Navigating Fair and Festival Food

Fried dough, funnel cakes, corn dogs, deep fried cookies — we’ve asked the experts about eating those delicious treats

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

chipsFrom sugary drinks to deep fried everything, fairs and festivals offer a bevy of nutritionally poor food choices. To stick with your healthful eating plan, try these tips from area health experts:

• “Try to focus on things that are grilled. Many events have kebabs with maybe chicken and veggies on them.

• “Don’t go to a fair starving. Try to eat beforehand.

• “Bring healthful snacks.

• “Once in a while, if you want to indulge in fried dough, share with a friend. It reduces the portion size.

• “Go for roasted corn on the cob.

• “Check out a taco truck or gyros for a meal with veggies.

• “Portion matters; a few bites of something won’t do you in, but a paper plate filled with fried dough, that is more.”

Heather Carrera, doctor of clinical nutrition and certified nutrition specialist who practices at physician Leslie James’ office, Pittsford.

• “Don’t mistake hunger for thirst. An easy mistake to avoid is letting your hydration drift and then turning to food when what your body is really needing is water or specifically minerals and electrolytes. Drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day is generally a good approach. When you are out in the sun for any amount of time with temperatures in the typical summer temperature ranges, it’s especially important to be replacing more than just water. Electrolytes and trace minerals are essentially to keeping your blood chemistry stable. If you drink too much pure water without replacing lost electrolytes your body can pull you even more dramatically to the salty and sweet treats around you. Generally, plan on 50% of your total water consumption being electrolyte-rich. Be careful what you select, most commercially available products are high in artificial ingredients, colors and fake sugars.

• “When you’ll be out for an extended period of time, bring heat resistant foods that are also high in fiber. They can provide the staying power to keep you full and feeling more in charge of your cravings. For example, apples and raw nuts.

• “Look for solid protein options. If you’re consuming that protein along with whatever indulgence you may not be able to resist, the protein will help stabilize the fast calories — sugar. For example, you eat the hotdog without the bun or have a lettuce-wrapped burger.”   

chicken tendersMatt Boheen, founder, Restoration Wellness, Rochester.

• “Look for chicken barbecue. If it’s  half a chicken, share with someone.

• “If you know you’re going to the State Fair for the day and know you’ll treat yourself to one or two things, remember, you’ll do a lot of walking. Don’t give up on yourself. Enjoy the day and then continue to eat in moderation.

• “Plan for what you want to treat yourself to. Some go on a very restrictive eating plan for a short time and then go back to eating whatever they want.

• “You don’t tend to think about the calories in a smoothie or lemonade. Plan to drink water or if you’ll get a beverage, get an extra cup and split it or order a small.

• “Think about the amount of alcohol.”

Hannah C. Smith, registered dietitian nutritionist and manager of clinical nutrition for Rochester Regional Health.

• “Try to find vegetables. They don’t have choices for organic, but vegetables are better for you.

• “You can take some fruit and vegetables from home. Dried fruits in small amounts is healthful.

• “As more people get educated about health, we’ll have more healthful options available.”

Physician Az Tahir, who practices holistic medicine in Rochester.

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