School Safe Snack List

Labels must be read every time since processing and ingredients can change at any time. Please check for tree nuts & peanuts. Also, see any allergen warning for “may contain” or “made on/processed on the same equipment as” or “processed in the same manufacturing facility as…”

Suggested Safe Snacks:

  • Fruits & Vegetables are highly encouraged (no cream dips/peanut butter)
    • Also, Sunmaid  & Meijer Brand Raisins & Most apple sauce containers including GoGo Squeez
  • Meijer Brand Naturals Baked Sea Salt natural pita crackers;
  • Silk Soy Yogurt (blueberry & strawberry)—ALWAYS read this label as several Silk Soy Yogurt flavors are processed on the same equipment as almonds!
  • Nabisco Honey Maid Graham Crackers or Spartan Brand Honey Graham Crackers
  • Nabisco Whole Grain Premium Saltine Crackers
  • Nabisco Low Sodium Premium Saltine Crackers
  • Nabisco “Original” Wheat Thins (Whole Grain) Crackers
  • Triscuit Original Whole Grain Wheat Crackers
  • Back to Nature Harvest Whole Wheat, Crispy Wheat, Organic Satines & Organic Stoneground Wheat Crackers
  • Glutino Brand Pretzels, Gold Pretzels, GFS Pretzels
  • Keebler CLUB crackers
  • Ritz Crackers (no sandwiches)
  • Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips and Multi Grain Pita Chips
  • Sabre Original Hummus, Tribe Organic Roasted Garlic Hummus, Meijer Original Hummus
  • Whole Grain Cheerios (not honey nut)
  • Rice Chex
  • I.M. Healthy Original Creamy Soynut Butter (peanut free) & Safe 4School WOW Butter
  • Sunbutter & “Sneaky Chef” No Nut Butter
  • Pringles The Original
  • Live G Free (Aldie’s brand) pretzels
  • Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars
  • All Enjoy Life products
  • Lotus Biscoff Spread Smooth and Crunchy
  • Lundberg Brown Rive Organic Rice Cakes (Grain Train & Walmart)
  • Most brands of Tortilla Chips- Always check the labels as many contain “Nuts”
  • Most brands of salsa
  • Cascadian Farm Organic Oatmeal Raisin Chewy Granola Bars
  • Most Oreo Cookies are safe (read label)

Common UNSAFE FOODS (please avoid):

  • Most granola bars contain nuts
  • Luna Bars & many protein bars
  • Most Candy Bars contain nuts (M & M’s also)
  • Trail Mix
  • Hostess Snacks and most processed cookies/sweet snacks

Food Allergy Letter Home to Classmate’s Parents Before School Starts

I have had a few recent requests for my “Letter Home to Classmate’s Parents.”  I recommend you edit this template to meet you child’s needs best.  Also, I recommend sending it to the principal/officer manager for editing and then have the final letter sent home to the parents of the students in your child’s class.  This letter should be from your school principal, not the parent of the food-allergic child.  Also, I don’t think it is a good idea to name your child in the letter.  Even though my oldest son has life-threatening food allergies to DAIRY, EGGS, PEANUTS, & TREE NUTS it wouldn’t be fair to the other students and too hard to enforce a classroom free of all of the above.  Nut oil lingers on surfaces and therefore a nut-free classroom is the best option.  We have taught our boys to be responsible for their food allergies and to always be diligent about proper hand washing, reading labels, etc.

Oh, and keep the letter to one front page…if it is too long and wordy parents won’t read it!  Believe me, some parents never read this unfortunately.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this letter.

~Erika

Letter Template:

August __, 2016

Dear (School Name) Second Grade Parents,

Your child has a classmate this year that has life-threatening anaphylactic food allergies to: all dairy, peanuts, tree nuts and eggs.  We want to inform you a little about food allergies to ensure a safe and healthy school year for everyone.

Over 14 million Americans have food allergies which affects 1 in every 13 children (under age 18) or roughly 2 students in every U.S. classroom! Allergic reactions can be life-threatening, and in rare cases deadly. While emergency treatment is available for allergic reactions, there is no cure yet. The only treatment for food allergies is strict avoidance of allergens. Sometimes a small amount of allergen can cause a deadly reaction.

