Healthier Fair Food: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Healthier Fair Food: What to Eat and What to Avoid
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Fairs pop up every summer, delivering games, rides and oodles of yummy fair food. Unfortunately for us, much of that yummy food is less than healthy. With high fat, sugar, and sodium contents, fair fare can easily knock off a week’s worth of calorie-burning exercises.

So no one should go to these jackpots of junk food, right? Absolutely not. A balanced life must include the occasional splurge – we’re merely recommending that you be thoughtful about your choices, and aware that a little planning has a lot of benefits.

A few helpful tips before we get to the grub:

  • Splurge on one thing – not 25.
  • Consider sharing portions with family and friends.
  • Drink a lot of water – it will help you feel full sooner.
  • Avoid drinking your calories through excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Do a lap before you commit to your splurge.  That way you’ll know if they have your favorite.

What to eat

Below are some of the ‘healthiest’ options likely to be available at your local fair. Keep in mind, however, this is highly relative to the second list.

Corn on the cob

Corn on the cob is one of the lowest low-calorie options, clocking in at about 110 calories with light butter.  In addition, corn has more nutrients than your typical deep-fried Twinkie.

Pretzels

While not low in calories (around 390 for a medium-size), pretzels are much lower in fat than most of the items found at the fair. Add some spicy mustard in lieu of salt for an even healthier option (and stay away from the cinnamon sugar and cheese).

Fruit on a stick

We’re not really talking about caramel apples here. Pineapples, strawberries and various melons are often sold skewered, and unless they’re drowned in chocolate, are the healthiest fair edible.

Grilled chicken

Grilled is always preferable (health-wise) to fried, and chicken is a very lean meat. Use a nicely seasoned grilled chicken breast to take the edge off your hunger before delving into the more indulgent offerings. And if you can, choose a wrap over a sandwich.

Baked potato

And no, we don’t mean with EVERYTHING on it. Load it up with cheese, bacon and sour cream, and this can easily go to the second category below…

What to eat sparingly

It should be no shock to anyone that the following are among the least healthy options at the fair.

Fried cheese

Yummy though it may be, fried cheese is pretty awful nutritionally. A 5 oz. portion is anywhere between 550 and 700 calories. Add to that the fat content (over half of those calories are fat), and you can expect to spend a few extra hours on the treadmill trying to balance it out.

Funnel cake

Clocking in at over 700 calories and 40 grams of fat, funnel cake is among the worst health choices at the fair. But we acknowledge it’s oh so good.

Cotton candy

Cotton candy is almost pure sugar. If you don’t believe us, check out this recipe.

Deep-fried Snickers

Not a surprise, right?  More surprising, however, is that these actually have fewer calories than fried cheese and funnel cake.  The average deep fried Snickers packs 440 well-deserved calories.

To reiterate, the first list is good for you when compared with the second. But hopefully with these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy your local fair without feeling too guilty afterwards.

What is your favorite fair splurge?  Let us know in the comments!

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user theogeo.)

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