No Carb Counts Available? Visiting Disney World with Juvenile Diabetes

V loves Donald Duck!

We started 2013 with a diagnosis of Juvenile Diabetes for my healthy 16 year old daughter. Juvenile Diabetes, otherwise known as Type 1 Diabetes, is an auto-immune disease that attacks the pancreas until the pancreas can no longer produce insulin and digest sugars/carbohydrates. As a result, people with Type 1 Diabetes typically take 2 forms of medication. One is a long-acting insulin that is injected once a day, the other is an insulin injected at meals; the amount injected varies and is based on the amount of carbohydrates (carbs) you consume. Together these drugs essentially do the job of your pancreas. It’s a little more complicated than that because blood sugar levels are also impacted by hormones, exercise, illness, stress and several other factors, but those are the basics.

The balancing act is critical; too little insulin and over time serious damage is done to your body, which can include blindness and other serious complications. Too much insulin and you can pass out or end up in a coma – it can even result in death.

Serious stuff, right? Obviously an accurate carb count and corresponding insulin dose is necessary for Type 1 diabetics.

Prior to our trip I called Disney World Guest Services and asked specifically about carb counts at Disney restaurants. I was told that, just like with any other food allergies, when you order at any Disney restaurant ask for the chef or the manager and they will provide you with the necessary information.

Unfortunately it wasn’t that simple.

In fact at every restaurant we visited – those in our hotel, casual dining in the Disney Parks, even room service – not one of them had carb counts available. I asked to speak to the chef or a manager in each case, and not one of them knew how to get carb counts for me.

I had packed a suitcase full of food just in case – the empty suitcase worked out well for bringing all of our Disney paraphanelia and souvenirs home. But sadly my daughter’s Disney vacation diet consisted of food from home, things that we could guess carb counts on and lots of salads. She never complained, but I was pretty disappointed.

The chocolate was for me. What you don’t see is all of the cheese – my daughter is big in to cheese. It’s carb-free! And lots of peanut butter packets. TSA left a note inside my bag saying that they had hand-checked it. They just wanted my chocolate…

I’ve waited on posting this because my goal is always to provide solutions for families with special needs, not rants, but since we returned home I’ve reached out to many people at Disney and haven’t gotten any more information. So here’s our experience, hopefully I’ll be able to post an update that Disney World has made carb counts available in the near future.  In the meantime, if you travel with a diabetic family member come prepared with some food from home.

Disclaimer: Disney Parks paid for a portion of our hotel stay and park passes, the opinions are obviously my own.

4 Comments

  • We experienced the same with our granddaughter (11 yrs old) last October 2013. Tried to use MyFitnessPal as we could but with no compliementary wifi in Disney (we did not have an international plan) we could only check at the hotel the night before our day. We spent lots of time trying to guess carbs on common things we could find. Not so easy for a grandma knowing little of carb values for different things. We spent 3 days there and had similar troubles when asking chefs or counter staff if they had nutritional values for things. Disney should work on this if they want to remain the “happiest place on earth” with the current trend of increase in juvenile diabetes.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Donna, Disney is such a great place for families, I hope that they will start providing carb counts for families like ours.

  • Hi…same thing happened to us. My granddaughter, age 5, was diagnosed with T1D in September 2012, 10 days before our trip to DisneyWorld. We decided to go, especially after being reassured by Disney Nutritionists that we could get carb counts and speak with the chef at each dining location. While every chef (except 1) was extremely nice – there were no carb counts to be found. We ended up using MyFitnessPal to calculate carbs…. was a real challenge…and a BIG disappointment in Disney.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Margaret – the thing is, Disney was so great in so many ways, I was just really surprised about the carb count thing, especially when so many restaurants offer them now. As parents we just need to keep asking Disney so that other families like ours can have a great time!

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