Planning: something that I have become an expert in ever since Food Allergies entered our lives. You see, my husband and I loved being spontaneous. We liked taking road trips without a destination, we would get on airplanes to fun places if we felt we needed fun in our lives. This didn’t change when our first child was born, but it did when Food Allergies sneaked into our lives in 2013. It takes so much planning and organizing when someone in your family has food allergies: so many medications to carry with you in case of an allergic reaction, wipes to clean any allergen contaminated areas, and for us, a bag full of safe food in case my daughter can’t be accommodated in restaurants (or if I don’t trust that restaurant).
For about two years now, we have been working with a fantastic allergist that has introduced us to Oral Immunotherapy, and Oral Food Challenges. Since then, Penny has been able to tolerate dairy in baked goods, and can now eat some tree nuts: almonds, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans. Which has given us, as a family, a little bit more confidence regarding food allergies.
Long story short, the weekend before labor day we were brainstorming ideas on what to do for Labor Day Weekend. Not only was it a holiday, but it marked the end of summer and my husband’s birthday. We ended up going to the place that a lot of allergy families love because of their fantastic accommodations: Disneyland. This time we also added Universal Studios: Hollywood to our schedule. So, here I am, sharing with you some of our dining experiences at our end of summer vacation trip. Keep in mind that on this trip, my daughter avoided dairy, peanuts & gluten, and my son avoided dairy and gluten.
We chose to book our flights with Jetblue, they do not serve peanuts on board and they are very accommodating. They announced on both flights that there was a passenger with a peanut allergy and asked a row in front of us and a row behind us to please refrain from eating any types of nuts. We were also able to preboard to wipe down our seats. For us, this is an important thing because a couple of years ago, we were flying (with another airline) to visit some family members and Penny had a reaction in flight. We were lucky her reaction was not anaphylactic, nonetheless, it was a scary situation. Since then, we’ve tried to find airlines that do not serve peanuts, and we take the necessary precautions. Both flights were successful, Penny had no reactions, and she was even able to eat the Blue Chips that they offer in flights.
We seem to be creatures of habit, which on this trip meant that every day, both my children, chose the same breakfast food, but in different restaurants. My daughter had gluten free, dairy free and peanut free Mickey waffles, one sausage and one slice of bacon. My son had gluten free, dairy free and peanut free Mickey waffles, bacon and a side of scrambled eggs. Yes, EVERY DAY. We were able to find this option at Carnation Cafe and Steakhouse 55. You might be able to find it at different restaurants, but we were comfortable with these 2 restaurants, so we kept returning to both of these.
I usually carry a lot of snacks with us everywhere we go. This time was not the exception. I mean, not only did I carry snacks (cookies, crackers, chips, etc), but I also carried bread, almond butter, and jelly to make sandwiches in case we aren’t able to be accommodated at a restaurant. However, we were able to find different safe snacks at the Disneyland Parks. My kids loved snacking on the dried apple crisps, fresh fruits, minute maid frozen lemonades, and Dole Whip. It never ceases to amaze me how we are always able to find safe snacks without a problem.
From previous experiences and the information found online, I learned that “sit-down” restaurants are usually more accommodating. One of our favorite restaurants, for some time now, is Carthay Circle Restaurant. There, the kids were able to enjoy delicious, freshly made gluten-free bread. Penny ordered the Grilled Petite Filet of Beef. We substituted the whipped potatoes, which contained dairy, with tomatoes. Paulo had the same dish but instead substituted the whipped potatoes with rice. On another occasion at this restaurant, kids had the beef with white rice and green beans. They were also able to enjoy a mango sorbet.
Another restaurant that we enjoyed was the Orleans Cafe. In this restaurant, the Chef came to talk to us about the allergies and the menu. She told us that she was OK changing anything on the menu because she wanted Penny to be happy. There, my kids enjoyed grilled chicken, white rice, tomatoes, broccolini and a side of grapes.
Lunch at Carnation Café made me kind of nervous because their lunch menu seemed to accommodate either the peanut/tree nut allergy or the dairy allergy, but not both together in 1 dish. We spoke to our server and they were able to make Hamburgers on a gluten free and dairy free bun with broccoli and fruits. However, the kids were not able to eat fries at this restaurant due to the risk of cross-contamination.
At Steakhouse 55 Restaurant we informed the server about the allergies, and the server went and got the chef, who came out to our table and told us that he could make any of the dishes in the menu safe for my kids. This was a first. Usually, servers and chefs guide us through the menu letting us know what is safe for our kids and what isn’t. This time was completely different, he said that he would actually make ANYTHING that they wanted and that it’ll be safe because he would make it in separate clean pans. Both my kids ordered grilled chicken, white rice, veggies, and fries. Told you we are creatures of habit and there’s not a lot of variety in their dishes.
Universal Studios was a completely different story. I had done my research online, and seeing the different experiences that people have had, I was not comfortable buying food at the park for Penny. We arrived later in the day, so the kids had already eaten their allergy friendly Mickey waffles. I brought with us Almond butter and Jelly sandwiches, chips, and cookies. I saw a lot of foods containing dairy in the park, which didn’t make me too comfortable, and to be honest I was not thrilled by the idea of risking a reaction when we were having such a fun and relaxing vacation. Maybe when we visit again, I will be able to look for an accommodating option for us. This time, I stayed within my comfort zone.
Last but not least, it is important to know that we carried with us on this trip EpiPens, antihistamines, and the necessary medication needed if there was an allergic reaction. For food-allergic families like ours, a small getaway like this one, in which you are also able to eat out without a worry means so much. Usually, most of our dishes are cooked at home, in our safe bubble. Therefore, being able to enjoy a vacation without having to worry too much about the food is priceless, and seeing your child feeling included and safe at restaurants means the world to us.
This post was not sponsored by any of the companies and/or products mentioned above. I am expressing my own opinion and sharing our experience.
***DISCLAIMER: THE TEAL INGREDIENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. ANY INFORMATION POSTED ON THIS BLOG IS NOT INTENDED TO REPLACE ANY MEDICAL INSTRUCTION OR ADVICE. I AM A PARENT SHARING MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, OPINION, AND SUPPORT. IF YOU HAVE ANY SPECIFIC MEDICAL CONCERNS, CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR.
IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, AS A CONSUMER, TO READ LABELS AND VERIFY THE SAFETY OF THE PRODUCTS MENTIONED ABOVE AS ANY PRODUCTS MENTIONED IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE REGARDING INGREDIENTS OR MANUFACTURING PROCESSES AND PRACTICES.***