Sunday, September 21, 2014

How to eat healthy at the fair

I wrote this back in 2009, but looking through it again, I see a lot of relevant points to today.  Sure, the food has changed, but the technique to keeping your choices healthy haven't.

Lots of food choices at the fair

Fair season in San Diego has just passed, but many areas in Southern California have fairs during the fall and winter.  I thought I would write an article about how to choose healthier options while enjoying the fair. Of course, the healthiest option is to bring your own food, but I feel that part of the fun of going to the fair is to eat. Here are some options that I have found to help with eating healthier. Most of these are based on my own research and experiences with fairs in southern California, but can be applied elsewhere. If anyone else has an idea specific to their area, please feel free to comment.

1. Grilled or BBQ protein, best if it's grilled chicken or steak. Fajitas can also be good in terms of watching one's calories and fat, but are usually soaked in a high-sodium marinade. Teriyaki dishes are higher in sodium as well. A word of caution: do NOT go for that turkey leg that is often seen at these fairs. They are at least 1000 calories just for one leg. I don't know how that happens, but that's what the fair food nutritionists say.
2. Fresh or Grilled Veggies. Try to find places that use whole vegetables such as grilled corn, stir fry, rice bowls, salads and the like. Watch the seasonings and dressings as these can add a lot of extra calories. Also, dishes with whole beans can be healthier, but stay away from re-fried beans as they often have lard, salt, and sugar in them.
3. Desserts with Fresh Fruit. There are often booths that sell fresh fruit desserts such as caramel apples and parfaits. I know of one place at the San Diego County Fair that sells a dessert with whole fruit with a little bit of sponge cake and whipped cream. However, to keep it low calorie, skip all the syrups and limit the whipped cream and nuts.
4, Low or Non-Fat Frozen Yogurt is often available nowadays at the fair. Also, you can often find low-fat ice cream and even non-dairy options. The best option is to have it served in a paper bowl or cake-style cone and not the waffle cones or bowls.
5. Ask for a child or snack size. If you do want to indulge, ask for the smallest size. That way, you can still treat yourself without worrying about all the extra calories. Just limit these indulgences to a few items otherwise, you end up eating a lot of calories if you eat a lot of different snack sizes. San Diego County Fair often has a day where you can go around to different food booths and sample the smaller versions of their items for just a couple of dollars each. Other fairs might have the same option.
6. Drink Water instead of sugary sodas. 100% fruit juices can be a healthier option, but also contain quite a bit of sugar from the fruit and should be limited.
I hope these ideas help. I'm sure I'll see more choices when I go to the fair this year and I may report back on it.

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