How to survive (and still enjoy) the Minnesota State Fair

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Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fair (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.


carmel apples

carmel apples (Photo credit: HeatherHeatherHeather)

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.


The Corn

The Corn (Photo credit: Smaku)

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.


English: Pink Cotton candy. Deutsch: Rosa Zuck...

English: Pink Cotton candy. Deutsch: Rosa Zuckerwatte. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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:

English: Cheese curds covered in beer batter a...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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


In-N-Out Burger - Chocolate Shake

In-N-Out Burger – Chocolate Shake (Photo credit: frozenfoodjournal)






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 Pups

Pronto Pups (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

A salad platter.

A salad platter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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?



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Ground Turkey and Black Bean Chili

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I can eat chili year round.  I think it is the perfect meal that is both satisfying and comforting and is also quick and easy to make.  Ground turkey has less fat than ground beef which is in traditional chili and all of the vegetables in this chili will help keep you full and satisfied.  Chili is also a great meal to make because you can easily sneak in those vegetables that your kids or husband are always pushing around on their plates.

This recipe is adapted from Six Sisters Stuff’s Black Bean Taco Soup


1 pound of ground turkey

1 packet taco seasoning, or 3 tsp taco seasoning

1 14 oz can of corn

1 14 oz can of black beans, drained (or your favorite type of beans)

3 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes

1 14 oz can of stewed tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 bell pepper, diced

3 tsp chili powder

1 tsp garlic powder

Freshly ground pepper, seasoned to taste

Brown ground turkey in a pan, drain excess grease.  In a large pot, mix together all ingredients.  Heat over medium heat for 25 minutes.  Makes 10 servings.

This chili will make your day, and at only 4 Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving you can enjoy all of the flavor, with none of the guilt.  Feel free to add your favorite vegetables, jalapenos to give it some kick, or top with sour cream and cheddar cheese to make it a chili all your own!

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Zucchini Mini Muffins

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Welcome to thesweethealthylife, a blog about healthy living with the occasional sweet to see you through! As a girl with a real sweet tooth, I am embarking on a journey to a healthier (and slimmer) me but there are those things that I just can’t live without! About once a week I am seized by the urge to bake,   inevitably I find myself in the kitchen baking up something delicious. My husband doesn’t share my sweet tooth; sure he will have a cookie or one mini muffin (who can have only one?) but he doesn’t crave sweets like I do. If I make cookies I have to lock them away somewhere where I won’t eat them all by the next morning.

This Zucchini Mini Muffin recipe is from my Betty Crocker cookbook which I just love and think it is a great basic cookbook. My mom has a Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1970’s which I used to bake from all the time in high school, so I love baking this recipe as it reminds me of all the great times I have had baking with her.

I love this time of year when you can find zucchini everywhere. I am so jealous of everyone who has a garden and can grow it themselves.  We live in an apartment in Plymouth, Minnesota so we don’t have room for a vegetable garden but hopefully sometime in the future!  I like to make this recipe because for one thing they are delicious, and they also won’t undo your whole day of healthy eating.  So instead of going for that stash of candy or goodies you’ve got hidden away grab 1 or 2 of these!  At 2 Weight Watchers Points Plus per muffin, they won’t make you feel too guilty about have a sweet treat.


3 Cups grated zucchini (about 2-3 medium)

1 2/3 Cups sugar

2/3 Cup canola oil

2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

3 Cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray 2 mini muffin pans with Pam.  Stir together grated zucchini, sugar, canola oil, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl.  Sift together dry ingredients and stir into zucchini batter.  Pour batter into muffin pans.  Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let cool and enjoy!

This recipe could also be used to make 2 loaves of zucchini bread or regular sized muffins.  Or you could go crazy and make a combination of all 3!



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