Let’s be honest. No one goes to the fair to count calories. But if you did you’d be counting pretty high. A recent study published in the journal “Appetite” (appropriately named) analyzed the range and average calories consumed at the Minnesota State Fair. It found that those interviewed ate between 15 and 6,072 calories (!) and only 1/3 of them actually made healthy changes to their diet to compensate for the extra intake. There were even fewer who made changes to their physical activity levels.
And since we’re just a hop, skip and a few weeks away from the unavoidable indulgences of the holidays, I spoke with Brie Turner-McGrievy, an associate professor in USC’s Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior department to find out what tips she’d recommend for eating “healthy” at the fair…if there is such a thing. And turns out, there is!
1. Eat before you go
“You never know what’s there and its hard when you’re tempted and have an empty stomach.”
2. Stay hydrated
“Its way hotter than it normally is this time of year and way more humid, so make sure you drink plenty of water before you go. And when you’re there continue to drink non-caloric beverages. If we get dehydrated we often interpret that as hunger so we end up eating even though we’re actually just thirsty.”
3. Aim for fruits and vegetables
“Anything fruit or vegetable based is going to set you up ahead. Sometimes they’ll have fruit on a stick but also dipped fruit, like candied apples or frozen bananas. They’re actually not that high in calories and will give you your sugar fix. Also look for baked potatoes or baked sweet potatoes. As long as you’re not dousing them in bacon and sour cream that could be a good choice as well.” (And before you make the argument, french fries do not count as a vegetable.)
4. Go for higher fiber foods
“That’s going to make you feel fuller on fewer calories so you’re not as tempted. Corn on the cob is always a really good choice. Peanuts and popcorn or kettle corn are really high in fiber and they also take longer to eat.”
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for things to be customized
“You can always leave off toppings to save calories and ask for more vegetables.” For example: you can ask for a veggie burrito.
6. Sharing is caring
“If there’s that one food that it wouldn’t be going to the fair without it, consider splitting it among several of your friends and family. So you get the taste but you’re not eating an entire something.”
If you go: This year’s 148th anniversary S.C. State Fair will run Oct. 11-22. Details: www.scstatefair.org