Staying Fit at the State Fair

Diane Danchi, R.D., L.D.N. Diane is a Registered Dietitian
Diane Danchi, R.D. LDN

Post by Diane Danchi, R.D., L.D.N. Diane is a Registered Dietitian at Rex Wellness Center of Cary and Rex Wellness Center of Knightdale.

ferris wheel
County fair is fun: eat right to keep fit

It’s time again for the North Carolina State Fair! From livestock shows to garden competitions, from tractor pulls to cooking contests to midway rides, the State Fair fills our minds with memories of family, friends, fun, and FOOD!

Ever the annual controversy, the State Fair food vendors find no inhibitions in the new and crazy fare they offer. Will the North Carolina State Fair have some of the offerings found at the Texas State Fair this year? Fried Thanksgiving Dinner, Fried Nutella, Fried Cuban Roll? WOW!

If you are the adventuresome type, you might take a moment to ask yourself just how bad all this gooey, salty, greasy stuff is. Is it something to should worry about? After all, it is just once a year, right? Here are some strategies to help you navigate as you feast at the fair.

First, remind yourself that the ‘once a year’ mentality can be over-played – at the Fair, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, New Years, the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and on and on. With these ‘special events,’ all year long, mindful eating principles (just a couple bites, eat slowly, choose wisely) can help you enjoy the time but keep the sugar, fat and salt to a minimum.

Candy apples
Fair treats: choose healthy!

Secondly, remind yourself that the American Heart Association’s recommended limit for daily fat intake is 25-35% of calories, which is about 60 gms for an average calorie intake of 2000. Most fair offerings have close to that fat limit for a day, and contain 500 – 1000 calories each. Those popular turkey legs also have an estimated 14,000 mg of sodium (the daily limit is 1500 -2300 mg) and over 1100 calories!

Thirdly, knowledge of what it takes to burn off a specific fair food reinforces why mindful eating wins out in helping you keep your health on your radar. For example, to burn off the calories from a turkey leg, you would have to run 2-2.5 hours. A bit longer than a jog around the block!

Here are some other mindful eating strategies that can help you enjoy the moment but honor your health:

  • If it is a ‘high test’ food (high in sugar, calories, fat), honor your craving in just a few bites, and eat it very slowly
  • Share the big item with a group of people. A funnel cake shared 6 ways decreases calories from 760 to 126 and fat from 44 gms to about 7. A few bites are all you need; eat slowly and enjoy!
  • Eat a healthy breakfast before you go, pack lunch, and plan on just dinner at the fair.
  • Take water and keep well-hydrated
  • Share the sandwich, hot dog, or ice cream with your sweetheart – only half the calories
  • Plan ahead for just a few fair foods, choosing the ones you like the most
  • Remember, roasted corn, fresh fruit , even caramel apples, are pretty good choices compared to others

We created this infographic to show how to make good food choices at the Fair this year. The most important thing is to have fun, but it doesn’t hurt to be healthy while doing so!


Infographic for Family Fair foods
A great guide to fair food