Dining at Disney With Food Allergies
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My family has been very fortunate in that for the most part none of us have any serious food allergies or sensitivities. Being able to eat just about anything when you travel without serious consequence is one of those things that you don’t realize is a blessing until you don’t have it anymore. However, both of my daughters have had very sensitive stomachs as infants, and this means that I have had to cut things from my diet to prevent them from being in (literal) gut wrenching pain via the proteins and such that pass from me to them.
Baby S in particular seems to have a very sensitive system, and to keep nursing her I have had to cut out dairy, soy, eggs, and nuts, as well as try to limit acidic things like red sauces and similar. Eating with those restrictions at home is a big enough challenge, but I’ve mostly mastered that via a few dishes and snacks I have in regular rotation. However, taking my eating issues on the road when we travel is a whole other challenge that I haven’t totally mastered. Having one food type to avoid is tough but pretty doable, but having to avoid so many foods that are so common in many dishes really has added a whole new dimension to our travel planning.
The good news for our Disney trip was that I knew Disney World has a reputation of being fantastic with food allergies and sensitivities. This was my first time having to utilize their expertise in feeding guests with food restrictions and here is what I learned.
Identify your food restrictions on your dining reservations
When you make a Disney dining reservation you can click on the food restrictions that members of your family have. The restrictions to select from include:
Milk, Corn, Peanut, Fish, Shellfish, Egg, Wheat/Gluten, Soy, Tree Nuts, and Other.
Doing this was all I needed to do to flag our reservation so that when we checked into the restaurant they knew about my menu restrictions. Of course if you didn’t mark your restrictions ahead of time you can still let the staff know when you arrive.
Order Off the Allergen Friendly Menu
You don’t have to guess about which menu items might be safe to eat off the regular menu, but instead we were able to look at a special menu that lists which menu items are safe for those with common food allergens(see example menu from Be Our Guest here). After guessing about what would be safe for me to eat on so many other menus, it is such a relief to order with confidence knowing you won’t be eating something that will upset your system – or your babies if you are in a situation similar to mine.
Meet With the Allergy Chef
Not only can you sometimes look at a special menu designed for those with food allergies, but you can meet with the actual chef at the restaurant to discuss options not only on the menu, but also some other options that might work with some modifications. This was offered proactively to us at both sit down meals we enjoyed and both times it resulted in not only narrowing down the choices on the allergy friendly menu, but enjoying special items were designed and modified for me.
I obviously couldn’t have the delicious regular ‘Ohana Bread Pudding à la mode with Bananas-Caramel Sauce dessert at ‘Ohana, but I was given the next-best-thing.
Obtain Allergy Info for Quick Service Restaurants
Most likely lots of your dining at Disney will likely not be done at a sit-down restaurant, so it is helpful to have a quick service guide so you can avoid foods on your “naughty” list while on the go in the parks. I was able to get a list by emailing SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com. While I didn’t really email back and forth with them beyond getting their guide, I suspect you could get any additional info or planning ideas you need by emailing with them or calling (407) 824-5967. I don’t want to post the list here since I imagine things change over time – I think the safest thing is to contact them for an up-to-date list before your trip.
Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy
Honestly one of my favorite moments on the trip was eating at ‘Ohana where they bring you many courses of food via a set menu. I have always loved the food at ‘Ohana, so I was a little worried how that would work out with all of my restrictions. However, the allergy chef told me which of the normal items I could enjoy (most of the meats other than the chicken), and then made alternate versions of almost all the other courses.
I had huge plates of food to eat and it was just such a weight off to have delicious food to enjoy while knowing for sure that it was actually safe for me to enjoy.
Naturally you can pack some of your own food and snacks to bring into the Disney parks, but it sure is nice being able to enjoy some items prepared by others, too!
I can only imagine how nice of a feeling that is for people who have to deal with food allergies and restrictions on every single trip.