Let’s face it — we don’t go to the state fair expecting to find healthy food options.
Those choices may be available (maybe?) — but amid the carnival games, rides, and music, great food choices are hard to find.
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On the other hand — that fabulous fair food is everywhere! And it’s typically high in fat, high in sodium, high in sugar — and high in price. But we seem more than willing to shell out whatever might be necessary to feed our appetites and our nostalgia.
And boy, do we have options. In Maryland (and just about every other state), fair attendees are treated to funnel cakes, cotton candy, cinnamon rolls, and deep-fried Oreos wrapped in sizzling slices of bacon. At the largest county fair in New York, it’s bacon s’mores on a stick.
In the heartland, fairgoers in Iowa have 200 food stands with more than 50 items available on a stick. This year, though, it was the ice cream nachos (which looked amazing) that seemed to be the biggest hit — all 1,065 calories of it.
Mouth watering yet?
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As if that wasn’t enough, Iowans topped it off with Totchos — tater tots with cheese sauce, sour cream, bacon, and onions, at a mere 1,310 calories.
Need other choices? Head west to the Oregon State Fair, and you can take part in the apple cobbler contest (on Sept. 5), or the chocolate layer cake contest (on Sept. 4).
Texas has yet to kick off its final hurrah of the season, and you’ll never believe the final eight state fair submissions for the Best Taste and Most Creative awards — well, maybe you will. Among the nominations: Deep-Fried Bacon Burger Dog Sliders On A Stick, Down Home Chicken Pot Pie Pocket (with mac ‘n cheese dip), Fried Jell-O (just when you thought nothing more could hit the fryer), and Deep-Fried Pulled Pork “Funyun” Dings — that’s Funyuns stuffed with pulled pork, pineapple, cheese, and bacon, dipped in batter, fried, and served with a side of barbecue sauce.
What is it about these foods that have us seeking them out — despite our gut knowledge they’re terrible for our arteries and waistlines? It’s because our bodies crave sugar, salt, and fat, said Jennifer Glockner, a registered dietitian nutritionist and creator of a series of nutrition e-books for kids.
“Having an occasional treat is OK in small amounts. When you do splurge, enjoy it,” said a registered dietitian nutritionist.
“Sugar activates the reward system in our brains and releases dopamine, which makes us feel good, similar to certain drugs,” Glockner told LifeZette. And boy, do those foods feel great going down — though they can be decisions we don’t respect the next morning.
“I’ve heard of deep-fried butter and deep-fried donut beef burgers, where the donuts act as the buns. Basically, if you can think it, they probably can fry it,” Glockner said. But her advice? “It’s important to have an overall healthy eating pattern. Having an occasional treat is OK in small amounts. When you do splurge, enjoy it and don’t feel guilty.”
To enjoy healthfully what is left of the summer and fall festival season, added Glockner, try these tips:
- Don’t go to the fair hungry.
- Scan all the food choices versus choosing the first option you see.
- Sit down and eat — take time to savor the food.
- Share with others.
- Keep hydrated with water.
That last point is key. Try to avoid sugary drinks like sodas, lemonades, and excess alcohol, she said — and you’ll feel good about doing it all over again next year.