Get outside with your g-free kids and LÄRABAR (giveaway, too!)

IMG_5470Get outside?  No one needs to tell us that — we get outside every chance we get —especially in Autumn, our favorite time of year, which doesn’t last nearly long enough…

Did you know that Monday, November 17th is National Take a Hike Day?  If it were up to me, I would dub every Saturday just that. Unfortunately, life and bad weather get in the way far too much, and we end up having to carve out time for exploring new nature trails and hiking areas much less often than we would like to. Our family bond is at its strongest when we are out in the woods together, having left behind all thoughts of homework, upcoming irish dance competitions, electronics, housework, to-do lists, and other distractions.

IMG_5408My dog is usually pulling my husband off ahead, while my daughters and I take our time, usually stopping just about every minute to get a closer look at mushrooms, fungi, acorns, tiny saplings, tree bark patterns, leaves of every shape, size and color, and seemingly every other bit of nature we pass by.

IMG_5518If we hike near any sort of creek or pond, my daughters can’t resist lifting up every rock, in search of crayfish, salamanders, frogs, minnows, dragonfly nymph or whatever creature they can find and manage to hold for a few seconds…

4creaturesOur hikes aren’t the long, arduous ones my husband and I used to take back in Colorado or New Hampshire pre-kids, but our current hikes allow our girls the downtime they need to get their hands dirty, feet muddy and wet, and to just be out in nature and enjoying God’s creations without having to rush.

Knowing we’re going to be outside for hours on end, we have learned to come prepared with plenty of water and g-free snacks. When LÄRABAR recently contacted me to see if I would like to try some samples of their bars and new grain-free granola, it seemed like the perfect chance for our family to sample the rainbow of flavors they offer.

IMG_5325As you may or may not know, I have been grain-free for the past 6 weeks and have never felt better. I have left behind all of the nausea I’d been feeling for months, the accompanying stomach distress, and as a bonus: about 10 pounds as well! I’ve never felt healthier — along with less bloated, much less gassy and so much cleaner in my diet.  The “old me” would have packed up a few Diet Dr. Peppers, juice boxes and bags of Cheetos & Doritos for a roadtrip (no lie) but the “new me” only craves healthy, whole foods & clean eating. Since I’m the one packing this stuff, the rest of my family benefits as well.

IMG_5332LÄRABAR is the absolute perfect fit with my new healthier lifestyle, as their products are made from quality stuff and the best ingredients we can put into our bodies. Although these bars seem like they are a modest size, they really pack a punch when you consider how filling they are, and how much protein, vitamins and long-lasting energy they provide. Perfect for that extra fuel my family and I often need on our hikes.

IMG_5339Each LÄRABAR contains 1/4 cup of fruit or more, and they’re made from whole foods which makes them perfect for g-free snacking on the go. Check out all of the many different flavors on their product page. So far our favorites in the following order are: Banana Bread, Key Lime Pie, Cherry Pie and Blueberry Muffin, but we have a bunch left to try still. Previously I had only tried LÄRABAR a few times years ago, back before I was thinking about what I was eating and too cheap to pay for the good stuff. But, thankfully, I have matured and learned to care much more about my diet, and prefer to buy minimally processed foods with the shortest ingredient lists nowadays. Take our favorite LÄRABAR flavor for instance, made from just bananas, almonds and dates:

Screen shot 2014-10-26 at 11.02.52 PM

And as it turns out, LÄRABAR’s founder, Lara Merriken, came up with “a mountain of an idea back in 2000: to combine wholesome ingredients such as fruits and nuts to create a food product that’s tasty, healthy and convenient.” All of LARABAR’s products are made from 100% real and wholesome ingredients. Everything they offer is g-free, non-GMO and Kosher, with most everything being soy-free, dairy-free, and vegan as well.

IMG_5348Besides being able to sample all of these bars, you can imagine how psyched I was (yes, there is still an 80’s girl inside of me) when I discovered that they also have a new grain-free granola called RENOLA. It comes in 3 flavors – Berry, Cinnamon Nut and Cocoa Coconut — and is a tasty mix of fruits, nuts and seeds.

