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Staying Healthy at the State Fair

By Danielle Houston, Registered Diabetic Technician and Diatetic Intern, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas

The State Fair of Texas has kicked off another year. While other state fairs have their histories and large followings, the State Fair of Texas has become known for its slough of creative yet unhealthy deep-fried concoctions.

Though there are the rare people who can visit the fair and indulge in nothing more sinful than ice-cold water, for the vast majority of us the delectable temptations draw us in, and we end up imbibing. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a day at the fair, but if you want to be happy and satisfied, consider these tips:

  • Bring Your Own Food and Beverages — The fair allows guest to bring their own food and drinks into the park. Consider packing a healthy lunch and allowing yourself one special treat for the day.
  • Use the Food Finder — The fair's convenient online food finder and map can help plan your trip. We tend to fall in love with everything we see when we’re hungry, thereby making less healthy choices. By planning, you can indulge in the calories you really want and not waste them on whatever crosses your path.
  • Walk Off Those Calories — The healthiest part of the fair is that it is spread over several miles of ground. Walk as much as possible! This way, if you see something you might like to try, you know you will be passing it again on your next lap around the park.
  • Make Some Substitutions — A great practice for the fair, as well as daily life, is making substitutions. Instead of having a corn dog, fries, deep-fried butter and a 44-ounce soda, switch out a few items for healthier options. You could keep the corn dog but substitute a healthy salad with low-calorie dressing for the fries and water for the soda. You can even get low-fat frozen yogurt at the fair now!
  • Don’t Practice Wishful Thinking — Signage can be misleading. The fact that food is advertised as “zero grams trans fat” or “fried in healthy oil” does not mean it is low fat, low calorie or healthy in any way. Don’t practice wishful thinking; remember that fried food is fried food, no matter what it is fried in, and although lemonade is made with fruit, it is still full of sugar.
  • Don’t Get Dehydrated — This is Texas, and the daily temperature is still quite warm. Don’t end up with dehydration because you are “hydrating” with soda, alcohol or slushies. Make sure to get plenty of water, and remember that those liquid calories add up fast!

The best tip: To avoid weight gain, you must burn off all the calories you consume in a day. The “it’s just one day” mentality can really add up, especially if there are too many of them throughout the year (and the holidays are upon us)! It takes an additional 3,500 calories to gain one pound of body weight.

Now take a look at the following table*:

Food Item Calories
Corn on the cob with butter 179
Corn dog (4 oz) 250
Cotton candy (1 bag) 323
Fried Snickers 445
Funnel cake 452
Cream puff (4.3 oz) 500
Greek salad (14 oz) 520
Mini donuts (1 bag) 622
Cheesecake on a stick 655
Cheese curds (1 order) 759
Ice cream in a sugar cone, small (10 oz) 775
Smoked BBQ turkey leg with skin (1 lb 3 oz) 1,136

We all want to look back on our time at the fair with exhausted satisfaction, not remorse, a tummy ache or an extra five pounds. As with all things, practice moderation and you’ll do great!

Now go ride that Texas Star Ferris wheel!

For more tips on small, healthy changes you can make, visit TexasHealth.org/Well-Being.

*Numbers from Calorieking.com and the University of Minnesota Health Sciences Academic Health Center

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