The Richland County Fair is here! And along with it comes fair fries, cotton candy, elephant ears, deep-fried oreos, even deep-fried PB & J’s… so is it even possible to eat healthy at the fair?
Baylee Leonhardt, registered dietician at OhioHealth Mansfield and Shelby Hospitals, says yes, in part.
“Choose grilled, steamed, roasted, broiled or baked foods over fried ones,” she said. “If there’s fresh fruit or veggies available, go for those!”
Though, often at fairs, nearly everything is deep-fried. The Richland County Fair is no different. With a quick scan down the line of food stands, a visitor can access funnel cakes, deep-fried chocolate chip cookies, fried cheese and chili dogs.
When only fried foods are available at a fair, Leonhardt recommends packing snacks.
“Pack something like a waffle with yogurt or berries, rice cakes with peanut butter, or fruit with cinnamon to satisfy your sweet tooth instead of getting an elephant ear or a funnel cake,” she said. “The unnecessary empty calories from fat and fried food won’t fill you up anyway.”
If you do want to indulge at the fair, however, do it with purpose. Leonhardt recommends taking a lap or two around the fair to see all of the options and get some exercise at the same time.
“Walk around and consider your options,” she said. “Sometimes there is a healthier option.”
One option is a bison stand, which has more protein and less cholesterol than beef, as the side of the truck reads.
Ted Muntan, who works in the stand, talked about these differences.
“It’s grilled, which makes it healthier than any of the fried options. And the bison has less fat and grease, which makes it taste better and is healthier than a regular burger.”
The stand also features sautéed onions and peppers to top the burger, both of which are better than most other options at the fair.
Muntan says many people who get one burger will come back for another later just because the bison tastes so much better than other burgers.
“Many people who come back just want it plain, without onions and peppers and everything else, because they just want to taste the meat. It’s that good,” he said.
Another stand offers a grilled chicken sandwich, and many offer Italian sausage with grilled peppers and onions. Skip the buns to make those options healthier as well.
Those that just can’t resist a funnel cake can split it with friends.
“If you want to splurge, split it!” said Leonhardt. “Portion control is the biggest thing to making healthy lifestyle choices. Portions are huge at the fair, so it won’t be a problem to split with friends. You’ll save calories and money, and you’ll feel satisfied, but not like you overdid it.”