Benadryl and an Epi-Pen will be kept in the second grade classroom for immediate access as well as the school office if your child’s classmate should have an allergic reaction.

Please do not send any peanuts or tree nuts (i.e. almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, etc.), peanut butter or foods containing peanut/tree nuts or peanut butter to be eaten as snacks or for lunch in the classroom.  Healthy alternatives are: Soynut butter, Sun Butter, or Biscotti spread.  Additionally, please check all food labels for the listing of peanuts or various tree nuts, especially on crackers, cookies, and dessert treats.

I would ask if you’re bringing in food for a party or special event that might not be allergen-free, please let (Insert Teacher’s Name) know in advance so that a safe alternative option can be provided for the classmate with food allergies. (In particular, because homemade baked goods are so likely to contain traces of allergens from previous baking, they’re not safe options for children with food allergies even if they don’t contain ingredients with milk, nuts, and eggs.)

I would also ask that you discuss food allergies with your child.  Please ask them not to share or trade food with any of their second grade classmates during lunch time. Please also assure your child that children with food allergies are no different than other children.  They can do everything anyone else can.

Finally, if your child eats foods containing dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, or eggs for breakfast, please ask them to wash their hands and brush their teeth before coming to school.

Thank you in advance for your kindness and consideration. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at _______________________.

Best regards,

Principal ___________________

 

 

New School Year with Food Allergies

Emergency Action Plan

It’s hard to believe we’re in the final weeks of summer here in Northern Michigan and preparing for our children to start back up with school again after Labor Day.  In many parts of the country, kids have already gone back to school.  With these thoughts in mind, I thought it would be helpful for all parents of children with food allergies, to discuss how I prepare my boy’s school (ie. principal, new teacher, administration, and classmates parents) for a safe school environment.  I have to add this is a “general overview” of how I work with the school to ensure a safe and productive school year for my children.  I have refined this process over the last 6 years and this is just a summary.

Since our oldest son is now going into 3rd grade I somewhat have my “Back to School Process” refined.  Our youngest will be entering first grade this fall.  I start this process each spring by scheduling usually a meeting with our school principal to discuss the upcoming school year and how we can work together to ensure the safety of my boys while at school.  I ask for teacher recommendations for the following school year and we discuss what teacher he and I feel may best meet the needs of my boy’s “unofficial 504 plan.”  Since our boys are in a private parochial school, we do not have the legal need to have a 504 plan.  Thankfully our principal was an administrator in the public school system for many years and is knowledgeable about how this process works to ensure the utmost safety of our children during the school day.  At the end of the meeting last spring our principal and I decided to touch base via email in June to discuss teacher options for my first grader since there was going to be a new hire.

Now that we are 3 weeks out from the first day of school I have not only communicated with the principal again but with the office manager.  I have to note, it is crucial to have a wonderful relationship with the staff who run the office and essentially the “nuts and bolts” of the school.  I always approach the school by stating that “we can work together” and put lots of the responsibility on myself and my boys to educate others at the school instead of making threatening demands.  This will get you nowhere and you will not build an alliance with any of the staff if you approach food allergies in a threatening manner!  It’s important to “Kill everyone with kindness.”  I know it’s a stressful situation because your child’s safety is at the hands of someone other than yourself during the day.  You have to put your emotions aside, and work with the school administration from a “Team perspective.”

Ok, I got off on a bit of a tangent…now that I have reached out to the principal again and scheduled another meeting to discuss accommodations for my boy’s classrooms for this school year (ie. nut free classroom, signage, note home to parents discussing there is a child in the class with food allergy, table sanitizing procedures, staff epi-pen training, lunchroom procedure, emergency action plan procedure, etc.), it’s also important to contact your child’s future teachers to schedule an in-person appointment to review everything.  I forgot to add that I also reached out to each teacher about 6 weeks ago to let them know that my child will be in their classroom next fall and they have life-threatening food allergies.  I asked them if they would be available a few weeks before school starts to sit down with me and discuss classroom safety procedures, emergency action plan, etc.

It is crucial to schedule an in-person meeting with the teachers.  Depending on your relationship with administration you may or may not want to have the principal and administrators present at the meetings with the teachers.  Since we are at a very small school, I do not feel the need to have administration present every fall when I meet with the teachers.  However, each school may have a different policy and it’s important to know what approach works best for your individual situation.  I have to note, if there is a new teacher at the school hopefully the principal has discussed food allergies with the teacher prior to your initial meeting.  If not, I may consider having the principal present at this meeting.

