Food allergies are more and more common in society these days. Peanut allergies, soy allergies, gluten free, lactose intolerant, vegetarian – the list goes on. But is having one a reason to skip out on a food tour? Can you take a food tour with allergies or dietary restrictions? What can you do to enjoy the tour without missing out on too much or making yourself sick?
Identify your food allergy or dietary restriction
The reasons you avoid eating certain foods vary greatly from person to person. You know what you can handle and how you react to certain foods. If you have a peanut allergy, it’s probably a case of 100% not eating anything with peanuts in it. If you’re lactose intolerant, you might have lactose pills that make it easier to digest dairy, or maybe you occasionally make an exception for a piece of cheese and simply deal with the consequences.
I personally am lactose intolerant and I have a gluten intolerance (but I do not have Celiac disease) along with a few other foods I limit due to a digestive disease. In my normal day-to-day life, I almost never eat dairy or gluten. But when it comes to food tours, I can’t resist a few little bites. I take my lactose pills and I don’t overindulge, but I want as much of the experience as I can get while on a food tour.
This might not be your situation. If you’re a strict vegetarian, you probably don’t want to eat meat on a food tour. If you have Celiac disease, you don’t make exceptions. And if you have an allergy that makes your throat close up and could kill you, you avoid that food no matter what.
Know the level of your food restrictions. This will help you decide which food tours you can and can’t take along with other decisions about booking your tour.
Read the tour descriptions carefully
It’s important to read the details of the tour description so you know what kinds of food to expect. If the description sounds meat-heavy, they might not be able to accommodate vegetarians. If it’s a cheese tour and you’re lactose intolerant, you should only sign up if you have lactose pills or you’re willing to suffer a bit after eating all that cheese.
Andy wanted to take a beer tour a few months ago, and I went along despite the gluten. The guide was able to get me cider or wine at each stop. Although the point of a beer tour is the beer, so it won’t always work out that way.
Before booking the tour, make sure there is enough that you can eat so you’ll enjoy the tour. There’s no sense in spending all that money to watch other people eat lots of things you can’t.
Talk to the food tour operator
Food tour companies are used to dealing with allergies and dietary restrictions, and most will ask you about them up front. If you want to take a food tour with allergies or dietary restrictions, let the company know ahead of time what limitations you have and find out what your options are.
Try not to make it too complicated. For example, I don’t tell the tour company that I “shouldn’t” eat dairy and gluten and will only be able to eat some of it on the tour. If I know I’ll want to try the standard items, I don’t mention my restrictions. Then while on the tour, I might skip one or two things or only have a bite.
However, they are often able to make changes for you. When I took a food tour in Amsterdam, I told them ahead of time that I am gluten free, and they were able to get me different foods in a few places. Sometimes it’s as simple as leaving out or replacing one ingredient, and other times they can provide you with something entirely different.
The tour company will let you know if it would be too difficult to accommodate you on their tour. They might even be able to suggest alternative options if the one you’re looking at doesn’t work.
It’s also worth mentioning to the food tour company if you simply don’t eat things like fish or if you don’t drink alcohol.
It’s harder to change the food while the tour is going on, which is why it’s important to talk to the company ahead of time. Then they can let the restaurants know that changes need to be made for you, and you’ll still have a fun food tour experience.
While you’re on the food tour
The food tour company should tell the guide that you can’t eat certain things, but to be sure, it’s always worth communicating that to the guide. While trying different foods, when in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask.
You can skip certain foods along the way. Just don’t try the things that you have problems with. While on a food tour in Paris, I skipped the croissant and baguette. On a food tour in Copenhagen, one of the things we ate were open-faced sandwiches, so I ate the toppings but left the bread. I have a friend who is allergic to cucumbers, so she skipped the tzatziki on our Amsterdam food tour.
Don’t let food allergies or dietary restrictions stop you from taking a food tour. In most cases, the tour company can adjust the menu for you and accommodate your needs. You CAN take a food tour with allergies or dietary restrictions and enjoy yourself!
Read more about food tours:
- How to Pick the Perfect Food Tour
- Why Group Size Matters on a Food Tour
- Which Food Tour in Rome Should You Take?
- Travel Planning Resources I Love
- Or check out the full food tour section here