Today I get to share a wonderful summary of Antone’s family vacation to Hershey Park and Washington DC. Katie, Antone’s mom, took the time to compile her tips, resources and experience on how she prepared and “got through” a family vacation with special dietary needs to consider.
For those of you not familiar with LGIT versions of the diet, please click here for more information.
Thank you Katie for taking the time to share your experience!
Traveling on LGIT: Planning
It can be daunting to take children on vacation, nevermind when those children have special needs and are on special diets. In that respect, it can seem almost impossible. Despite this, my husband and I love to travel and our son has picked up that love of traveling, so we decided to jump right in and move forward with our vacation, LGIT and all. This summer we are traveling to Hershey Park and Washington D.C.
First of all, spontaneity is out of the question. I usually make an itinerary before vacations, including restaurant reservations, but this is to a level I have never experienced before. We have been planning every last detail for the last month, tweaking recipes for quick snacks, documentation to bring food into places it would otherwise not be allowed and finding restaurants that would be accommodating to Antone’s needs.
In no particular order, I am sharing the things we did and information we gathered as we planned our trip.
-Medical documentation from Antone’s neurologist stating the need for the LGIT and (hopefully!) giving us what we need to bring food into places and make special dietary requests
-Scouring the Hershey Park website. They have an extensive list of allergy friendly foods, ingredient lists for specific items for each and every one of their in park restaurants or food stands. I went through each one and came up with our own list of LGIT friendly places so if we get hungry in the park, we can grab a quick snack. I put that list right into our notes app on the ipod, which transferred to hubby’s iphone. Easy to pull up right in the park, and eliminates the wandering while hungry.
-While scouring the website, checking out rules for outside food. Hershey Park allows people to picnic outside the park and provides lockers for a small fee to store your lunch/snacks. Each person is also allowed to bring in a sealed water bottle, so we will bring Fruit 2 O for Antone and likely rent a locker for lunch.
-Being that it’s Hershey Park, we will be surrounded by chocolate, which in its processed form is forbidden. I worked on different recipes until we found a hit: mini flourless chocolate cakes! He loved them so I froze the batch and will bring it with us for a chocolate treat. Using the mini muffin tin allowed each serving to have the same number of carbs, protein and fat, which was perfect to calculate into his diet.
-We are staying at the Hershey Lodge, which also includes a number of restaurants. Menus and allergens are available on their website as well, along with the disclaimer that they can accommodate most dietary needs and to make the server aware when seated. Many of the restaurants included gluten-free and vegan options, which are amendable to LGIT.
-Calling the hotels in both Hershey and Washington DC to make sure we had a refrigerator in our room for our trusty friends, Fage yogurt, Hood Calorie Countdown Chocolate Milk, sugar-free jello, Heinz Reduce Sugar Ketchup and of course, heavy cream. Both were accommodating and we will have a refrigerator in both hotels.
-Using www.allergyeats.com and www.glutenfreeregistry.com Although LGIT is not gluten-free, we have found that if places are allergy friendly, they are most likely accommodating to other diets as well.
-Making an extensive grocery packing list. Because we are driving, we will be able to stop and pick up more common items like heavy cream, but we wanted to have some staples with us just in case. On a side note, in Disney World, there are many services that will buy your grocery order and deliver to your hotel. A teeny bit pricey, but worth every single penny. We used it last time we were there before we were on the diet and it saved us so much!
-Making reservations ahead of time for dinner in Washington DC. This allowed us to specify dietary needs. Many restaurants now use www.opentable.com which has a spot for you to write in dietary needs.
-Gathering a list of chain restaurants in the area that will accommodate specific dietary requests. For example, Red Robin has a grilled chicken on a stick that if we bring our own ketchup, will be within the confines of the diet. Olive Garden is also reported to be very accommodating, as is Bertucci’s.
-Antone is able to have True Lemon drink mixes, which have less than 1 g of carbs and are sweetened with Stevia. He loves them and they are a lot easier to bring into a restaurant than lugging in his own cup. We order water, mix in a true lemon and we’re good to go. There is no fat or protein in it though, so those will have to be calculated into something else. Butter anyone?
-A plug in cooler. Our good friends offered to lend us a cooler that plugs into our car, to avoid any food going bad and having to frequently fill up on ice. They also have an adapter to bring the cooler into the hotel, in the event that a refrigerator is not available.
Now the real test: Did it work? Stay tuned to find out!
Traveling on LGIT Part II: Did it Work?
I can say with complete confidence that we were able to successfully follow the LGIT and still enjoy our vacation! One thing I didn’t mention in the getting ready post was the use of the Complete Book of Food Counts by Corrine T. Netzer. It provides nutrition information for a large amount of foods, including specific restaurants and name brands. It was very valuable in planning out and counting carbs, fats and proteins to ensure that we had the right amount and balance of each.