In a nutshell, when I meet with each teacher I come extremely prepared with 2 red folders.  Each folder has my child’s name written on the outside of it in bold letters, a picture of my child and the words, “FOOD ALLERGY INFORMATION.”  One folder is for the teacher, another similar folder will be for a “Substitute Teacher.”  In the folder I have a few simple handouts ie. Food allergy checklist, food allergy facts, teacher and family’s responsibilities, safe snack list,  and of course each child’s individual “Food Allergy Action Plan” which is to be posted in a visible spot somewhere in the classroom next to epi-pens.  I also have this posted in the main office and lunchroom.  So to review, I have a total of 6 epi-pens in the school for each child.  Each epi-pen bag also has several Benadryl chewable tablets.

I will also give the teach a gallon sized zip lock bag with non-perishable food for each child in case their lunch should be compromised (ie. milk gets spilled on their packed lunch).  I also offer to be in charge and organize of all classroom parties and discuss with the teacher the possibilities of limiting snacks during parties to fruits and veggies since they are much healthier.  Usually the teachers are completely on board with this since they don’t want students to have too much sugar during the day.  Also, my boy’s friends LOVE my vegan cupcakes and I usually offer to make these for classroom parties.

After meeting with my boy’s teachers I always meet separately with the office staff to review everything, restock epi-pens, hang up emergency action plans, etc.  Also, I have a template letter that I have used in the past that I send to the principal for editing that will get sent to all of the parents of students in my boy’s classrooms prior to the first day of school.  This letter basically explains the severity of food allergies and informs them there is a student in their child’s class with a life-threatening food allergy.  It is one page and talks about the importance of telling your child that food allergies, although very serious, they do not make the child any different from your child with regards to enjoying sports, school, friends, etc.  The kids are no different and should not be treated any different from other kids.

Moreover,  I ALWAYS make it a point to speak to the janitorial staff and discuss proper sanitization of the lunchroom tables.  Our principal does a wonderful job of training all of the staff members and highlighting the importance of sanitization procedures in the lunchroom to prevent cross-contamination.  We are very LUCKY I might add.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have an excellent relationship with your administration!

This was a very brief overview of my pre-school preparation to ensure a safe school year.  I hope this is helpful to you and good luck getting ready for a wonderful new year of school for your children!

Northern Michigan Allergy Friendly Restaurant Reviews

petoskey sunset

Now that summer in Northern Michigan has kicked into full gear I felt it was important to enhance my local restaurant Allergy Friendly Dining List.  I have reviewed a total of 21 restaurants.  Most restaurants below come highly recommended by me.  However, I added a new category this season in which I review restaurants that I strongly feel are not safe to dine at with food allergies.  Please use your own discretion as these reviews are purely based on my opinion and personal experiences.

The reviews below are based on accommodating life-threatening multiple allergies to: dairy, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts.  Please note that most of these restaurants are also more than capable of accommodating gluten, wheat, sesame, soy, and corn allergies.  Please ALWAYS remember to call in advance and ask to speak to the chef or restaurant manager to determine if the particular restaurant can accommodate your special dietary needs.  Additionally, I always provide our server with our 3 x 5 pink restaurant Chef Card that lists all of my boy’s food allergies.  This is an excellent tool to use, as restaurants are very busy during the tourist season/summer months, and verbal allergy communications can get lost in translation between your server and the kitchen staff.

I have tried my best to add these recommendations to the Allergy Eats App, which is not very thorough in Northern Michigan…this is still a work in progress for me however.  Thank you for your patience and Happy Summer!  Whether vacationing in Northern Michigan this summer or if you are a year long resident, I hope this list helps you and your food allergic family enjoy a more pleasurable and safe dining experience.

Here’s the list:

Downtown Petoskey:

1. Chandler’s A Restaurant – The Chef and staff is very knowledgeable and they get it!  Very accommodating!

2. City Park Grill – We dine here all of the time and they are amazing and understand the seriousness!  I commend the staff for always ensuring the food they prep is safe for our boys.  They even bake the chicken fingers for our boys now instead of putting them into the deep fryer.  Steer clear of the delicious biscuits however as they have butter and buttermilk I believe.  My children always ask for a cracker basket with oyster and soda crackers.

