April 11, 2015 / 2013 / August / Healthy Eating Challenge: State Fair Edition

Healthy Eating Challenge: State Fair Edition

submitted August 19, 2013 by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1>Healthy Eating Challenge: State Fair Edition</h1>

I LOVE fair food. In my younger days, during the two weeks of the state fair my blood was known to slow to a maple syrup-like drizzle, choked in a river of elephant ear dust and butter. Those days are over. A growing teenage boy can often get away with eating food that would make a hyena blush and while I enjoyed that time of my life, it no longer works for me. Making healthy choices is the name of the game now, for many reasons. Can one visit the state fair without suffering toxic shock from fair food? Happily, the answer is YES. 

Case Study: The Indiana State Fair (perhaps the best of all state fairs)

I had dinner last week with Cindy Hoye, executive director of the Indiana State Fairgrounds. We were participating in a fundraiser with Twenty4Change, a local organization that connects nonprofits with new friends. This meal featured an upscale version of traditional fair food and it was amazing (thanks Cerulean)! You can see photos and the menu here. My favorite may have been the caramel apple-inspired salad. 

During our conversation, I mentioned to Cindy that one of our most popular blog posts in recent years was about the food at state fairs. Entitled 'Fair Food-itis', it lamented the recent trend of items like doughnut burgers and deep fried butter. Cindy pointed out that the state fair was taking steps to highlight healthy food options at the state fair. Sure enough, she pulled out her phone, fired up the Indiana State Fair app, hit up the Frequently Asked Questions, and there it was: a list of healthy food options under 350 calories and where you can find them. Bravo! 

My personal recommendations: 

  • Indiana Ribeye Steak = 266 calories
  • Corn on the Cob, no butter = 155 calories
  • Italian Ice = 200 calories

The weather this year was absolutely perfect throughout the entire run of the fair, generating a near-record attendance of approximately 950,000 visitors. Thanks to the efforts of Cindy and her team, many of those visitors were able to make healthier choices. 

Of course, most people will indulge at least a little (and probably a lot). How do you handle the temptation of unhealthy food at public events? Would you seek out the Dr. Vegetable stand or does finding healthy food seem like too much work? 

I know in the future, I'll have the State Fair app bookmarked and ready to help me plan my day of eating at the fair. However, elephant ears are still an endangered species while I'm there. You can't give up everything!