Recently, my husband and I went on a trip to Disney World to celebrate our anniversary. I immediately wondered how I was going to be able to stick to my anti-inflammatory diet, which requires me to be gluten, dairy, and soy-free. I was also concerned about eating non-organic foods, especially chicken, because of the estrogenic qualities, which could flare my endometriosis. Since cheating on my Endo Diet (as I call it) causes serious stomach upset and painful cramps, I knew I had to do something if I wanted to have a good time (and avoid the restrooms!).
Because I’ve been doing a lot of work on making great choices, I had a plan. First, we were lucky enough to have a kitchen in our hotel room, which meant that I would be able to cook and store enough food for the week. My husband and I planned to eat lunch and dinners at the parks, so we made reservations at restaurants that offered options for me, planned to eat breakfast at the hotel, and brought snacks for me to have to avoid junk food. Here are a few tips for how you can stick to your anti-inflammatory diet while you travel!
- Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!
The times I end up cheating and eating something that will cause a flare, it is usually because I am in a rush and have nothing ready to eat. So, I just pick up whatever I can. I avoided that while on vacation by having a plan before I even got to my destination. I made reservations months ahead of time, thought of recipes that I could make in my hotel room, and planned items to shop for the day I arrived. If you have a plan, you’re less likely to make a last-minute mistake.
- Make reservations at restaurants that offer items that are anti-inflammatory friendly
In Disney World, there are a LOT of dining options, but many of them are fast and pretty unhealthy. There are a ton of quick-stop places with ice cream, chicken fingers, fries, and hamburgers. These foods bog you down, leaving you feeling sluggish and not as energetic as you need to be to keep up with the pace of Disney. The dairy in ice cream is not only inflammatory, but estrogenic. Chicken fingers are breaded (gluten), and often times, frying oil contains GMO corn, or worse, soy (big anti-inflammatory no-no). And you can bet that quick-service foods are not organic.
At Disney, if you want to avoid these dining options, you’ll need to make reservations at table service restaurants. These tend to be a little more expensive, and typically require reservations well in advance, so plan ahead. I would recommend making your reservations at least 4 months in advance. We ended up eating at Be Our Guest, California Grille, 50’s Prime Time Café, and Le Cellier Steakhouse during this trip. All were delicious, and had options that could be prepared gluten-free. The 50’s Prime Time Café did not have as many options, but the California Grille offered the best food to fit my dietary needs, as well a sky-deck view of the nighttime fireworks show, Wishes. By far, Be Our Guest was the most delectable and awe-inspiring, in terms of atmosphere. It is modeled after the castle in Beauty and the Beast, and offers a character meet-and-greet with your meal.
The most exciting culinary experience, however, was the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT. Despite my restrictions, with 32 different marketplaces I was still able to find many delicious options that allowed me to “Taste My Way around the World.” I chose options like venison sausage, veggie haggis with root puree, pork belly with black beans, and lamb shank with a perfect pesto! The best part: my stomach was fine all week!
- Plan to make one meal a day
I decided that breakfast would be the one meal I would make for myself. This starts the day off right, with a full belly of healthy food. My husband and I took turns making breakfast. We found a Whole Foods just a few miles from our hotel, and I stocked the fridge with organic eggs, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, fresh fruit, gluten-free oatmeal, and an exciting find: gluten-free chocolate covered donuts! We made hearty breakfasts of omelets and oatmeal, fresh fruit, and the occasional doughnut (my big splurge). Stock up on your favorite foods, wake up a little early, and start your day off right.
- Pack some safe and filling snacks
My biggest find of the month is Pure bars. The Dark Chocolate Berry is to die for! These organic, gluten and refined-sugar-free to-go bars hit the spot, and are non-GMO. They easily fit in a small purse, and can be a great pick-me-up until lunch. If possible, bring along a piece of organic fruit. I also brought some nuts along for the long days, to give myself some protein for long-lasting energy.
- Find hidden gems to satisfy your sweet tooth
Imagine my shock, and delight, when my husband brought me into an ice cream shop and I found something I could eat! The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom offers Rice Dream, an organic, non-GMO, gluten, dairy, and refined sugar-free frozen dessert. Sure, it wasn’t as pretty as the ice cream sundae my husband ordered, but it was good enough for me!
I had a similar surprise while in EPCOT, perusing the France pavilion. La Glace is a new ice cream shop that also offers some absolutely delicious sorbet. So if you find your sweet tooth calling out to you, head over to one of these hidden gems.
So there you have them! My five tips for sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet while visiting Disney World. These tips can also translate to your other vacations. Just be prepared, keep some healthy snacks in your purse, and keep your eye out for those special places that cater to those of us with dietary restrictions.
Kelsey is an Early Childhood Educator and blogger from the Boston area. She chronicles her journey using sewing as a positive outlet while living with chronic pain and Stage IV Endometriosis. Diagnosed at 22, Kelsey has spent six years learning about her disease, and has recently become active in Endometriosis research and advocacy. She is a published poet who dreams of writing children’s books, and opening her own preschool that supports reading development in a Reggio Emilia-inspired space. In her free time, Kelsey enjoys writing, sewing, baking, interior design, and traveling. She lives in the greater Boston area with her husband and two cats. To read more about Kelsey’s daily dabblings in sewing, as well as recipes, preschool curriculum ideas, and information about endometriosis, visit her blog at www.silverrosesewing.blogspot.com