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How to enjoy fair food without going overboard

A funnel cake with powdered sugar on a white paper plate. Text says, "How to enjoy fair food without going overboard."

Many of the fairs and festivals we missed last year are back and ready to entertain. Deep fried candy bars, onion blossoms, and fried cheese curds are a “must-have” for some, but nutritional nightmares for cardiologists. The question is can we enjoy our favorite fair foods while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle?

Absolutely! You don’t have to completely abstain from getting the food you’ve been thinking about all year. Pick a couple of your “must-haves” and one or two of your favorite friends to share it with; most portions are far greater than an actual serving size. Also, don’t let yourself come to the fair starving. Since you likely won’t get many fruits and vegetables at the fair, be sure to eat plenty before or after your trip. This will give your body important nutrients that it may have otherwise missed.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated while walking the festival streets. Bring a bottle of water and refill often. If looking for healthier options at the fair, try a grilled pork loin sandwich rather than a fried pork tenderloin. Roasted corn on the cob can be a good side dish. Just ask them not to dip it in the large pail of butter! If you’re headed to the Illinois State Fair be sure to check out the Farmers Market Tent to feast on watermelon, muskmelon and more. For those who are working or showcasing at the fair for more than one day, consider packing your lunch to have a healthy meal and save on money. Enjoy your fair food but do so with these healthier tips!  


Grilled Corn on the Cob (Printable PDF)

5 ears of corn                                                                                    

3 Tablespoons margarine, melted                                            

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoons fresh chopped cilantro

Soak corn in husk for at least 15 minutes to provide extra moisture for steaming. Preheat grill to medium heat (350ᵒF.) Pull back husks from ears of corn, leaving the husks attached. Remove silk and rinse the ear with water; set corn aside. In a small bowl, combine margarine, cumin and chili powder. Brush mixture onto ears of corn, saving leftovers. Bring husks up to cover the corn. Place on hot grate and grill for 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Wearing an oven mitt, hold the corn and peel the husks from the top down; remove any excess ash on the corn. Brush with leftover margarine mixture. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Yield: 5 servings


Nutrition Facts (per serving): 170 calories, 7 grams fat, 85 milligrams sodium, 27 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 5 grams protein


This blog originally appeared in the Pantagraph on July 7, 2021.