IMG_5345After trying our samples, we were hooked — especially me, since I’m not eating grains right now, including g-free grains. I love all three flavors and really appreciate how small the pieces are, so I don’t feel like I’m going to break a tooth like I do with other g-free granolas. I also love the individual serving size bags, which contain the perfect amount of RENOLA to give that long-lasting energy needed for dance, sports, or a hike. You can bet that RENOLA will be on my grocery list over and over again, no doubt…

IMG_5358I was really impressed by all of these products, and LÄRABAR has definitely become my go-to brand for g-free snacking on the go. They are so easy to take on family hikes, or to just toss in my bag in case I get hungry when I’m out and about so I can stay on my grain-free diet and keep feeling good 24/7.


As a special offer for you (on top of this awesome giveaway) LÄRABAR is giving gfreekid.com readers $0.50 off the purchase of any LÄRABAR. Get your coupon here. don’t know where to get em? find out here.


Remember: Monday, November 17th is National Take a Hike Day. Join me and LÄRABAR by getting outside with your g-free kids and enjoying the gorgeous fall weather in your neck of the woods. Trust me: you and your kids will be glad you did.  You can join in on the conversation by hashtaggin’ #getoutside and #eatclean.

IMG_5380Want to win a LÄRABAR Prize Pack?

Is all this talk about LÄRABARs, RENOLA and hiking making you hungry?

Here’s your chance to win an awesome prize pack from LÄRABAR, including a variety pack of 16 assorted LÄRABARs and all three flavors of RENOLA.  All you have to do is answer the following 2 questions and comment below with your answers…(anyone failing to do the following will not qualify to win.)

(1) Leave a comment on this post with the LÄRABAR flavor and RENOLA flavor you’re most interested in trying (take a quick look at the product page before you answer) and (2) how we have inspired you to #getoutside and #eatclean with your g-free kid and LÄRABAR!  Couldn’t be easier to enter!  🙂

Open to 18+ year old U.S. residents only. Randomly chosen winner will be picked Monday, Nov. 10th at midnight & will be given 24 hours to respond before being replaced by another winner.

Thanks to LÄRABAR for sponsoring this post and giveaway, and for fueling this hike and many in the future. HONEST opinions are completely from me and my family. 

IMG_5395


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24 Gluten Free Summer Camps for 2014

I rounded up this list of 24 summer camps (the last 4 are new to this list) which give gluten-free campers the chance to enjoy traditional camp activities without having to worry about what they will eat. It’s the perfect summertime escape from feeling left out or different because they can’t eat what everyone else is having. At these camp sessions, kids’ meals are gluten-free and carefully prepared so that there will be no need for them to ask or to wonder, “Is this safe for me to eat?”

In researching the below list of camps it was interesting to see the various approaches to gluten-free campers. Some camp philosophies celebrate that the kids are gluten-free, while others focus on treating all campers the same except for which meals they receive. Some camps intermingle gluten-free and non-gluten-free kids while other camps have only gluten-free campers and gluten-free food for that particular session. A few camps only allow diagnosed-Celiac kids, so make sure you double check that they also allow kids with wheat allergy and/or non-celiac gluten sensitivity as well. Learn more at the camp links below…

Regardless of how these camps are set up, they all seem like excellent environments for gluten-free kids. The directors and food staff seem very knowledgeable about food preparation safety, and some can even accommodate other special diets such as nut-free, casein-free, etc. They all seem to understand the importance of making kids feel “normal” and making sure their campers enjoy themselves without having to think about their diet.

I remember going to summer camp a few times as a child, and a lot of my memories revolved around foods that we ate there. If I would have known then that I was a Celiac,
I most likely wouldn’t have been able to attend. Now, with these 24 summer camps providing the opportunities that they do, hundreds of
gluten-free children are now
able to enjoy camp activitie
s — horseback riding, canoeing, archery, swimming and countless other activities — free from worrying about their diet. It is exciting to know that the number of camps like these continues to grow, which means even more choices when the time comes for my own daughters to attend one.

So, why not check out the below links and treat your child to an unforgettable adventure this summer!? Registration has already begun for some of these camps, so sign your child up before it’s too late!  Age, cost and registration requirements will vary. Scholarship opportunities and waiting lists are available at some camps.

