When the cool, crisp air is filled with the tantalizing scent of fried candy bars, funnel cakes and candy apples, you know it’s that time of the year. Local and state fairs may offer thrilling rides and fun games, but perhaps the biggest attraction is the food.
“For many of us, a trip to the fair isn’t complete without at least one deep-fried treat,” said Annette Frain, registered dietitian at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Who can blame us? Fair food tastes delicious and tends to bring back fond childhood memories. But it’s important to remember that the calories can add up quickly.”
Frain estimates that one giant turkey leg comes in at 1,140 calories, a funnel cake at 760 calories and a fried Snickers bar at 450 calories.
“You can see how easy it is to consume a day’s worth of calories in a short amount of time,” Frain said. “But that’s no reason not to go to the fair. Just reason to eat in moderation when you’re there.”
Before digging in, Frain offers tips on how to enjoy the food at the fair without going overboard:
Bring an empty water bottle that you can fill at a water fountain. Drinking plenty of water not only satisfies your thirst but also fills you up so you’re less likely to make poor food choices.
Don’t Arrive Hungry
Make sure to eat before you go. The smells of the fair foods cooking can quickly derail any hopes of control.
Look for Healthier Alternatives
Instead of buying food at the first place you see, scope out all of your options. Higher-protein foods like chicken or steak kebobs help keep you fuller longer. A lower-calorie treat is roasted corn on the cob.
Share the Fare
If everyone wants a turkey leg, pull off the skin and share it. It’s simple math: one-fourth of a calorie-dense treat is better than the whole.
Practice Mindful Eating
Yes, even at the fair. By sitting down and paying attention to what you are eating, you will be less likely to overindulge.
“A small portion of your favorite fair food once a year isn’t going to hurt you,” Frain said. “For me, I would much rather have just a taste than have to work hard over the next week to make up for my short time at the fair.”