3. Twisted Olive Café – Chef Lee is wonderful and has been preparing food for our boys at various restaurants for over 6 yrs!  My boys love the mussels and fish entrees!

4. The Grain Train Natural Food Co-Operative – Lots of Allergen-free options/ready made in food cooler.

Restaurants to Avoid w/Food Allergies in Petoskey:

  1. Mitchell Street Pub – Although this pub has wonderful food, unfortunately they still allow their patrons to throw peanut shells on the floor throughout the entire restaurant.  AVOID at all costs if someone in your family has a PEANUT or TREE NUT ALLERGY.   SCARY!
  2. Eagles Club (private club) – We are members at the Eagles club in town.  Many of the chefs have told me over the years that their kitchen suppliers/distributors of food change often to keep food costs low.  They cannot guarantee any safety.  I’m glad they are always honest and they allow us to bring in food for our boys.  Although we rarely go here.  If you’re a member in a different town you can come in as a guest and it’s the best view in town, not to mention, right on the bike path.  Food is marginal at best but cheap drinks and food!

Harbor Springs Area:

1. New York – Chef Matt, and his entire staff are wonderful.  Jerry, a senior server with the New York is amazing.  Nancy too!  Our boys can even eat the bread here safely.  Chef Matt and his staff are extremely knowledgeable about how to safely prepare food-allergy friendly delicious meals!  We love this restaurant and it is a place we frequent with our boys.  The food is always delicious and service goes above and beyond!

2. Crow’s Nest – Chef Bob has been preparing allergen-friendly food for our boys for the last 5 years.  Folks HE GETS IT!  The food is amazing and Chef Bob and his cooks will even use a different flour dusting on his famous pan sautéed perch for our boys.  They cannot have the “Drake’s” batter which contains casein and he will lightly coast the perch in a flour mixture and then sauté it to perfection.  The staff is extremely knowledgeable about food allergies and it is always a pleasant dining experience without worry.

3. Bar Harbor – Although our boys cannot eat the cheese on their burgers the chef and staff understand cross-contamination and always allow me to read ingredient labels.  We bring our own Daiya cheese and my boys LOVE their burgers.  They cannot have the fries due to what goes into the deep fryer but the chips are safe!

4. The Fish – The restaurant owner and staff is very accommodating and have gone out of the way to make delicious healthy food for our kiddos.

5. Country Club of Boyne Seminole Pub – Chef Dean Grill is new to the Country Club of Boyne Team this season.  He is from LA and has quite an outstanding culinary resume!  Both Chef Dean and General Manager Claire are very educated on food allergies and cross-contamination.  There are wonderful!  I have met with Chef several times and he personally ALWAYS cooks my boy’s food.  The fries and homemade potato chips are safe and delicious.  My children have been able to enjoy cheese burgers here that are safe and delicious.  I just bring my own Daiya cheese and buns.  They go the extra mile!

6. Nob’s Nob Cafeteria – We are season pass holders at the Nub’s Nob Ski Resort and every fall the wonderful chef reviews the menu with me.  They are so incredibly accommodating and even take me back into their walk in freezer so I can review ingredients listings.  My children can enjoy the curly and straight French fries there which are popular items, hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken and fruit.  Please always double check with the line chefs to make sure they change their gloves after touching cheese.  Also, double check the buns they use as I believe some of the buns my not be ok.

7. Teddy Griffin’s Road House – We dine here several times throughout the year sans kiddos!  However, the last time we ate here we showed our server, who has been with Teddy’s for over 15 year, our Restaurant Chef Card, and she assured us Teddy’s could safely accommodate multiple food allergies.  I had been a bit apprehensive about dining here with our boys due to a bad review on Allergy Eats.  Our conversation with our server changed my mind and hopefully we’ll try it soon.  Additionally, Teddy’s is under new ownership which can only mean positive changes on the horizon.  I will update this post once we dine here with our boys.

Bay Harbor:

1. Bay Harbor Yacht Club (Private Club) – The level of service and accommodations are incredible.  They exceed my expectations for safety, allergy safe options, quality of food and level of service.  Bravo!