U.S. gluten-free summer camps  (in no particular order)

 

#1 & #2:  New Jersey Y Camps:
(Nah Jee Wah, Cedar Lake, Teen Camp, and Round Lake)
When:  Gluten Free Family Weekend May 30 – June 1, 2014
Where:  Milford, PA (about 2 hrs from NYC)
For more info:  click here
*These mainstream neighboring camps share a dedicated gluten-free kitchen,
and can accommodate campers on gluten-free diets at any of their mainstream sessions.
These camps have partnered with Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

#3:  Camp Fire USA Gluten-Free camp session
When:  July 13 –18, 2014
Where:  Camp Waluhili on scenic Fort Gibson Lake, 45 min. from Tulsa, OK
For more info:  click here and here

#4:  “Free To Be” Camp at Camp Westminster
When:  June 15 – 21, 2014
Where:  Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake in Roscommon, MI
For more info: click here
*Can accommodate the avoidance of other food allergens
such as casein, soy, egg and nuts
.

#5:  Summer Camp Weekaneatit
When:  July 13-18, 2014
Where:  Camp Twin Lakes- Camp Dream in Warm Springs, GA
For more info:  click here

#6:  Gluten-Free Camp
When:  June 29 – July 3, 2014
Where:  Camp Manitou-Lin on Ol’ Lake Barlow in Middleville, MI
For more info: click here and here and here

#7:  The Great Gluten Escape at Camp Gilmont
When:  June 15 – 20, 2014
Where:  Camp Gilmont in Gilmer, TX
For more info:  click here

#8:  Gluten Detective Day Camp
When: July 22 – 24, 2014  •  9am – 3pm daily
Where: Bloomington, MN
For more info: click here
Celiac and all gluten-intolerant kids welcome, as well as their siblings

#9:  Camp Celiac at Camp Arroyo
When: July 21 – 24; July 24 – 27, 2014
Where: Camp Arroyo, Livermore, CA
For more info: click here

#10: GIG Kids Camp West (at Camp Sealth)
When: August 4 – 9, 2014
Where:  Camp Sealth, Vashon Island, WA
For more info: click here and here
*Can accommodate children with both gluten intolerance & diabetes.
*Camp Sealth is peanut-free

#11: GIG Kids Camp East (at Camp Kanata)
When:  July 27 – August 2, 2014
Where:  Camp Kanata, Wake Forest, NC
For more info: click here and here and here

#12: Camp Celiac
When:  August 10 – 15, 2014
Where:  Camp Aldersgate, North Scituate, RI
For more info: click here

#13: Gluten-Free Fun Camp
When:  July 20 – 25, 2014
Where:  Camp Courage in Annandale, MN
For more info: click here

#14: Camp Eagle Hill
Where: Elizaville, NY
For more info: click here and here
Dedicated GF kitchen. Meals are GF versions of other campers’ meals

#15: International Sports Training Camp
Where: Stroudsburg, PA
For more info: Call 570-620-2267 or click here and here
Executive Chef is Celiac and completed Great Kitchens Camps program through NFCA

#16 and #17: Camp Danbee & Camp Taconic
Where: Hinsdale, MA
These two mainstream camps cater to celiac/gluten-intolerant kids during any session.
For more info:  Camp Danbee (girls) or Camp Taconic (boys)

#18: Appel Farm Arts Camp
Where: Elmer, NJ
For more info:  Call 856-358-2472 or click here
Camp chef is certified in gluten-free meal-planning, and gluten-free food is available.

#19: Camp Emerson
Where: Hinsdale, MA
For more info:
  Call 800-782-3395 or click here and here.
Accommodates food-allergic/intolerant and Celiac kids during any session. Separate GF Kitchen Area. Registered Dietician on staff to review menu with each family. Professional Chefs trained in food allergy management and gluten-free meal planning.

#20: Hidden Valley 4-H Camp
Where: Watkins Glen, NY
For more info: http://hiddenvalley4hcamp.org or 607-535-7161
This camp caters to food allergies and other dietary restrictions.

#21: Celiac Strong Camp
When: August 1 – 3, 2014
Where: Comstock Camp, Ithaca, NY
For more info: Email sabrina40154@yahoo.com or click here 
Worry-free weekend for boys & girls ages 8-15. Accommodates both gluten-free and lactose-free diets.

#22: Emma Kaufmann Camp
Where: Morgantown, WV
For more info: click here
Gluten-free meals available at all sessions

#23: Camp Schodack
Where: Nassau, NY
For more info: click here
Gluten-free meals available at all sessions

#24: Camp Wekeela
Where: Hartford, Maine
For more info: click here
Gluten-free meals available at all sessions

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A special “thank you” goes out to all of the people who work so hard to offer these amazing camping opportunities to kids like ours!

