How to navigate the food at the State Fair, even if you have diabetes
Our dietitian gives tips on how you can eat great to feel great during the great Minnesota get-together
The State Fair is one of my favorite things to do in the summer. And many families feel the same way. What’s not to love? Baby farm animals, fun rides and all the food! But as a registered dietitian, I know some of the unhealthiest items can be the most tempting.
Here are 5 tips for how you can still have a great time, without throwing healthy eating out the window:
- Before you go through the gates, curb your hunger with a snack or meal that’s better-for-you.
Rather than arriving at the fair hungry, have a regular meal or snack at home first. The State Fair also lets you bring in outside food, so take along a few better-for-you snacks that are yumPower-approved. Packing snacks will help you stay energized and help you from going overboard on Fair food. You’ll save money. And, it lets you save room to splurge on the cheese curds, cookies, milk shakes or other Fair food that you really love.
- Stay hydrated with plenty of water.
Bring in your own bottle and try to drink at least 6 to 8 cups of water. Stay away from too much alcohol and from soda, lemonade, slushes and other beverages that are packed full of added sugars. Those drinks can crash your energy. Plus, the added sugar doesn’t add any nutritional value – only calories.
- Be aware of portion sizes, and split what you order with friends.
The Hideaway Speakeasy’s Swing Dancer Sandwich is a better-for-you choice among the new foods making their debut at the Fair this year. However, I would still recommend sharing the sandwich. Since most servings at the Fair tend to be larger than a single portion, it’s a good idea to share just about everything you get.
- Check out our Fair Food Facts guide.
My colleagues who are registered dieticians at Park Nicollet’s International Diabetes Center put this resource together so people can learn the calorie, fat, fiber and carbohydrate content of nearly 50 foods at the Fair. The fact sheet is especially helpful to people with diabetes, who have to count carbohydrates in order to manage their blood glucose levels.
Here’s how a dozen of the best sellers at the Fair stack up to each other:
|Food||Serving||Calories||Carb Grams||Carb Choices*||Fat Grams||Fiber Grams|
|Cheese curds||5 ounces||533||34||2||34||2|
|Corn dog, jumbo size||1||375||36||3||21||2|
|Corn on the cob with butter||1 cob||148||33||2||2||2|
|Deep-fried Oreos||5 cookies||891||108||7||48||3|
|Foot long hot dog on bun||1||560||39||3||35||2|
|French fries||1 small serving||248||30||2||13||3|
|Frozen banana, chocolate coated||1 (5 ounces)||240||53||4||4||5|
|Pickle on a stick||1 (6 inches)||30||8||1/2||0||0|
|Sweet Martha's choc. chip cookies||3 cookies||270||42||3||12||0|
|Turkey drumstick with skin||1 drumstick||363||0||0||19||0|
*One “carb choice” equals 15 grams of total carbohydrate.
5. Come to the Healthy Local Food exhibit.
Kids can compete in yumPower’s fun veggie car races. Families can learn more about fruits and veggies at our table talk. And, everyone will have fun with our photo booth and veggie guessing game! HealthPartners puts on this exhibit with a nonprofit called Renewing the Countryside. It’s located in the State Fair’s Eco Experience Building on the corner of Randall Ave and Cosgrove Street.
See you at the Fair!
About Gina Houmann, MPH, RDN, LD
Gina Houmann is a Program Manager for several organization-wide nutrition programs at HealthPartners Institute. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. Gina enjoys partnering with clinicians across HealthPartners and Park Nicollet to provide nutrition programs and resources to better serve patients. Previously, she provided nutrition counseling and education for patients at Melrose Center. In her free time, Gina enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, 5-year-old son and 2-year-old twin daughters.