Mission Impossible or Possible: Can you eat healthy at the fair?

The fair comes around each year, and for many of us who are trying to make healthier food choices, lose weight or maintain fitness, eating at the fair presents us with a special challenge.  Fortunately, we do have plenty of healthy (and tasty) food choices at the fair.  This makes our mission of maintaining healthy habits possible, if we choose to accept it.

Here are a few tips that may help you eat healthier at the fair this year:

  • Be sure to eat healthy in the days leading up to the fair, especially for breakfast the day before you go. Make sure to avoid starting your fair experience while you are hungry.
  • For the car trip to the fairgrounds, pack a small insulated cooler or bag with fresh fruit/veggies, whole grain cereal bars, pretzels, nuts and dried fruits. If you have a healthy snack just before entering, you will be less tempted to overindulge at meal time.
  • Make sure to stay hydrated – dehydration can sometimes be disguised as hunger. Purchase a bottle of water early in your visit and then find places where you can refill it – you will save lots of money and calories that way.  Drink plenty of water, as you will more than likely be walking around in the heat.  Water quenches thirst and hydrates better than soft drinks do. If you do want a soft drink, opt for the small size instead of the larger one.  Also, consider choosing a diet soft drink as another way to save on calories.
  • Check out what foods and food vendors are there before you decide what to eat. Imagine you have a “calorie salary,” and plan to enjoy that foods you like the best with that “salary.”
  • Look for a main dish or sandwich that is grilled or broiled. Add vegetables when possible.
  • Find a spot to sit down and eat, rather than graze your way from one end of the fair to the other. It is easy to overeat when wandering and not paying attention to what you are eating.
  • Limit yourself to one treat. Choose reasonable serving sizes of lower sugar and lower fat items for the rest of your foods.
  • Split foods among several people. For example, most large funnel cakes will probably serve 4-6 people. Share with other, so everyone gets a taste, and no one feels overloaded.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes so you are more likely to walk off some calories. Wear a pedometer and see how many steps you can take at the fair.  One-mile equals about 2,000 steps.
  • Lastly, if you do indulge a little too much, remember to return to your balanced eating plan the next day. A day here and there of not following your healthy eating plan won’t sabotage all your hard work up until this time.  Weeks of it will, however!  Eating 100 extra calories each day may result in a 10-pound weight gain yearly.

Five dishes to order: grilled meat (turkey legs, grilled chicken sandwiches, kebabs, burger), simple snacks (plain popcorn, roasted nuts), fresh foods (corn on the cob, baked potato, fruit on a stick, veggies and dip, pickles, dipped fruit), and chilly treats (fresh fruit smoothies, frozen yogurt, Italian ice).

Five dishes to skip (or save for your daily treat): deep fried anything (Oreos, funnel cake, French fries), sugar bombs (chocolate covered, caramel dipped), food in bulk (bucket of cookies), drinks (fresh squeezed lemonade, sweet tea), and food mashups (burger with grilled cheese as the bun).

Visit our homepage at www.extension.purdue.edu/putnam or you can contact the local office by calling 765.653.8411 for more information regarding this week’s column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. Office hours are Monday thru Friday from 8:00am-12:00pm and 1:00pm-4:00pm. Evening and lunch appointments are available, upon request. It is always best to call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While many publications are free, some do have a fee. All times listed are Eastern Time. Purdue University is an equal access/equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.

Upcoming Events

July 23-30 – Putnam County Fair

July 27 – Pressure Canner Dial Gauge Testing, 10am-7pm, $5, York Auto Building East

July 28 – State Fair begins

August 2 – National Night Out 4-H station, Fairgrounds

August 21 – Enhancing Your Garden Soil Health, 10am-12pm, ISU Community Gardens, register at https://tinyurl.com/PHISH2021

August 22 – State Fair ends

August 23 – ServSafe Food Manager Class & Online Exam, 9am-4pm, register at https://purdue.edu/servsafe

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