Click here to read how gluten-free camps help improve a Celiac child’s well-being, self-perception and emotional outlook:
(Study Shows Special Camp Improves Self-Perception of Children on Restricted Diets)

Click here to read a great article on camps from Living Without (April/May 2011): Postcards from Allergy-Friendly Camp

(Bloggers: please note: this took quite a while to compile. Please be considerate and link back to my site if you’d like to post this resource, instead of copying & pasting this info. Thank you!)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Has your child attended any of these gluten-free camps before?  Please feel free to comment below about their experience. Thanks!

Helping your gluten-free kid gain independence

When your g-free kid reaches a certain age (which is different for every child) it becomes time to start easing them into being independently gluten-free. Here are some tips that will help boost your child’s confidence and know-how:

Teach them to read labels:
For very young kids who don’t know how to read, send along a list of offending ingredients for caregivers, along with a list of naturally GF items such as fruit and raisins. If you’d like your little one to be able to refer to the list, include little pictures of acceptable foods to give him a better visual idea of what’s allowed. Help little ones learn how to spot the words “gluten free”, the certified gluten-free logo or other prominent labels. Once they start to read, you can show them more things to watch for on packages, and to also read the bold allergy warnings at the end of the ingredient list, as in “contains wheat.”

labelsWhen older kids begin looking at packages, the terms “multigrain” and “whole grain” can often be confounding (even for adults) so be sure to explain to them that just reading those words on a package doesn’t mean it is automatically ruled out. My girls used to think that, until I saw their confusion and explained how corn and rice can be considered multigrain or whole grain, too, yet those are still acceptable grains & flours for g-free kids. Teach them that oats need to be certified gluten-free to be considered safe, and other similar tips.

Start label-reading lessons small, by going to Grandma’s house and showing them offending ingredients on labels. Then go home and have them read labels on their own gluten-free products so they can see what is okay.

Guide them through the grocery store:
If your child is old enough and has a long enough attention span, spend some time together in a grocery store (at a slow time of the week) and go through it aisle by aisle, explaining which kinds of food are gluten-free or not. Be matter-of-fact and show them how entire sections of entire aisles are off-limits, but linger in the areas that are full of safe foods and marvel at all of their choices. Show them how most yogurts and ice creams are GF except those with cookies, brownies, sugar cone pieces, etc. Show them all the naturally gluten-free foods and the special area where the gluten-free products are. I do this with my daughters every now and then to test them on what they know, and they, in turn, always love to demonstrate their growing knowledge.

If this sounds too overwhelming for a younger child, then just do it in small doses on a regular basis as you do your weekly shopping together. It may take some time, but it’s very beneficial for your child — and something to be proud of  — for them to be able to show you what he or she knows.

Let them speak up for themselves:
When eating out, kids of all ages can learn to speak up for themselves to varying degrees. Young kids can learn how to ask, “Is this gluten-free?” or “Is this safe for me to eat?” Let your child order for themselves in a restaurant and have them politely inform the waitstaff that their meal needs to be gluten-free. Even if you plan on discussing details with the waitress, manager or chef yourself (which I would advise in order to avoid cross contamination) it is important for your child to get in the habit of always making sure people know that he or she needs to eat g-free.

menuIf your child is old enough, test them to see if they can correctly name the gluten-free options on menus at restaurants by themselves. Explain why they can’t eat certain things like french fries, which are deep fried in shared fryers with gluten-containing foods like breaded chicken fingers. Let them ask if there is a dedicated fryer or not. The older a child gets, the more he or she needs to have these habits set in place. The more they practice, the more comfortable they will get with the necessary dialogue. Your child will be filled with pride as he learns these life-long social lessons.

Can you think of any more ways to help your g-free kid gain independence? Please comment below if you have anything to add…..thanks!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Keep coming back for more ideas for g-free kids, and don’t forget to check out the photo album and kids’ stuff page!

22 Gluten Free Summer Camps for 2013

I rounded up this list of 22 summer camps which give gluten-free campers the chance to enjoy traditional camp activities without having to worry about what they will eat. It’s the perfect summertime escape from feeling left out or different because they can’t eat what everyone else is having. At these camp sessions, kids’ meals are gluten-free and carefully prepared so that there will be no need for them to ask or to wonder, “Is this safe for me to eat?”

