Let’s Talk Fair Food
For many the phrase fair food conjures up thoughts of sustainable farming and agriculture, environmental responsibility and promoting human rights for agricultural workers around the world – all important issues to be covered another day. The fair food topic this month is the fair fare offered at state & county fairs all over the country.
Summer brings long hot days, tasty produce and for many, the state or county fair. For many the fairs represent an opportunity to have their hard work & talent recognized but for most of us it’s a few days or weeks of entertainment – rides, horse shows, demolition derbies, bake-offs & of course fair fare.
Since the first state fair in the 1800s, fairs are held to showcase regional agriculture. But instead of focusing on the healthy whole foods each state or region has to offer, fairs showcase deep-fried fast, finger foods each year. Cotton candy, corn dogs & funnel cake, longtime fair favorites are being upstaged annually by the latest irresistible deep-fried dish on a stick.
Recent fair fare goes for the outrageous – decadent (highest calorie, fat & sugar content) & unusual ingredients (deep-fried beer, butter, chocolate-covered bacon, spaghetti & meatballs). The more outrageous the recipe the higher the calories & fat, the greater the negative impact on the health of fairgoers. Even the choices that sound like they might be somewhat healthy are made or cooked so there’s no hope of any positive health benefits (coated in batter, deep-fried, added bacon). And don’t be fooled by vendors touting “no trans fats,” these dishes will still be high in calories and fat.
Before making plans consider how long you’ll be spending at the fair and your current health or health goals. The last thing you want to do is have to cut calories & increase workouts for several months to make up for a few days of eating at the fair. And don’t think those extra steps on the pedometer can make up for the thousands of extra calories mindlessly eaten during daily visits. A week-long trip can easily add 5 lbs to your next weigh in. And we haven’t even talked about your cholesterol & blood pressure. So before you spend days chowing down fair food with an average of 616 calories & 31 grams of fat per serving why not come up with a strategy to avoid the negative consequences to your health.
Here are a few simple things you can do to stay healthy but still have fun at the fair (or any amusement park or festival) this summer:
- Eat before you go – have a hearty, healthy breakfast so you can avoid cravings and control your treats
- Drink plenty of water; staying hydrated will ensure you don’t confuse hunger with dehydration. This is especially important when it’s hot.
- Check out all the choices before making your selections, then set & stick to a set number of choices of the day.
- Share dishes; you’ll get to taste the things you find intriguing while controlling your portions and limiting calories & fat
- Focus on activities & events – not on the outrageous food being offered