Monday, June 9, 2008

Eating at Summertime Fairs and Festivals

By Courtney Westlake


Between the Sangamon County Fair, Illinois State Fair and dozens of local festivals throughout the summer, we are constantly exposed to fun rides, quality time with family and friends, entertaining shows and lots and lots of food.

"One of the things people like to do is go to the fairs and festivals that take place in the summer," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC. "People go for a lot of things but what I go for, and a lot people go for, is the food. We look forward to going and indulging in all of the delicious food. However, sometimes the food choices aren't the greatest for our health."

Food was always served at various festivities in the U.S., but it was in 1904, at the St. Louis World’s Fair, that fairgoers were introduced to the first real ''fast food," like hot dogs and ice cream. Now there is seemingly no limit to what foods are battered and fried and served on a stick at state and county fairs and festivals.

"We began to steer away at that point from caramel apples and other better food choices for fast and fatty foods," Jillson said. "Personally I enjoy my funnel cake, but I recently found out a funnel cake is about 760 calories and 44 grams of fat! So I think I may have to try some other options this year."

A fried Snickers packs 444 calories and 29 grams of fat, while a foot-long hot dog contains 470 calories and 26 grams of fat. And those giant turkey legs you see fair-goers snacking on? They offer a whopping 1,136 calories and 54 grams of fat!

"Anything that's deep-fried isn't going to be a good choice, and you should steer clear of it," Jillson said.

Some of the better choices at fairs and festivals include cotton candy, caramel apples or anything grilled.

"Cotton candy is on the good side of what to choose; it is fully loaded with sugar but has zero grams of fat," Jillson said. "Another great option is corn on the cob. You might want to avoid the butter, but it's an excellent choice overall."

In addition to making good food choices, one more thing you want to remember for your well-being this summer is to drink an abundance of water, Jillson encouraged.

"It's summer - hot time of the year - so you want to make sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after you attend a fair or festival," she said.