In researching the below list of camps it was interesting to see the various approaches to gluten-free campers. Some camp philosophies celebrate that the kids are gluten-free, while others focus on treating everyone the same except for which meals they receive. Some camps intermingle gluten-free and non-gluten-free kids while other camps have only gluten-free campers and gluten-free food for that particular session. I have heard that a few camps only allow diagnosed-Celiac kids, so make sure you double check that they also allow kids with gluten allergy and/or non-celiac gluten sensitivity as well. (I can’t imagine telling my one daughter she couldn’t attend because her gluten-free condition was not deemed as worthy as her sister’s!)  Learn more at the camp links below…

Regardless of how these camps are set up, they all seem like excellent environments for gluten-free kids. The directors and food staff seem very knowledgeable about food preparation safety, and some can even accommodate other special diets such as nut-free, casein-free, etc. They all seem to understand the importance of making kids feel “normal” and making sure their campers enjoy themselves without having to think about their diet.

I remember going to summer camp a few times, and a lot of my memories revolved around foods that we ate there. If I would have known I was a Celiac when I was a child, I most likely wouldn’t have been able to attend. Now, with these 21 summer camps providing the opportunities that they do, hundreds of gluten-free children are now able to enjoy camp activities — horseback riding, canoeing, archery, swimming and countless other activities — free from worrying about their diet. It is exciting to know that the number of camps like these continues to grow, which means even more choices when the time comes for my own daughters to attend one.

So, why not check out the below links and treat your child to an unforgettable adventure this summer!? Registration has already begun for some of these camps, so sign your child up before it’s too late!  Age, cost and registration requirements will vary. Scholarship opportunities and waiting lists are available at some camps.

U.S. Celiac summer camps  (in no particular order)

#1 & #2:  New Jersey Y Camps: Nah Jee Wah & Cedar Lake
When:  Gluten Free Family Weekend May 31 – June 2, 2013
Where:  Milford, PA (about 2 hrs from NYC)
For more info:  click here
*These mainstream neighboring camps share a dedicated gluten-free kitchen,
and can accommodate campers on gluten-free diets at any of their mainstream sessions.
These camps have partnered with Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

#3:  Camp Fire USA Gluten-Free camp session
When:  July 21 – 27, 2013
Where:  Camp Waluhili on scenic Fort Gibson Lake, 45 min. from Tulsa, OK
For more info:  click here

#4:  “Free To Be” Camp at Camp Westminster
When:  June 16 – 22 , 2013
Where:  Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake in Roscommon, MI
For more info: click here
*Can accommodate the avoidance of other food allergens
such as casein, soy, egg and nuts
.

#5:  Summer Camp Weekaneatit
When:  June 23 – 28, 2013
Where:  Camp Twin Lakes Will-A-Way in Winder, GA
For more info:  click here

#6:  Camp Gluten Freedom
When: June 25 – 28, 2013
Where: Camp Jameson, Indianapolis, IN
For more info: click here

#7:  Gluten-Free Camp
When:  June 30 – July 5, 2013
Where:  Camp Manitou-Lin on Ol’ Lake Barlow in Middleville, MI
For more info: click here

#8:  The Great Gluten Escape at Camp Gilmont
When:  June 16 – 21, 2013
Where:  Camp Gilmont in Gilmer, TX
For more info:  click here

#9:  Gluten Detective Day Camp
When: July 23 – 25, 2013  •  9am – 3pm daily
Where: Bloomington, MN
For more info: click here
Celiac and all gluten-intolerant kids welcome, as well as their siblings

#10:  Camp Celiac at Camp Arroyo
When: July 23 – 27; July 27 – 31, 2013
Where: Camp Arroyo, Livermore, CA
For more info: click here

#11:  Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) Camp Gluten Free
When: July 15 – 19, 2013
Where: Camp Nawakwa, CA
For more info: click here

#12: GIG Kids Camp West
When: July 31 – Aug. 5 ; Aug. 6 – 9; July 31 – Aug. 9, 2013
Where:  Camp Sealth, Vashon Island, WA
For more info: click here and here
*Can accommodate children with both gluten intolerance & diabetes.
*Camp Sealth is peanut-free

#13: Gluten-free week at Camp Kanata (GIG Kids Camp East)
When:  August 4 – 10, 2013
Where:  Camp Kanata, Wake Forest, NC
For more info: click here and here

