What to Eat at the Fairs
Finding healthy fare among the traditional iconic deep fried, sugary, and most popular fair foods may sound like an impossible task, but California-based nutritionist Marci Clow, RDN, says that there is a trend towards the gourmet, locally made, and fresh.
Set yourself up for healthy eating success before you even step foot on the fairgrounds. First, arm yourself with the Weight Watchers app, if it isn’t already a well-used app on your phone. It will help you make educated choices on the spot. Also, Clow says: “Don’t arrive completely hungry. Don’t go there planning to graze it up.”
Once you are there, keep drinking water as the smell of fair foods can derail you if you are feeling dehydrated. Clow suggests to share food. “Fair foods tend to be expensive so sharing your portion is a win for your wallet and your waistline.” she says. In addition, choose your fair food wisely. Protein choices, and low point complex carbs, can keep full longer. These low-point carnival foods can help satisfy your cravings for summer indulgences without blowing your weeklies budget.
We asked Clow and Caroline Passerrello, MS, RDN, LDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for their choices of the best fair food to seek out so you keep on Plan:
Grilled salmon burgers (2-5 Smartpoints) or grilled chicken breast sandwiches (11 Smartpoints)—Savory and grilled lean proteins are healthier than fried meats, and you might be able to ditch the bun or get it wrapped in lettuce.
Kabobs (4-9 Smartpoints) — Kabobs are generally going to be a lower fat item, and will help you stay full longer. If you’re thinking of food on a stick, seek out grilled steak, shrimp, chicken, and vegetable kebobs.
Roasted Corn (4 Smartpoints) — Corn on the cob is a good option to fill you up with fiber and complex carbohydrates. Skip any extra butter offered as it is probably already roasted in butter.
Turkey leg (4 Smartpoints) — A roasted turkey leg with skin is about 4 points. If it is monstrous it may be more, but it isn’t that hard to share with someone you love.
Baked potato without toppings (5 Smartpoints) — The baked potato gets a bad rap for being too high in carbs, but it has lots of potassium, fiber, and is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Add healthy toppings or limit the rich ones (real sour cream and cheese).
Kettle Corn (5 Smartpoints) — Kettle corn is usually coated with extra butter and has added sugar, but popcorn itself has fiber and carbs. You can enjoy 2 cups of that satisfying crunch on the go for 5 points.
Burgers (7-9 Smartpoints) — A burger is a healthy protein option. The burger meat will not be as lean as the burger you can cook at home so you can account for that extra fat but limit the cheese and sauce, and eat half the bun.
Peanuts in the shell (6 Smartpoints for a quarter cup) — Snacking on roasted peanuts is a bit more mindful as you have to work a bit to get to the shell off, and peanuts are high in protein.
Fair Food to Splurge On
“For splurges, think of something special that you are not going to be able to get anywhere else, like a prize-winning pie,” says Passerrello. Plan your sweet spree with the picks below:
Shaved ice (5 Smartpoints) — This is a refreshing option if you are voiding fat. Ask the vendor to go light on the syrup flavoring.
Candy apples (7 Smartpoints) — The caramel contains sugar but the apple has fiber. The other option is to possibly peel the caramel off if you wanted to discard or share.
Chocolate dipped bananas (7-9 Smartpoints ) — You get to satisfy your sweet tooth with the chocolate and still have lot of fiber and minerals and vitamins.
Strawberry Shortcake (11 Smartpoints) — Having anything with berries adds antioxidants, minerals, and fibers, and it’s dessert.
Funnel cake (a whopping 33 Smartpoints!) — Notoriously evil fair food, it is deep fried flour and sugar; luckily its shape is perfect for sharing.
Totally restricting yourself from all fair foods when you’re hungry could make you want to eat more, and make you feel like you’re missing out. “If you do happen to over indulge and go a little too crazy, it doesn’t mean complete failure. If you go in knowing you are going to stick with the plan, but don’t feel guilty if you have a day where you use more points than you planned. It’s pretty easy to get back on your plan,” adds Clow.