Restaurants to Avoid w/Food Allergies in Bay Harbor:

  1. The Original Pancake House – Unfortunately this restaurant cooks just about everything in PEANUT OIL!  Yes, you heard me- PEANUT OIL.  Perhaps their supplier is the same at Chic-fil-A’s???  I don’t care how refined the oil may be, I’m not testing in with my anaphylactic peanut/tree nut allergic son!  Apparently peanut oil has a higher boiling point and is cheaper than most oils in a restaurant setting.  This restaurant even told me a few years ago that there is possibly peanut oil in the toasters because some of the bread may get brushed with it.  A child went into anaphylactic shock here a few years back before they had the peanut oil allergy statement on their menu.  Now they have allergy statements on every menu I believe.  AVOID AT ALL COSTS IF YOU HAVE A NUT ALLERGY

Boyne City:

1. Café Sante – Amazing and the really get cross-contamination and food allergies!  We dine here regularly & one of the restaurant manager’s worked for Disney in which they had several levels of food allergy education that were necessary for all employees.  During our most recent dining experience our server explained to us that the staff had just been trained extensively on food allergies and cross-contamination.  The serving staff here is even required to add food allergies into their computer system upon originally greeting their guests.   Thank you to the new Michigan Restaurant Law!  My youngest son LOVES the mules!  My boys can eat their homemade bread safely also which is amazing, safe and usually not the case in most restaurants.  The owners, managers and chefs here GET IT!  Thank you!

Boyne Falls:

1. Mountain Grand Lodge – Although we did not dine here during our last visit I inquired with the restaurant manager and they suggested they were fully capable of accommodating multiple food allergies to ensure the safety of our children.

Charlevoix (We have not explored too many restaurants here with our boys)

1. Terry’s Place – We attempted to eat here with our boys on the way home from the Traverse City airport during May 2016.  I called and spoke to the gatekeeper who answered the telephone.  I mentioned that our 2 boys have life-threatening food allergies to dairy, eggs, peanuts & tree nuts.  She stated that “It would be very difficult to accommodate you here because we use peanut oil to sautee all of our fish in and there is dairy in many of the entrée sauces.”  She did state that their sister restaurant next door (The Villager Pub) could prepare our boy’s food and run it over.  I asked if the chef could simply prepare fish (ie white fish or salmon) for our boys and she said it would not be possible to bake, broil or grill it safely with olive oil as a substitute for the peanut oil.  This is really too bad they cannot accommodate food allergies at all.  Perhaps the person I spoke with was not educated well on how to accommodate all customers with special diets.  Oh, and did I mention this was a Sunday night during April, which is the off season in Charlevoix?  A perfect evening to try a new restaurant because the town was literally dead!  Eat here at your own risk!

Traverse City & Surrounding Area:

1. Siren Hall (Elk Rapids) – We recently had a late lunch here with our boys.  We sat at the bar and requested the bar tender review our Chef Allergy Card with the chef and offer recommendations.  Our boys decided on the grilled chicken with broccolini and muscles in a white wine, garlic and tomato broth.  Both were delicious and our boys were happy.  They have root beer on tap too which made the stop especially worthwhile because our boys love root beer!

2.  Red Ginger (downtown Traverse City) – This is a family favorite in our house.  If we’re in Traverse City with our boys we have to dine here according to them!  When you make a reservation the host will make a note in their computer system of your allergies.  The head chef here has a son who is on a strict gluten-free diet.  He completely understands the concept of safety and avoiding cross-contamination.  My children usually order vegetable sushi rolls and the chef prepares delicious panko crusted chicken fingers for them with a side of steamed green vegetables.  The food is delicious and their sushi is fresh and yummy!  This is definitely one of our favorite Northern Michigan restaurants and I hope you will try it also!  Thanks Red Ginger!

Subway Restaurants can all be accommodating- My boys can eat the white bread, ham, and turkey as well as veggie toppings.  I always request the sandwich makers use clean knives, new gloves, and put down several pieces of paper over the cutting boards in which to make my boy’s sandwiches…we usually bring our own vegan cheese and my boys can eat their yellow mustard in lieu of mayo (or I bring my own Joy O or Veganaise).