#14: Camp Celiac
When:  August 11 – 16, 2013
Where:  Camp Aldersgate, North Scituate, RI
For more info: click here

#15: Gluten-Free Fun Camp
When:  July 14 – 19, 2013
Where:  Camp New Hope in McGregor, MN
For more info: click here

#16: Camp Eagle Hill
Where: Elizaville, NY
For more info: click here and here
New for 2012: dedicated GF kitchen. Meals are GF versions of other campers’ meals

#17: International Sports Training Camp
Where: Stroudsburg, PA
For more info: Call 570-620-2267 or click here
Executive Chef is Celiac and completed Great Kitchens Camps program through NFCA

#18 and #19: Camp Danbee & Camp Taconic
Where: Hinsdale, MA
These two mainstream camps cater to celiac/gluten-intolerant kids during any session.
For more info:  Camp Danbee (girls) or Camp Taconic (boys)

#20: Appel Farm Arts Camp
Where: Elmer, NJ
For more info:  Call 856-358-2472 or click here
Camp chef is certified in gluten-free meal-planning, and gluten-free food is available.

#21: Camp Emerson
Where: Hinsdale, MA
For more info:
  Call 800-782-3395 or click here and here.
Accommodates food-allergic/intolerant and Celiac kids during any session. Separate GF Kitchen Area. Registered Dietician on staff to review menu with each family. Professional Chefs trained in food allergy management and gluten-free meal planning.

#22: Hidden Valley 4-H Camp
Where: Watkins Glen, NY
For more info: http://hiddenvalley4hcamp.org or 607-535-7161
This camp caters to food allergies and other dietary restrictions.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A special “thank you” goes out to all of the people who work so hard to offer these amazing camping opportunities to kids like ours!

Click here to read how gluten-free camps help improve a Celiac child’s well-being, self-perception and emotional outlook:
(Study Shows Special Camp Improves Self-Perception of Children on Restricted Diets)

Click here to read a great article on camps from Living Without (April/May 2011): Postcards from Allergy-Friendly Camp

(Bloggers: please note: this took quite a while to compile. Please be considerate and link back to my site if you’d like to post this resource, instead of copying & pasting this info. Thank you!)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Has your child attended any of these gluten-free camps before?  Please feel free to comment below about their experience. Thanks!

Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park: Gluten-Free for Cheapskates

flowersIt’s been almost a year since our trip to Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, and realizing many families are about to venture there for spring break,
I thought I’d finally take the time to finally tell you about our experience…

My husband and I were basically talked into taking our girls to Disney… Our ideal vacation spot is OBX in the off-season, where you can have an entire beach to yourself — not standing in line at a crowded theme park. Yet even so, we succumbed to the pressure of family and friends advising us to take our girls “at least once”….and actually ended up having a great time — and thanking them for the push!  🙂

First of all, we knew we would have to keep it on the cheap side. Thankfully we had friends who were renting a condo about half an hour away from Disney, so we stayed there to avoid hotel fees. Obviously we lucked out with that part. Secondly, we actually drove the 1,200 miles it took us to get there to avoid air fare!  Third, we decided to just spend one day at the Magic Kingdom, and be there from the minute it opened until closing time at night to get our money’s worth. We got recommendations ahead of time from friends who have been there multiple times, asking which attractions were “musts” for 8 year old girls and what they liked about them. We found a map and planned to go to the most highly recommended rides first before the lines got long, then ad lib the rest of the day after we did our “must-sees”.

Another thing I did beforehand was ask people for gluten-free tips on my Facebook page. Thanks to the awesome group of parents on there, I received a bunch of advice and recommendations as to where to eat g-free, which was a huge help…

IMG_5798I’m pretty sure we covered the entire park that day — enjoyed a few GF meals, the evening parade, fireworks and everything else on our list. We knew it would be our only chance to cover it all, so that kept us energized and refusing to quit early. Obviously that’s not going to work for families with various aged kids, but our girls were almost 9 at the time and we were all physically well and able to make it through such a full day.

As far as gluten-free food goes, we did bring some of our own energy bars to snack on in the morning, but we also ate at two restaurants within the Magic Kingdom that day and bought a few other GF treats here and there. (FYI, you are allowed to bring your own cooler and food if you’d like to save even more money that way.)

