservations, sit down and decide which food items/additives you are really going to avoid. Remember you are on, possibly, a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, and you will probably make allowances for certain food items. (Yes, I will have a Mickey-on-a-stick on my last day!) Either bring NOLA PALEO Restaurant Cards with you, they are FREE and can be customized to your exact needs! This will solve any communication issues that could arise with wait-staff.
Time to make reservations. Although it is easier online to make reservations, if you call the dining reservation number, you will be able to specify right away what specific “food allergies” you have, and the cast member you speak with will be incredibly helpful in noting exactly what you cannot have. Please keep in mind that the restaurants in the various countries are a bit more difficult when it comes to food allergies because of the language barriers. They ARE NOT impossible. I have eaten safely in most of the countries.
Time to go! Pack your snacks! They are expensive and that’s probably the one place where I really wouldn’t bother to try to find something that perfectly fits within your guidelines. That, however, is a great time to enjoy some fruit, nuts, or boiled eggs you brought with you. They sell fruit and nuts, but why pay triple the price! Also, every quick service vendor must give you a cup of ice water if you ask for one. Bring refillable water bottles with you.
Want a quick service meal? Go for it! Skip the line and go straight for the first cast member you see. Tell them you need to see the “allergy book” and speak with the cast member responsible for special needs. It is usually the manager and he/she will cook your food themselves in a specially designated area so that you won’t get glutened. And, don’t forget the turkey legs. They are a great meal or a snack for you to share.
If you want to do one of the dining plans, that’s okay too. Keep in mind though that dining plans are a lot of food. Pack a leak-proof container with a Ziplock bag in your backpack for leftovers. Every meal you get will come with dessert. Don’t sweat it. If you want dessert, they will come up with a gluten-free creation that is usually delicious! (My daughter just avoids gluten right now, and thinks she is a Disney princess when she eats because of the extra lengths they go to.) At quick service restaurants, they will offer you a packaged gluten-free brownie or you can get fruit or an extra bottle of water instead of their desserts listed if you let them know of your needs. Keep in mind if you are just avoiding gluten, most (if not all) of the eating establishments offer gluten-free products now.
Your dining reservation is here, now what? When you check in, remind the host/hostess that there are food allergies. They should have your reservation ticket stamped bright red with the word “allergy”. If not, remind them again. Once you are seated, remind the wait staff if they don’t mention it. Once your drink orders are taken, the chef will come out and discuss your options. Browse the menu and see what protein and vegetable items are available, and think about what you would like to eat. Once you do that, tell the chef what you feel like eating. (You get the pick of the menu, pretty much!) Even though I can only eat a handful of items, sometimes I don’t know what I feel like eating. I will often let the chef make a suggestion. They so rarely get to “create” something off the menu that they really create wonders when given the freedom to do so. And ASK, ASK, ASK if you want something! They can often make a version of it for you.
Finally, remember, you are on vacation. Try new things; don’t sweat the small things if they aren’t going to make you physically ill. I know that if I start the trip with anything sweet, that I will be on the “sugar roller coaster” the rest of the trip, not being able to get enough of the stuff. I wait until all of our bags are packed to go home, we run to the gift shop in our hotel, grab a Mickey Mouse ice cream, and sit on our balcony as a family and enjoy it. Just a moment to enjoy our treat, talk about our trip, and get ready for the long ride home. We know the ice cream will come at the end of the trip so it’s not a week of hearing “can I have…?” It will come!
Who is Kelly Grose Miller? I am a stay-at-home mom of two children, ages 6 and 12. I spend my time working in the church preschool, teaching parenting and family classes, cooking, and trying (miserably) to grow vegetables. I love my family, and their health and wellness is my primary job in life! I spend my spare time working to expand restaurant options in New Orleans for the NOLA PALEO group. And if you are looking for me and can’t find me, I am either in Disney or watching a Saints game!