I love the Minnesota State Fair. As a Minnesotan who was living in Chicago for the past 2 ½ years, I have been missing the Minnesota State Fair every time August rolls around. People that are from other states may not understand the amazing thing that is the Minnesota State Fair. It is more than just a farm show for 4H’ers; it is as the tag line goes, “The Great Minnesota Get Together”. I love the ambience of the fair, walking through the state fairgrounds viewing all the different animals while enjoying a tasty snack on a stick.
Although I am super excited to return to the state fair since I haven’t been able to go since 2009, I am also worried that one day at the fair may make me gain back the weight that I have just lost. So I have come up with some relatively healthy food ideas for when you are at the state fair. They are obviously still not the healthiest food you could be eating, but come on it’s the state fair! You need to reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve been doing.
Caramel Apples: These are a smart state fair food choice that is low fat and filling. The apple is a healthy snack and the caramel adds sugar but it is overall a better snack than any other sweet snack you may find at the fair. Just skip on the nuts or chocolate, as these will add up the calories quickly.
Corn on the cob: Nothing says the Minnesota State Fair more than strolling through the fairgrounds eating a roasted ear of corn. The sweet juiciness of the corn just can’t be beat. Corn on the cob is a healthy choice as long as you skip on the butter. Having your corn dunked in butter adds tons of extra calories that really aren’t needed as the corn itself is just divine. Instead sprinkle some seasoning on top and save those extra calories for a different snack later on.
Cotton Candy: While I am not a cotton candy fan myself, it’s a good choice if you are looking for something to satisfy that sweet tooth while you are at the fair. A normal sized serving of cotton candy on a stick is about 110 calories, not bad huh? It is also fat free which beats any deep-fried candy bar or funnel cake that you might have been eyeing.
State Fair foods to avoid: This may be rather obvious but anything that is battered and deep-fried is probably not your best option for staying on track with your healthy eating. Here are some of the worst offenders:
Cheese Curds: Who doesn’t love cheese curds? They’re fried to a perfect crisp on the outside and have the wonderful melted center of cheese. I love them but being lactose intolerant I’ve had to give them up. I must admit it was for the best. A serving of state fair cheese curds is 759 calories. So if you must have them, plan the rest of your food accordingly. Source: CBS Minnesota
Giant Turkey Leg: I bet you’re thinking, what’s that turkey leg doing in the “foods to avoid” section? It’s a lean protein right? Well it is but it also is giving you 1136 calories. Yes, you read that right. Over a thousand calories! My goodness, how did they pack that many calories in? How the calories got in there is neither here nor there; the bottom line is that the giant turkey leg is NOT a good choice. Source: CBS Minnesota
Deep Fried Cookie Dough: Need I say anymore? You don’t need me telling you to steer away from this one! Although I’m sure it is sinfully delicious, is it worth the 1200 calories? You can decide for yourself. Source: CBS Minnesota
Chocolate Shake: That chocolate shake that’s calling to you from the Dairy Barn? Skip it, unless you are okay with using up 747 of your day’s calories on it. If you have to have it, share it with a friend or two. Source: CBS Minnesota
Okay Food Choices: These food items are fine to have as a treat, just don’t mindlessly eat 3 or 4 as you are looking at the cute piglets in the Baby Barn!
Pronto Pup: This is just the quintessential food of the state fair isn’t it? Generations of Minnesotans have enjoyed the state fair with one of these in their hands. They aren’t too bad of an option at 350 calories per Pronto Pup, so enjoy one as you take in the sights and sounds of the Minnesota State Fair! Source: CBS Minnesota
Salads: I know when you hear the word salad, you probably automatically think to yourself, “that’s what I’ll have it can’t be unhealthy since it’s a salad”. Salads are healthy to begin with but if you’re loading it up with cheese, fried chicken, or high fat dressings, it becomes as unhealthy as any of the other options at the fair. So if you’re ordering a salad, try to limit the cheese, fried meats, sour cream etc… and instead make sure it is full of filling veggies and fruit. Also ask for the dressing on the side if possible, and pick a fat free dressing if one is available.
The Bottom Line: The Minnesota State Fair is one of the highlights of the summer and is meant to be enjoyed, not a source of anxiety for those who are watching their weight. Just plan ahead before you go and get a good idea of what you want to eat there so you won’t be swayed by the smell of those cheese curds as you are walking by. That being said, if there is a fried food that is your guilty pleasure and you have to have; enjoy it, just plan the rest of your day wisely. It’s a good idea to eat something before you go to the Fair so you are not starving when you arrive. Also pack some healthy snacks like cherries, carrots, or an apple that you can munch on when that pizza on a stick is beckoning. Bringing your own water to help you stay hydrated is a must on those hot August days and will prevent you from wasting your calories on high calorie beverages like pop and lemonade.
I will be going to the Minnesota State Fair on Friday and am so excited! Hopefully I will be able to successfully navigate through all the fried foods at the fair and still enjoy my day. Do you know of any state fair foods that won’t add too many extra pounds? What is your must-have state fair food?