IMG_0397For lunch we ate at “Cosmic Ray’s” in Tomorrow Land. My girls both had a hotdog with a gluten-free bun (quite possibly the only GF hotdog bun they’ve ever had — we usually just eat them plain) and I had a big angus burger with a gluten-free bun. This picture at left shows my burger…

The bun looked like it was going to be rock-hard when it first came out, but it was totally soft and delicious, as were the girls’ hotdog buns, also shown below… I don’t remember exact prices at this point, but I believe each meal was somewhere around $10 for hotdog, fries and a drink.

IMG_0401For dinner we ate at the “Pinocchio Village Haus” restaurant, which is in Fantasy Land.
We were drenched from an unexpected thunderstorm (I highly advise bringing ponchos!) so we came in to warm up inside and enjoy some food. We split two g-free pizzas (priced the same — $9.95 each — as the regular personal sized pizzas that were only half the size!) which were very tasty and filling, along with some oven-baked fries.

IMG_5802At both places a “Coordinator” took our order, gave us a check with “ALLERGY” stamped on it in red, a buzzer for when it was ready, and that same person followed the order all the way through, even handing it to us himself when it was ready. No confusion, no attitude, no problems….

IMG_0452They really went above and beyond to make us feel confident about our meals and the prices weren’t any higher than regular food. Both restaurants were a great experience. Disney recommends advance notification for sit-down restaurants, but the quick service places (like we went to) are ready to roll with set GF options. It couldn’t be easier! Just tell them you need your meal gluten-free and they take care of everything.

We also cooled off by enjoying their rainbow pops and splurged on (just a few) Mickey Mouse ice cream bars and fruit slushies over the course of the day!  🙂

IMG_0418legosAs we were leaving the park that night, someone told us about “Downtown Disney” which is close to the Magic Kingdom — with free admission and free parking! Of course we just had to check it out the next day!  After tooling around the Lego Store and checking out the huge Lego sculptures all around us, we ventured over to Babycakes, which is in the same building as Pollo Campero and Fresh-A-Peel. Their little bakery was in one corner and it felt so good to be able to tell my girls that they could get whatever they wanted

IMG_5821Morgan chose a lemon cupcake, Lindsey picked a brownie cupcake with mint frosting, and I enjoyed a cookie sandwich, all of which were heavenly.

IMG_5824There was also another window (not shown) that had all kinds of other baked goods in it: doughnuts, banana bread, and much more. We boxed our desserts up and had them after lunch…(after sampling each one first, of course…)

trexextOne of the attractions within Downtown Disney was T-Rex Restaurant, our family’s favorite dining experience of all time, recommended by a fellow Mom, Angel, who is a big supporter of the g-free kid Facebook page

We had THE most fabulous lunch there. It is the most incredible place — huge, realistic-looking & sounding, moving dinosaurs, giant fish tanks, fossils on the walls, volcanoes, color-changing ice cave, meteor showers every 20 minutes — you name it. Besides an amazing atmosphere, the food was outstanding…

trex3Our waitress sent out the Chef, who was super nice. He went through both the kid’s menu and the adult menu with us, telling us exactly how he could make things GF for us. The girls had pasta with white cheddar sauce plus cinnamon apples as a side, and also rotisserie chicken and chips. We split both meals between them so they could both try double the amount of GF foods. I ordered an amazing salad with rotisserie chicken and lots of other stuff on it.
The Chef said he would make
everything himself to assure no cross-contamination, and he also came back out once we started eating to make sure that everything was to our satisfaction, which it totally was.

icecaveI didn’t take any pictures of our food at T-Rex, only because we were just soaking everything in and didn’t want to take anything away from that by worrying about pictures, as I’m sure you can understand. Trust me, though…it was excellent!

beachThe rest of our days in Florida were spent beachcombing, body surfing and just relaxing in the pool…keeping it as cheap as possible. Our indulgences at Downtown Disney may seem like a splurge for cheapskates, but it was so worth it to have such delicious GF food without having to worry about anything. Our girls still talk about it and I know it was an experience we’ll all remember for a very long time….and I truly hope yours is as well. Hopefully this information (and much more at the links below) will give you that “push” you may need to give your g-free kid a memorable experience that you’ll never forget — at Disney… where gluten-free dreams come true… 🙂

To help you plan your trip to Disney, here are fifteen valuable links:

Obviously, in my post, I only touched on a few ways to show your g-free kids a great time in Disney. Please comment below with your own personal experiences at Disney and share more tips and recommendations for other families — thanks!