It's fair food season. Here's the (surprising) advice from a dietician.
County fair season is in full swing in Northeast Ohio and hundreds of thousands of Ohioans are enjoying all it has to offer: rides, face painting and – of course – delicious fair foods. Unfortunately, most of our deeply beloved (and deep-fried) favorites have high fat, sodium and sugar contents.
This means fairgoers should skip the food, right? Not necessarily.
“A lot of the foods at the fair aren't going to be the most healthy foods that you can eat," said Emily Iammarino, a pediatric dietician at MetroHealth. "But it's a special occasion. If you want to treat yourself, that's fine. It's just important to do that in moderation."
To maintain your health there are no foods that a person should absolutely never eat, she explained. The key is moderation: There are foods we want to eat every day like fruits and vegetables, whole grains and foods high in fiber and those that contain some fats and protein. And there are foods we should eat rarely — like when fair season rolls around.
Below is a list of the fair treats are among the most popular — according to our informal polling — and their nutritional information, according to Calorie King.
Rather than trying to figure out exactly how many calories are in a food or exactly how many grams of fat it contains, Iammarino recommends eating slowly and paying attention to how you're feeling while you're eating.
Top 10 favorite fair foods
1. Elephant ears
The flaky, fried, cinnamon-sugared treat is the king of fair foods! One serving has approximately 450 calories and 30 grams of fat. It would take about two hours of walking to burn one off, so make sure you wear your walking shoes!
2. Funnel cake
Coming in a close second, we have everyone’s favorite powdered-sugar snack. Each serving has about 580 calories. Though funnel cake has about the same grams of fat as elephant ears, it has more than four times the sugar.
3. Deep-fried Oreos
A tray of five deep-fried Oreos is equivalent to eating two whole elephant ears!
4. Jumbo corn dog
A fair classic! With 375 calories and 21 grams of fat, walking for a little over an hour and half should burn off a jumbo corn dog.
5. Cotton candy
Cotton candy itself is not extremely high in calories. An average serving has about 220 calories and no fat. However, it contains 56 grams of sugar and that can affect energy levels.
“We can find ourselves feeling like we're in an energy crash afterwards,” said Iammarino.
6. Kettle corn or caramel corn
The two types of popcorn are both big hits at the fair, but they're very different nutritionally. Kettle corn is among the healthier options available since one cup has approximately 35 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. Each cup, about two handfuls, takes around 10 minutes of walking to burn off.
Caramel corn on the other hand has nearly 1,000 calories and 23.7 grams of fat per cup. One cup is equivalent to almost four and a half hours of walking.
7. Deep-fried cheese curds
One serving of deep-fried cheese curds is comparable to that of funnel cake, with 580 calories and 40 grams of fat.
8. Deep-fried mac & cheese (balls or on a stick)
Deep-fried mac & cheese is very high in calories. One serving has up to 1,000 calories!
This one is difficult to estimate a calorie count for since each type of lemonade varies from vendor to vendor, but it's always high in sugar and often served in a very large cup, Iammarino said.
“Try to make it last long. Try to just sip it throughout the day versus drinking it all at once," she said. "Or maybe try to split it with someone so you're not getting so much sugar at one time.”
10. Candy apples
Closing out our list we have a timeless fair food treat. With approximately 214 calories and zero grams of fat, a candy apple takes about an hour of walking to be burned out of our system.