Please remember these comments are based solely on our personal experiences and are opinion based.  Feel free to message me if you have additional questions/comments regarding any of the restaurants mentioned above.

~Erika

Travel Update- Delta is the Best Allergy Friendly Airlines

Delta plane

I made a few posts several weeks back regarding various trips we have taken with our food-allergic boys and how well we were accommodated on Delta & United Airlines.

As I have mentioned before, we fly A LOT with our boys! We just returned from a recent trip last Tuesday in which we flew on Delta again.  I have to say that Delta completely understands the safety needs of their food allergic passengers!  On a flight from Fort Meyer’s (RSW) to Detroit (DTW) the head flight attendant made about 4 announcements, the first started as we were boarding the aircraft.  She stated, “There are two passengers with extremely severe peanut allergies.”  She then went on to say, “Out of consideration for the safety of these passengers we will not be serving peanuts on the flight today.”  This announcement was made about 4 times throughout the first portion of the flight.  It was wonderful!

Thank you Delta for yet another very safe flight at 30,000+ feet in the air.  Your company totally understand the severity and safety concerns of food allergic passengers while traveling by air.

I commend you Delta for being our #1 preferred airline and my family will continue to fly with you during our future travels.

Bravo Delta!!!!  We completely endorse your company for making safety of your passengers the priority!

Have a great weekend!

~Erika

Matt Laurer & Al Roker make fun of Nut Allergies on the Today Show in this Clip! I’m DISGUSTED!

https://youtu.be/tlut8tt2XBM

This recent video clip of Al Roker and Matt Laurer on the Today show caught my attention.  They are both making fun of “Nut Allergies” and having

to use “an Epi-Pen” in this clip that aired on the NBC network.  No wonder kids with food allergies are being subjected to bullying, embarrassment, exclusion from school and social activities, etc.  This is unbelievable and I didn’t think it was very funny any of the times I had to inject my boys with an Epi-Pen in an effort to save their lives from an accidental food exposure and ANAPHYLAXIS!  Do they think it’s funny to hear your child ask his/her parents, “Am I going to die?”

Matt Laurer, Al Roker, The Today Show, and NBC- Please recognize that food allergies ARE a disability covered under Section 504 of the American Disability Act and Food Allergies can be a life-threatening medical condition.  Your ignorance and lack of education is unexceptable considering your presence in the public eye.  Shame on you all!

I digress…

#TheTodayShow#NutAllergies#TreeNutAllergies#FoodAllergies#Anaphylaxis#NBCNews#MattLaurer#AlRoker#FoodAllergyResearchEducation#F.A.R.E#DairyAllergies#EggAllergies#Allergen#FoodAllergy

 

Recent Delta Flights with Food Allergies

Delta plane

After my post a few weeks ago about the challenges we had flying with our nut allergic boys on United, I thought I would post a positive experience we recently had flying with Delta.  Within the last week, we took a total of 4 Delta flights with our peanut, tree nut, and dairy allergic boys.  Although we have primarily flown on Delta with our boys over the last 8 years, and we travel quite often with our sons, I wanted to share this very positive experience.

As always, I notified Delta by calling their Sky Miles number that we would be traveling with our nut allergic children on our upcoming tip.  The representative assured me that no nuts would be served on the aircrafts during our trip.  I hung up the call with a sense of relief and felt good about our upcoming vacation.

On both of the travel dates I reiterated to the check in Delta representative that our children had nut allergies.  She/he stated this was noted in the system and the flight crew would be notified of this information.  Upon the aircraft leaving the gate on all of our flights, the head flight attendant made an announcement stating, “We will not be serving peanuts on the flight today because a passenger has a serious nut allergy…instead we will be serving our Bischoff cookies and pretzels…thank you for your cooperation.”  This was music to my ears and both my husband and I were relieved.  However, there is of course still the possibility of passengers bringing their own nuts and nut products onto the aircraft.  Thankfully my children’s nut allergy is not airborne so this is never an issue.

Thank you Delta for another safe and pleasant flying experience with our nut-allergic boys!  I appreciate the effort both you and your staff continue to exhibit to keep food allergic passengers safe on your aircrafts!  We WILL definitely be traveling with you again in the future!

