Picking healthy fair food can be as tough as winning the big stuffed Tweety Bird at the ring toss game.
Imagine searching through the fairgrounds for a decent meal, belly grumbling like a 4-H hog: That hot dog sounds tasty, but how much fat fills a foot of sausage casing? The 1/3-pound burger seems a bit better, but its not exactly health food. Then theres that smoked turkey leg — its poultry, so it must be heart-healthy, right?
Fair and carnival foods came under the imperious gaze of Allan Borushek, the dietitian behind the “2009 Calorie King Fat & Carbohydrate Counter” handbook. Borushek loosed a squad of registered dietitians on fairgrounds to gather recipes and measure the nutrients in 114 favorite fair foods, from apple-cinnamon funnel cakes (845 calories, 44 grams of fat) to zucchini, fried (620 calories, 40 grams of fat, for four slices).
A 19-ounce smoked turkey leg — with skin, of course — delivers 1,135 calories and 54 fat grams. Thats a full days fat supply: Government guidelines suggest average adults eat about 2,000 calories and 44 to 78 grams of fat each day.
The bird leg mounts a bigger arterial attack than the 1/3-pound burger (670 calories, 41 fat grams) or the footlong frank (550 calories and 41 fat grams). By comparison, the ever-popular corn dog has just 250 calories and 14 grams of fat (add 50 percent for a jumbo 6-ounce corn dog). In other words, you could have four corn dogs and load up fewer calories than one big drumstick.
“Part of the problem with that turkey leg is its size,” said Kimra Hawk, a dietitian at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. “Even getting a hamburger isnt as bad as the turkey leg — a smaller hamburger, skip the cheese, skip the mayo and put all the other fixings on there.”
Big portions and a fried shell are two notable signs of high-calorie, high-fat foods, Hawk said. Not surprising, then, that a days worth of fat hides in a slab of ribs, a fried onion flower or something called an “Australian battered potato,” which is basically a 1,300-calorie jo-jo on steroids.
But “things can be deceiving sometimes when youre at the fair,” Hawk said. Some midway foods that seem tame as a petting-zoo bunny hide a high-cal wallop.
A large caramel apple has 600 calories, Hawk said: About 100 calories of apple and 500 of caramel. A 12-ounce tuna salad sandwich has 60 grams of fat, the same as a jumbo Kielbasa, according to the Calorie King. But the fish has more calories — 830, compared with 800 for the Polish. And that 10-ounce bag of kettle corn is a 1,200-calorie carbohydrate bomb, though it does have only 30 fat grams.
Not all fair food is so calorie-laden. A frozen chocolate-covered banana is just 240 calories and 4 fat grams. A strawberry crepe has 280 calories and 14 grams of fat. There are 280 calories in a cup of chili, 200 in a square of spanakopita and 180 in a tamale, all with little fat. Its a fat-free 65 calories in a steamed artichoke and 200 calories for an ear of grilled corn without butter.
People who want to eat relatively healthfully at the fair also can look for grilled or BBQ chicken, Hawk said, making sure to remove the skin before eating. Chicken tacos or shish kebab veggies and meats can be relatively healthy.
Hawk also warns to watch calories in drinks: A 32-ounce cola has almost 400 calories and 32 ounces of juice is even more caloric. Water is the best choice.
It also helps to eat a meal with some whole grains, fiber and protein before you hit the fair, she said, and to plan what foods youll eat once you arrive so you dont show up hungry and graze all day.
Not that you cant go a little crazy at the fair. Hawk suggested fair food fans indulge moderately: Get the small ice cream instead of the large. Or split a funnel cake with a friend, which helps your wallet and your waistline.
“One day doesnt break the bank in terms of calories,” she said. “But pick and choose. Dont have the turkey leg and the fried elephant ear, and, and, and …”
Remember you could eat a hot dog, a chicken taco, an ear of corn, a side of baked beans, a churro and an ounce-and-a-half of chocolate fudge — all adding up to less fat and calories than the big turkey leg.
Amount Per 1 sandwich (175 g)
What are the healthiest corn dogs?
The 3 Best Frozen Grocery Store Corn Dogs
How many calories is a corn dog from Sonic?
Corndog (1 serving) contains 22g of carbs, 6g of protein, 13g of fat, and 230 calories.
What is the most unhealthy thing to eat?
20 Foods That Are Bad for Your Health
How many calories are in a fair footlong corn dog?
How many carbs are in a fair corndog?
How many calories are in a deep fried corn dog?