Thinking of outings with your family will often conjure up images of laughter, fun and togetherness. Typically this relates to food as well. As a family living with food allergies, when we are out and about, I do my best to try to make all things memorable for my children. And, again, there is usually lots of planning involved.
Recently, our family had a great day visiting the Philadelphia Zoo. It was a beautiful day filled with sunny skies, our deliciously packed gluten-free picnic, as well as the pleasant smell of some stinky animals!
The Zoo is a great place to take your family for a fabulous day out together. It is pretty easy to get to, with easy parking or the use of public transportation. There is so much to see and do to fill your day. Lots of walking so be ready for some good exercise. Our children have always loved visiting zoos, although now our youngest guy gets the most excited when he sees the animals.
Instead of worrying about what we can and cannot partake in at the zoo, we packed our own picnic. (The zoo does allow people to bring in their own food.) On this particular day, we were having a family celebration and my children and husband didn’t want to tell me where we were going. All I knew was that we needed a picnic lunch. Otherwise, on a gathering such as this, I would have prepared by investigating what is offered at the destination that would be safe for someone with food allergies.
Planning is a definite for allergy safe family outings.
There are lots of different eating locations throughout the zoo, filled with tables for relaxing and enjoying a meal or snack together. Whenever we desired, we could stop and enjoy our own picnic lunch. Then later stop off for a snack. We knew our food was safe for all of us as we brought it all with us. We dined on chicken salad sandwiches topped with avocado on our own baked gluten-free rolls, a fruit salad of strawberries and blueberries, and our delicious roasted mixed potato salad. Yum! We were all quite happy and filled after enjoying our own lunch. Which, I have to add, takes away from the kids eyeing all the goodies they may not be able to enjoy. Having a full, satisfied belly, they were not crying for some of the junk filling the booths around us as we walked around. (Also one way to stay on your healthy kick!) No worries there. And, as one might think . . . no, there wasn’t any deprivation going on at all.
After our trip, in my investigation, I found that there are multiple eateries throughout the park. There are sit-down restaurants, grab and go stands and lots of snack options. Upon looking on-line at the Zoo Website they do not express if anything is allergen free for people with food allergies. I did call and spoke to someone in the food service department who was quite helpful. She informed me that there were some options with those with a gluten-free allergy. Both the Tiger Terrace and the Eagle’s Roost offered a few gluten-free items such as the fresh fruit, the Treehouse Salad and the Ceasar Salad, ordered without the croutons. They also offered hamburgers and hot dogs, but order without the bun! The french fries are fried in their own designated fryer, not co-fried with breaded items, but the oil used was questionable. I was informed that the 34th Station Restaurant offered healthier options, but possibly not certified gluten-free. They had fruit cups, apple slices, as well as a chickpea/edamame and egg salad. She also mentioned that some of the ice cream offerings throughout the zoo were gluten-free, but not sure if there was an option for a dairy-free version. Overall, one could find many options for snacks (lemonade, ice cream and pretzels) throughout the park, yet most were not offered as gluten-free.
The investigating didn’t get me too excited to return to the Zoo and expect to eat safely for my gluten-free family. I love the Zoo but found this to be a little disappointing. In today’s society, I thought I would come out with more options. This certainly won’t deter me from returning to the Zoo! But it is good to know that I have to be prepared before we head there. If you are there for the whole day as we usually are when we visit, you may want to bring our own foods. Living with food allergies shouldn’t deter you from going off for the day to enjoy some special moments and create memories with your family and/or friends. Overall, it just takes a little planning – which anyone can do if they put their mind to it.
Check places ahead of time to make sure you can bring in your own food. Investigate what is offered to make sure you have options when you arrive. When you visit the Zoo, make sure you double check that the food is safe for you to consume as we know that places change all the time. There is nothing worse than being super hungry and lethargic and not being able to find something you can actually eat! (I have been there and do not wish that upon anyone!)
Have fun on your summer outings! Plan ahead and you will have so much less to worry about –
giving you more time to just enjoy the people and places around you!