Fair food can be enjoyed with a little planning

Photo by Mollie Merritt on Unsplash

Corn dogs and cotton candy. What trip to the fair would be complete without them? Ask anyone what they enjoy most about the fair and many will say ---THE FOOD!

Pizza on a stick, fried butter, chocolate-covered bacon, the list is endless. What is your favorite?  The once-a-year treat can pack some big calories into your regular diet, so here are a few tips.

Most of us know that the “Doughnut Burger” is probably a bad choice (1500 calories). However, we might be surprised by the better choices. Are you a sweet tooth person? Or is it the salty snacks that you crave? Either way, be prepared to ramp up your exercise routine to “pay” for fair food. So, just what are we talking about? What are a few fair treats going to hurt?

Well, for example, the fried onion blossom will set you back 1320 calories! You can have one and then walk around the fairgrounds for 4 hours and 25 minutes to burn it off! Are funnel cakes your weakness? A plain one with powdered sugar topping has 760 calories; an hour-long spinning class will take care of its calories. At this rate, the 620 calorie curly fries seem almost like health food! What about the fried chocolate candy bar? Lace-up your walking shoes and walk off those 444 calories in a couple of hours. My favorite is the elephant ear. I am thankful that I only allow myself this 550 calorie treat once a year. I could eat more, but I’m not sure I want to jump rope for an hour to burn up all those extra calories!

What is a better choice at the fair? Remember anything you eat at the fair is classified as a “sometimes” food, rather than an “everyday” food—so know that you will consume some extra calories and fat. That being said, you might opt for cotton candy at 171 calories or a chocolate-covered banana with the benefit of a serving of fruit and 240 calories. Actually, in the deep-fried category, corn dogs weigh in at 250 calories—that’s much better than a doughnut burger! As for beverages, note the huge servings and opt for the smallest size or share with a friend. Lemon shakeups are similar in calories to soda-pop, approximately 150 calories for a 12-ounce serving. Although refreshing, those liquid calories can add up!

Am I saying that you shouldn’t eat at the fair?  Absolutely NOT! The fair comes once a year so treat yourself to your favorite. Just remember to plan the days around your fair trip accordingly by increasing your fruits and veggies along with exercise. When you go to the fair, walk around the grounds, visit the livestock, and then the memory of your trip to the fair will not be a bigger pant size, rather a mental picture of a time well spent.

About Extension:  Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.