Fat Festival? Calories in Food at the Fair
The scary truth about foods found at fairs, festivals, and amusement parks.
The Truth About Trans Fats
Common sense tells you to stay away from deep fried cheesecake. But in some
states, like Indiana, they have decided to follow the lead of New York and KFC
and try to make fried foods healthier by banning cooking oils containing trans
Even without trans fats, however, fried foods are not exactly low in
calories or fat.
"Using trans fat-free cooking oil is certainly better. But no matter how
you look at it, that doughnut is still a doughnut and it is still fried, and
anytime you fry foods you pump up the fat and calories," says Joan
Salge-Blake, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Fair Food Choices
So just what can a health-conscious person find to eat and drink at fairs,
festivals, and amusement parks?
"You can find healthier choices on the menus at the state fair. Cotton
candy, also knows as spun sugar, is among the least offensive foods at the
fair," says New-York based nutrition expert Bonnie Taub-Dix, MS, RD.
"Look for fruits, vegetables, lean meats, pickles, corn on the cob (hold
the butter) -- even caramel apples are better than most fried foods."
There are more options than there used to be, at least at Disney amusement
parks, says Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA, an associate professor at Albert
Einstein College of Medicine.
"Fruit and water carts are all over the parks showcasing chilled, cut
fresh fruit that kids and adults love, especially on hot days, along with cold
water and sugar-free drinks," says Ayoob, who served as a nutrition
consultant to Disney.
You can still get burgers and fries, but Disney is featuring healthier kids'
meals, such as lean wraps paired with choices of fruit and veggies and water,
juice, or low-fat milk.
Dietitians also offer these tips to help take the scare out of fair
- Don't arrive hungry. Eat before you go so you can limit your food to a few
treats instead of grazing on food all day long.
- Go early in the morning, when you may be less likely to be enticed by the
aromas of food.
- Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated, especially when the weather is
- Check out all the offerings first, then choose three items over the course
of the day.
- Ask for an extra plate and share your food choices. This way, you can taste
a variety of foods without doing too much damage, says Palumbo.
The real problem with fair and festival food, dietitians say, is mindless
eating. That's what happens when you're walking and talking, and before you
know it, that food on a stick has disappeared.
"It is better to find a place to sit down, enjoy the food, eat it slowly
so you can recognize when you are full," says Palumbo.