Tips to eating healthier at the Mississippi State Fair

How to eat healthy at the state fair
Cover Photo by Briana Tozour of Unsplash

Fall in Mississippi is all about college football, pumpkin patches, and the state fair. No other time of the year does the coliseum’s midway transform into a vibrant village of rides, livestock, music, and a giant slide. Mississippians flock to this annual event for many reasons, but undeniably the main attraction for many is the fair food. Let’s face it: We don’t enter the fairgrounds expecting to feast on fiber-filled, wholesome foods. It’s the latest deep-fried delicacy on a stick that gains the most excitement.

As a registered dietitian, trying to find a healthy pick at the state fair is as challenging as getting a basketball through a bent hoop for a prize. Just for fun, you should know that a serving of deep-fried Oreos is a whopping 890 calories and 50 grams of fat. The signature funnel cake sets you back 760 calories and 45 grams of fat. And if you think getting a giant turkey leg is a smart choice, negative. If you don’t share it and consume the entire thing, you’ll take in an estimated 1,100 calories and 55 grams of fat. You can thank the greasy skin, dark meat, and sheer size of the turkey leg for the alarming calories.

Let’s not forget the abundant flow of sweetened lemonades and sodas. Sure, one trip to the fair won’t set you too far back, but I am concerned with the number of times one visits in a short amount of time. As a true lover of the fair, I believe families should enjoy the sights, sounds, and savory tastes the Mississippi State Fair has to offer but in a more health-conscious way. The animals at the petting zoo shouldn’t be the only ones getting nutritious snacks like carrots. Whether you are planning your first trip or round two (or three) to the fair, incorporate these tips for a healthier experience.

Sharing is Caring 

Sometimes all you need is a taste to get the experience of decadent foods. Splitting items cut down on calories, cost, and waste.

BYOS

Bring your snacks, especially if you have small children or are making travel plans to come to the fair for the day. Long afternoons in the sun can drain small children and adults. Tuck away a few bottles of water, whole grain peanut butter crackers, or fruit to nibble on while waiting in line. Allow yourself and your children one special treat instead of many.

Walk it First 

The smells can be enticing and lure you into purchasing the first thing that looks yummy. Avoid impulse purchases and walk the mile-long loop once, seeing all options before ordering.

Smart Substitutions

The fair is not the place for combo orders. Switch a side of fries for baked chips, corn on the cob, or pass on it altogether. Ask to go light on the sauces, hold the mayo, and get cheese or bacon, not both. If fries are your favorite, skip a fried entrée.

Don’t Be Fooled 

Advertisements for fried in “healthy” oil do not mean the food is healthier or lower in calories. It is still deep-fried. And fresh-squeezed lemonade may have real lemons, but it is still full of sugar. Pro tip: Take kids by the dairy tent for a refreshing, cold bottle of milk that is typically free.

You don’t have to sacrifice good health when visiting the Mississippi State Fair. In the end, all things are in moderation, including fair food.

What: 2021 Mississippi State Fair

When: October 6-17

Where: 1200 Mississippi Street, Jackson, MS 39202

Report

Written by Rebecca Turner

Rebecca Turner provides no-nonsense nutrition advice to a statewide and national audience through print, TV, and radio. She is the author of two books: Mind Over Fork and Enjoy Good Health. Lending her talents to Mississippi Public Broadcasting's healthy eating show, Fit to Eat, airing on the Create Channel nationwide, and the Emmy Award-winning children's show, Ed Said. She also appears as a wellness expert on local news and creates nutrition-based features for Today in Mississippi, Mississippi Christian Living Magazine, and national publications. On weekdays, she hosts a statewide talk radio show, Good Things with Rebecca Turner, on SuperTalk Mississippi.

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