This is a sample of a day on vacation and how it worked. Because food does not have to be weighed on LGIT we did not need to bring a scale and were able to order off restaurant menus.
Antone needs to eat as soon as he gets up so waiting until we got ready and left the hotel room was not an option. Each morning started with a small yogurt snack FAGE 2% Plain Greek Yogurt, 1 tsp. raspberry sauce (entire sauce was 1 cup raspberries, 1 tbsp Stevia, 2 cups water) and 1 serving homemade granola. The granola recipe can be found on ketocook for granola bars; to portion it out, I made the granola in a 12 cup mini muffin tin. Worked out great! With this snack, he drank 8 oz. Hood Calorie Countdown Chocolate Milk.
After everyone was ready for the day, we went for breakfast. At Hershey Park, we stayed the Hershey Lodge and went to the same restaurant every morning, the Cocoa Beanery. They were very flexible about diet restrictions. We either ordered a breakfast sandwich, no bread or a fruit cup with only grapes, strawberries and blueberries. On the fruit days, we had to watch carbs carefully because each fruit only allows a small serving and needs to be paired with a protein and fat.
While in DC, we also ate at restaurants/coffee shops close to our hotel. We had no problems ordering diet specific meals; for example eggs and sausage or specific fruit requests.
Usually we headed out for a few hours after breakfast. At Hershey Park, they allow you to bring one sealed water bottle in to the park per person. We brought Fruit 2 0 and then brought packets of True Lemon drink mix. Antone had a souvenir cup as part of our package, which we filled throughout the day. They also had sugar-free sodas available and refills were only a few dollars with the souvenir cup. As the diet makes kids very thirsty and it was so hot, liquids were something we really stayed on top of at both locations.
In Washington DC there are vendors readily available with water bottles that we could mix the True Lemon with or we brought bottles of his Fruit 2 0.
For an easy snack, we brought grapes (if he hadn’t had them during the morning) or multi bran Chex. We had packed snack size Ziploc bags, which are key to getting the right serving size. We practiced before we left measuring out ¾ c of Chex so we had a visual cue to measure correctly on the trip. You could also pack a small measuring cup to help. The only challenge we found with snacks was balancing with a fat. Antone refuses to eat cheese snacks like Babybel or Frigo string cheese, but that is a great option to balance with the grapes or Chex.
Herhsey Park had a Nut Hut where you could order plain nuts as well, so if you know the serving size that was a viable snack option too. Hershey Park does not allow food to be brought in under any circumstances because they feel that their food services provide such clear information about ingredients and they offer a wide range of options. We brought snacks in his bag anyway and had no problems.
We always ate lunch back in our hotel room. It allowed for us to have some down time, correctly balance meals and have no distractions. We brought deli meat and cheese with us and Antone ate that each day for lunch with another 8oz. of Hood Calorie Coutndown Chocolate Milk. He loved it and usually ate a few roll ups. Typically he had a nap after lunch, which was also key to keep seizures at bay.
Afternoon snack was usually in our room. We brought pre packaged (by us) servings of pita chips made from Joseph’s Low Carb Flax Pitas. With the pita chips, Antone could have 2 tbsp of hummus. We brought the Roasted Red Pepper Sabra Hummus, which did not add any sugar of any kind. While hummus is approved, we found it easier to bring our own because so many flavors and brands add sugar.
Dinner was at a restaurant every night. We were a nervous wreck. Would he eat? He did. Every night. We had checked ahead on websites to see what different places offer and made reservations at most places using Open Table. It allows you to give notes about dietary restrictions so when they seat you it is marked right on the reservation. We chose places that didn’t limit kids menus to hot dogs, grilled cheese, mac and cheese and pizza. We ordered off the menu every night and it would sound something like this: “Cheeseburger, no bun, no fries but can we substitute broccoli (or any other low GI veggie) “. Glass of water for him each night, mixed with True Lemon to make yummy lemonade and we were off. We brought his ketchup and carried it in a tiny Tupperware salad dressing container and he was good to go!
There were two restaurants that we found to be above and beyond: The Bear’s Den at Hershey Lodge and Chef Geoff’s in Downtown Washington D.C. They asked before bringing things like popcorn and bread to the table, inquired about ingredients without question and really accommodated our family. We even had dessert at Chef Geoff’s!
It took a lot of planning, many essentials and a good understanding of the diet to make this trip successful but we pulled it off without a hitch.
What a great article! We have sucessfully traveled with the ketogenic diet – lots of coolers of food and creativity but it can be done. Antone looks like a great kid who obviously has a great mom.