~Erika

 

Disney with Food Allergies

 

Disney 2

As most of my followers can sympathize, traveling with food allergies is not a simple task, not to mention extremely stressful and takes lots of advance planning.  We travel quite a lot with our food allergic boys and although it has gotten easier over the years, it’s can still be challenging at moments.

Our family recently experienced our first trip to Walt Disney Word in Orlando, FL.  It was a HUGE success and one of the most amazing vacations we have experienced as a young family!

This entire journey began a little over 5 months ago, when I contacted Lizzie, the author of http://allergyfreemouse.com and http://pixielizzie.com.  Lizzie is a renowned travel agent specializing in “Allergy Safe Walt Disney Vacations.”  It was literally music to my ears when I found Lizzie and started researching the concierge travel services she has to offer to her food allergy customers at Disney properties throughout the world.  She has a daughter with life-threatening food allergies and understands the stresses food allergies puts on families during a vacation.

Since we only booked our trip 5 months out, it was crucial to get all of the logistics (ie. hotel accommodations, restaurant reservations, fast passes, etc.) booked ASAP.  Lizzie was instrumental in walking me through this entire process which can be extremely stressful without the proper guidance.  Additionally, she gave me several restaurant recommendations where she actually knew the chef personally and ensured me they would be able to cater to our boy’s life-threatening dairy, egg, peanut and tree nut allergies.  When booking the restaurant reservations through My Disney Experience, I always carefully noted the food allergies for each reservation.  Also, I sent an email 2 weeks before our departure date to: Special.Diets@DisneyWorld.com to make sure they had us “flagged” in their system for food allergy reservations.  Because I’m a bit OCD, I called Disney 1 week prior to our departure to make sure they had our food allergies listed for every restaurant reservation.  There were actually a few reservations which didn’t note the allergies and I was glad I called customer service to verify my online reservations.  I quickly found that the key to a successful Disney vacation with food allergic children is careful advance planning, planning, and planning!  Lizzie was a huge help with this as she provided me with check lists, email reminders, pages of allergy safe dining options, etc. We couldn’t have done it without Lizzie and all of her helpful resources!

We stayed at the Disney Polynesian Resort which was right on the Monorail and the most convenient location that met our family’s needs.  The swimming pool was AMAZING!  It was surrounded by about 8 lifeguards at all times which ensured our boy’s safety as they transcended down the water slide time after time!  When Lizzie booked our accommodations, she requested a microwave be added to our room at no additional charge, “extra sanitizing of our room for food allergens prior to arrival,” and no down pillows.  The room worked out great, as we were hardly in it.  As a parent of kids with food allergies, I always travel with groceries that I keep in the hotel refrigerator for snacks, early breakfasts, etc.  It’s always nice to have “safe” food on hand for my boys who are constantly hungry.

I have to note, upon checking in at the host desk at each restaurant, a ticket with our reservation was immediately printed.  Our tickets always had the words written in bold red “ALLERGY” which was then placed on the table when we were seated.  This was awesome and Disney really goes the extra mile to ensure the safe dining of their food-allergic guests.  Additionally, I always immediately gave each of our servers my hot pink “Restaurant Allergy Card” that lists our individual food allergies and specifics about cross contamination.  This card was also given to each head chef that came to our tables daily.

Many of my followers have requested restaurant recommendations that can accommodate food allergies and here are my detailed reviews.

Sit Down Restaurants (most require reservations through MyDisneyExperience):

Citricos Restaurant at the Grand Floridian: This was by far our favorite meal of the trip.  Albeit a bit $$$ but well worth the experience in this Disney Signature restaurant.  Chef Dave came to our table and our boys decided on the mickey mouse shaped pasta with marinara and broccolini. He even checked the gluten-free buns to make sure they were safe, as gluten free bread usually has eggs in it.  They did not have eggs, and my boys were thrilled they could eat the bread at this restaurant and dip it in olive oil!  This was our first WDW on-property dining experience and as a special surprise touch I pre-ordered an amazing chocolate chip mint dessert cake from Babycakes, Orlando https://www.erinmckennasbakery.com/orlando/.  Our server brought it to the table with candles and our boys couldn’t have been happier!  It was the perfect end to an amazing meal!

Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort: Our first morning at Disney we did the & Lilo and Stitch character breakfast at our hotel.  It was a meal “choc full of carbs” but our children were delighted as they have NEVER, I mean NEVER been able to eat breakfast in a restaurant safely.  Chef David came over to our table and explained that he “personally” cooks all of the allergen friendly meals separately.  He even served the boy’s family-style breakfast to them which included: mickey shaped waffles, bacon, fresh assorted fruit, sausage, and delicious guava juice.  It was an amazing breakfast and the icing on the cake was when our oldest son said, “Mom & Dad, I feel like a normal kid this morning.”  It literally brought us to tears of joy!  Thank you Disney and Chef David for your diligence and serving delicious allergy friendly meals!  Special memories were definitely created!

Disney

Kona at Disney’s Polynesian Resort: Kona is one of the Disney restaurants that is piloting their new “allergy friendly menu” system.  Our server brought out a separate menu for the boys which listed all of the ingredients for many appetizers, entrees, and desserts.  Chef Karen came to our table and I presented her with our restaurant allergy card.  I told her that our oldest son wanted a hamburger.  I figured he would not be able to eat the bun so I actually had 2 pieces of bread in my purse that I brought from our hotel room. She said that was fine and we could assemble his burger at the table.  She would also bake the sweet potato fries to avoid cross contamination.  The boys also split the octopus salad for an appetizer and the veggie sushi rolls.  The food was marginal but it was safe and we were exhausted that night, so it didn’t really matter.

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Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios: Upon seating us, the host presented us with 3 different menus.  An allergy-specific kid’s menu, allergy-specific adult menu and their standard menu.  We typically all order off of the allergy friendly menu to make it easier for the chef when discerning our order.  Raul, our server from Colombia, was very knowledgable about food allergies when I presented him our restaurant card.  Our boys could again eat the bread here with olive oil which was a nice treat!  The boys decided on the Vegetarian Pho entrée as an appetizer which was delicious.  They each had the mickey mouse shaped pasta with marina sauce and steamed brocolini.  What can I say, our boys are creatures of habit?  We were all too full for dessert and wanted to rush outside to see the fireworks.  I will note that Tofutti dairy free ice cream was on the dessert menu which I thought was AWESOME!

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Toyko Restaurant, Japan in Epcot: I was a bit apprehensive about eating with our boys in Epcot due to pre-vacation research I had done on Epcot restaurants.  From what I had researched, many of the restaurants in Epcot are not actually “Disney-owned” restaurants, and thus do not have the same Allergy standards that Disney has for all of their restaurants.  However, we didn’t find this to be true at Toyko.  From a peanut allergy perspective, Japanese cuisine is typically free of peanuts and most tree nuts.  The manager of the restaurant came right over to our table and brought a huge binder that listed allergens in all of the menu items.  She stressed that the sushi chef making our boy’s rolls would put on clean gloves and use a clean surface.  Our boys each decided on edamame and the sushi veggie rolls.  We had yet another delicious and safe meal at Disney and no one left hungry!

Koisks & Quick Service Stations:

Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, Main Street U.S.A.:  When we were in line, I handed one of the cast member our restaurant allergy card.  She told us to stand over to the side.  The manager then came out from the back room and told us they had Tofutti Vanilla and Chocolate.  I made sure to explain to her the severity of our boy’s food allergies.  She assured me she would scoop it in the back and all of the utensils would be clean and sanitized.  Our boys each had a HUGE cup of Tofutti to cool them off during the hot afternoon!

Food Kiosk near Tomorrowland Speedway: Our boys could have the Mickey shaped hot pretzels and the cotton candy.  The cast members at this kiosk showed me the binder that listed the ingredients for all of the food products sold at this location.

Now that I have thoroughly reviewed all of our dining experiences I have to mention we took a decent-sized backpack into the park each day that contained the boy’s 4 epi-pens, inhalers and usually lots of snacks.  I had all of the ingredients in our hotel fridge to make sandwhiches for the boys for a few days in the parks.  We got sick of all of the junk food and tend to eat a pretty clean and healthy diet.  Lots of snacks are key when you have growing kids that are constantly hungry.  We always ate a nice sit down meal every night.

Overall, our trip to WDW in Orlando was a MAGICAL experience!   It was so nice to feel “normal” and take most of the worry out of our dining experiences for a few days.  Please fee free to contact me with any specific questions regarding this post or allergy free travel to WDW in general.

~Erika