Holding onto the Celiac Disney Magic

Whenever stress overwhelms my life - which, 25 days till the end of my freshman year, is every time I stop to breathe - I try to close my eyes and remember Disney World. I remember the delicious foods that caused me to drool on my keyboard as I wrote up reviews. I remember how sick Mom and I got of our favorite homemade blueberry muffins after seven straight mornings. Mostly, I remember the joy of bathing in Disney's magic for a whole week.

Right in the middle of the all the magic!

To finish off my Disney series, I'm going to share how to bring a little bit of Walt Disney magic into everyday, gluten free life. 

First, be loosely prepared. In Disneyworld, Mom and I entered Disney with a backpack stuffed of specialized weapons: homemade blueberry muffins for breakfast, a pound of Larabars for snacks and pages of online reviews. On our first day in Epcot, though, we put Goofy to shame. All of the possible eateries I bookmarked in my phone failed to fit our appetites, wallets, or patience. We finally ended up at Sunshine Seasons, home to the best salmon in Disney World, after forty five minutes of pain and walking.

We survived Epcot, but more detailed planning could have spared us all a Donald-Duck-worthy tummy tantrum. And every day afterwards, I researched the park the night before (prices and popularity included) and picked two eateries we could choose from. Planning + freedom of choice = wala! Tinkerbell glittered her Disney magic over us once more! 


What does this mean in regular life? Be prepared, but go with the flow. At least for me, celiac disease requires some level of constant prep. My backpack might as well be a giant Larabar wrapper. But, even though I smuggle a snack into every restaurant and social gathering, I'll ditch it if celiac-friendly food lands on my plate!  I found one of my favorite gluten free restaurants - a small, Japanese hole-in-the-wall - on my first date. I had a snack in my pocket, but gobbled down the unexpectedly gluten free salmon bowl. Even though the date was a dud, the salmon bowl and I have gone steady

So plan, stuff your sweatshirts, make a flow chart if you need to. But don't let plans turn into a culinary muzzle without a key.

Next, never stop asking questions. In every restaurant we went in Disney World, before every meal we ordered, we consulted the manager. Is it gluten free? Cross contamination free? An intestinal bomb on a stick? We researched before hand and knew that others claimed that the Columbia Harbor House's famous chicken fingers were fried separate from their gluten brethren. But their crunchy, fluffy texture was even more unbelievably delicious after I had seen the ingredient book. Asking for proof of their allergen safety allowed me to savor their gluten-like taste without worrying that they were too good to be true.  

The proof is in the paperwork!

Eating out in regular life follows the same rules. Gluten free foods have skyrocketed in popularity since my diagnosis less than one year ago. As a result, more places than ever are offering "gluten free alternatives" to Americans' favorite chicken-fried-chicken and hot-pockets. "Gluten free" doesn't equal "celiac-friendly," though, and in some places, cross contamination garnishes every GF plate. 

In my opinion, asking questions or talking to the manager should be automatic to every celiac or intolerant. It may be embarrassing, annoying, or make you "one of those" to your waiter. But whatever sour aftertaste the questions might leave pale in comparison to a mouthful of cheesy, hot gluten free pepperoni and veggie pizza (and a happy belly to boot). 

Finally, savor everything that you can have. In Disney World, the options were astounding. There were gluten free cookies and cakes, stir fries and salmon, burgers and brownies. It was like a world-wide buffet! So when we found Babycakes Bakery in Downtown Disney, we didn't buy one measly cupcake. We bought three cupcakes and three breads. Two were devoured immediately. The rest suffered slow, sugary deaths. And when we ordered a gluten free pizza at Splitsville, Mom and I destroyed the entire plate. 


So when you score the last box of Glutino pretzels, turn that grocery aisle into your personal dance floor. And when you take a bite of your gooey, chocolate birthday cake with chocolate frosting, taste, savor and, looking over at your friends' or family's gluten filled treats, say, "Dang, this is good." And mean it. 

Because it's easy to feel deprived by celiac disease. It's easy to focus on everything that we can't eat - gluten-filled favorites like Pizza Hut and Chick Fil A - rather than the buckets of fruits and veggies that become a celiac's best friend

For me, the most magical part of Disney World was the plethora of gluten free options. Yet, with drops of Disney magic still covering my eyes, the real world I returned to appeared just as limitless. I can't eat spaghetti, but spaghetti squash tastes delicious. My stomach hates dairy and gluten-filled ice cream, but loves banana ice cream. 

The fact is, yep celiac is limiting. Yep, you may miss some of your favorite foods. But if you focus on what you can eat and enjoy every bite of your latest gluten-free delicacy, life with celiac isn't that bad. In fact, I call it a little magical.

Sometimes magic involves getting a little dirty...

Disney World definitely created some of my favorite memories of 2014, and a lot of these memories revolve around the delicious, gluten free food! Now that I've returned to school and regular life, though, I've decided that Disney magic isn't locked in the parks. With a few simple tips and tricks, every day - and every bite - can be magical.

I've picked up my wand. When will you?

Have you ever been to Disneyworld or Disneyland? What is your favorite celiac/food allergy tip? Where do you find magic in everyday life? Comment below!


  1. I love Disney World as a Celiac! I'm doing Disneyland for the first time this year. You definitely need to make your reservations in advance or the wait is just too long. While quick service restaurants will serve you, I look up their menus in advance because my other allergies can be limiting as well. My favorite quick service is Flame Tree in Animal Kingdom. And, at some quick service restaurants they will bake you fries if you're willing to wait. We did this once in EPCOT somewhere in America, but didn't feel the need to do it again. I know the GF Mickey Mouse waffles are a hit, but they have dairy/eggs (I forget which in them). If you go to Disney World again check out the posts by the Food Allergy and Celiac Conference (at Walt Disney World), they have good tips, such as where to find Enjoy Life's rice milk crunch bars :)

    1. Advanced reservations are definitely a key, though we did love the Flame Tree! It was super yummy! Glad you had a great time! I probably won't be going back any time soon, but I'll check out your posts if Lady Luck tosses Disneyworld my way again! :)

  2. Again, another perfect post that just leaves me so seriously uplifted and determined Casey. The message you send to be prepared but go with the flow, is one that I REALLY REALLY need to work on...and I hope I can learn a thing or two from you on how to <3

    1. From your most recent post, it seems like you're getting much better at it! It doesn't come naturally to me (that's an understatement), so it's something I'm continually working on, but I know we can do it! Celiacs unite! :)

  3. Thank you for this post. I'm a mom of a 4 year old with Celiac, and came upon this because we are headed to Disneyworld in June. Your beautiful words brought tears to my eyes, as we are still less than a year from diagnosis and I feel uncertain how she will deal with her disease in the future. So thank you so much. This warms a momma's heart.

    1. Thank YOU, Amber. It's comments like yours that make my blogging worthwhile. Sending lots of gluten free love to you and your daughter! <3


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