Fair season is upon us! Whether you go for the rides, the shows or the exhibits, chances are you have your heart set on some fair fare too! There really is nothing like the smell of fair food that fills the midway. While we do encourage you to go support your local fairs and agriculture, if you hit up many fair scenes each summer, you might want to rethink how you fuel up there. For some people they wait all summer for the fairs, they love it all and when it comes to the food they just can’t get enough. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia that reminds them of their childhood that has them craving these foods, or it may be they truly enjoy the (hopefully once a year) splurge in their diets.
We all have our favorites: ice cream, fried dough, snow cones, fried onion flowers, fresh squeezed lemonade, even candied apples and an NEK favorite maple cotton candy! When it comes down to it many of these foods are equally low in their nutritional value, but what’s yours? It’s ok to enjoy a sometimes food that you know isn’t good for you if you only splurge once in a while and it doesn’t send you on a downward spiral of poor food choices. With that said, there is something in knowing about what you are about to put in your body. And while we are sharing what it takes to burn off these fair-ly tasty treats, we don’t’ believe in punishing yourselves for indulging. We all need to eat food just not all the food all the time.
If you’ve never thought about how many calories, fat or sugar might be in your favorite fair splurge, let us hand it to you straight. If you stroll past the fair grounds gate and head right for the fried dough stand, you will also need to head right to the treadmill! A 6 oz piece of fried dough has over 700 calories and 39 grams of fat. You will need to walk for at least three hours to burn off just the calories from this one.
Now, say you skip the fried dough for some other fried favorite – French fries. One 7 oz serving has 620 calories and over 30 grams of fat! Fries aren’t for you? More of an onion rings person? Well then be aware!!! Just 3, yes 3, onion rings has 309 calories and 13 grams of fat. That is over 100 calories a piece. Well you better plan on walking one mile per onion ring to burn off those babies.
Not a fried food fan? Maybe you love a good candied apple. Well, just because there is fruit I wouldn’t consider this a health food. One small candy apple has 300 calories and over 40 grams of sugar! That is more than three times the amount of sugar in a regular apple or 4 teaspoons of straight up sugar.
Another sugary treat that kids and adults both love is cotton candy. Although this is a fat free treat it also has absolutely no nutritional value at 130 calories and 35 grams of sugar. The good news is if you walk around the fair for about an hour and a half it should work itself off.
Lastly let’s take a look at the fresh squeezed lemonade. Yes it usually has a lemon in it, but does that make it healthy? Not so much; lemons are actually the fruit with the most sugar. At about 170 calories this drink has about 40 grams of sugar, as much as the candy apple. Side tip; don’t be afraid to ask the vendor if they have a sugar-free option, they just might! This takes away all the sugar grams and brings the calories down too, and if you’re a diabetic, now you can try one too!
All in all, the fair is a fun and exciting place to be with the shows and exhibits, the rides and the games. But, we now know when it comes to the fare; maybe we should bypass the food alley or make it a one-time stop.
Best tips for healthful fair-going: Eat before you go! Yes, you should fill up on some lean proteins and veggies before heading to the fairgrounds. Maybe half a turkey sandwich and chopped up veggie sticks, or roll up some meat and cheese with an apple. The protein and fiber should help you stay feeling full longer and less likely to make a mad dash to the funnel cakes. Don’t forget to drink lots of water; it’s hard to make good decisions if you are dehydrated, and being out in the sun means you need more water too. If you do decide to make a fare splurge, pick the one you really want. If you get popcorn when you really want a snow cone, you may be more tempted later to also get the snow cone. It’s a treat – get the one you want and stick to one treat, and by all means, share it! Eat it, enjoy and move on, it was a treat, not an everyday choice. Just remember to use self-control because not all food is fair grounds!
Mary Hoadley – Director of The Wellness Center