Health & Fitness

How to visit Stanislaus County Fair and not leave healthier food choices at gate

No one heads to the county fair to dine on a healthy, nutritious meal — pigging out on the midway junk food is as much of a tradition as visiting the real piglets!

This year at the Stanislaus County fair, more than 560 different menu items are being served up by the not-for-profit and commercial concessionaires. It’s hard to resist all of the temptation, but there are some healthier choices.

“We have quite a few healthy options,” said Amy Yonan Brown, a member of the family-owned Space Age Food Concessions, a fair regular. They offer baked potatoes, and their fresh-roasted corn can be served on the cob or in a cup.

“It was so good last year, and it’s not deep-fried, “ said Susan Weiter, “ a Modesto resident. She ordered corn in a cup with cilantro and lime — added flavor with no extra calories.

Across from the corn stand are some more nutritious options — fresh fruit and lemonade at Cipponeri Farms fruit market.

Anthony Garza from Turlock ordered mixed-berry lemonade. “I ate before I came,” he said. He wanted to save money so he could buy the things he really liked. Little did Garza know, he was making health-wise choices while being thrifty.

As these fairgoers found, there are ways to enjoy the festivities and make healthier choices.

Here are some tips:

  • Have a well-balanced meal before heading to the fairgrounds.
  • Drink plenty of water — it helps for staying hydrated in the heat, and avoids empty calories from soda or other sugary drinks. Slurping on 8 ounces of lemonade is not bad at 100 calories.
  • After arriving, don’t eat right away — first, walk around and check out all of the options. Find your top two or three choices and plan what to eat throughout the day.
  • Share food, especially big portions — this provides a chance to taste more items and decreases the risk of overindulging.
  • Bring along some nutritious snacks, such as fresh fruits or veggies. That saves some calories and money.

  • Minimize consumption of deep-fried foods — they’re usually calorie-dense with little nutritional value. For example, five deep-fried Oreos have 890 calories, and a corn dog has 500 calories.

Look for healthier options, such as:

  • Go grilled, such as meat kabobs
  • Corn-on-the-cob — skip the butter, cheese toppings and salt
  • Hit the farmers market for fruit — refreshing, sweet and good for you
  • Caramel apple — a regular size has about 300 calories, including fiber and nutrients
  • Try frozen treats — 4 ounces of soft-serve ice cream, a chocolate-dipped frozen banana or frozen yogurt each have about 200 calories. Fruit smoothies made with low-fat milk, frozen yogurt and fresh fruits offer a cool treat for under 300 calories.
  • Kettle corn or popcorn — skip the added butter and extra salt
  • Cotton candy — only 200 calories, though it’s all sugar
  • Crepes — new this year, and when prepared with a little butter and sugar or Nutella, have about 130 calories each. Be careful, though, because other fillings and toppings quickly add calories, sugar and fats.

Dole Whip, a staple at Disneyland, is also new this year. A 4-ounce serving of this pineapple treat has 80 calories and zero fat. Cadyee Weese from Turlock was thrilled to see it. She said, “I love these at Disneyland, and I like healthier choices.” She opted for the full experience — pineapple soft serve with fresh pineapple topping inside of a pineapple.

However, fruit isn’t the first choice for most fair visitors. Corn dogs lead the pack as the favorite. For example, more than 34,000 were sold (that’s about 1,700 dogs per day) over the 20 days at last year’s Alameda County fair.

Yes, deep-fried and other junk foods can be tasty and sometimes (but not too often), they’re worth the calories!

ChrisAnna Mink is pediatrician and health reporter for The Modesto Bee. She covers children’s health in Stanislaus County and the Central Valley. Her position is funded through the financial support from The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with The GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of her work.