County Fare: Dishes to Ditch When Enjoying Your Local Fair


Another summer means another county fair! People flock to their local fairgrounds for some fun rides, interesting exhibits, challenging games, and a handy helping of food and drink. While summer does mean sitting back and letting loose, a dearth of fair food isn’t conducive to a healthy human body. Here are some of the foods you might see at the fair and some tips to keep your family healthy without sacrificing their fun.

A Feast of Fat

Spread among the rides and exhibits are the food vendors, who, for many, are the main attraction at the fair. Vendors serve the general tender vittles you’d find at the fair—funnel cake, cotton candy, pizza—but there are also interesting combinations you would have never even considered. Unique? Yes. But healthy? Not even. Some of the foods making an appearance at fairs around the country include:  sloppy-joe-donut

  • Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe: This is the headliner at the San Diego County Fair and is sure to show up elsewhere too: sloppy Joe mixture piled between two halves of a glazed donut. It’s the food that creates an equal mix of disgust and intrigue. In terms of flavor, savory and sweet go together well, but the ingredients are nowhere near healthy. A glazed donut consists of dough fried in oil and topped with sugar. The sloppy part—the meat, the sauce, the cheese—is high in fat and calories, and even sugar too.
  • Bacon: The world’s favorite pork product always seems to be a theme at the fair. The crispy, savory strips work their way into just about everything, from bacon cotton candy to deep-fried bacon-wrapped pickles. Various studies show that bacon is filled with sodium, fat, and cholesterol, none of which are good for your health. While it’s not bad to eat a few strips here and there, avoid bacon binges.
  • Bacon beer: Despite the name, this isn’t a hop-filled alcoholic beverage. It’s simply a bit of root beer served with a bacon swizzle stick. Nothing fancy, but the salty, fatty bacon mixed with the sweet, bubbly root beer makes for an interesting concoction, but the soda will do more damage than the pork. Soda contains caffeine, rots your teeth, and reduces bone density over time. If you’re not much of a soda drinker, now is a lousy time to start.
  • Deep fried cookie dough: Cookies are a delightful treat, a comfort food for whatever mood you may be in. Raw cookie dough is a guilty pleasure, but it presents a fair danger to your health. For one, raw eggs can potentially contain salmonella. Store-bought cookie dough generally contains pasteurized ingredients, killing off bacteria, but the flour in the cookie dough isn’t always treated. The flour can harbor various bacteria, including the lovely E. coli virus. Cooking the dough kills any bacteria, but the deep frying process won’t always cook the dough all the way through. Combine that with the sugar, processed carbs, and oil, and you’re looking at one unhealthy treat. It’s not worth the risk and you would be better off getting a fully baked cookie later.
  • Strawberry Cheesecake Funnel Cake: Funnel cake is a staple of fair food, and everyone loves strawberry cheesecake. It was only a matter of time until the two would meet. Strawberries, strawberry cream, and whipped cream are dolloped onto a hot funnel cake with a light dusting of powdered sugar. If funnel cake wasn’t already unhealthy enough, adding more sugar and calories to it certainly did the trick.
  • Hot dogs: Hot dogs are highly processed, contain lots of sodium and fat, and are made with all kinds of different “parts” that you might not want to eat.

Keeping It Healthy

So how do you enjoy the fair without putting on pounds or filling your veins with grease?

  • Go to taste, not to eat. Don’t go to the fair planning to eat a meal. Plan to sample some small dishes. Save your stomach and your money for food outside of the fairgrounds.
  • Go for the healthier options. It’s not all deep fried and sloppy. Many fairs also serve gourmet salads, paninis, and other healthier options.
  • Sharing is caring. If you go with your family or a group of people, share single servings. Instead of getting Krispy Kreme sloppy Joes for each member of the family, get one for the whole family to share. You get to taste it and experience its bizarre-ness without being weighed down.
  • Focus on fun. So eating food is definitely fun, but the fair has a ton of other stuff aside from food and drinks. Shop for knick-knacks and home accessories. Learn about farm animals at the petting zoo. Try your hand at one of the many fair games, or ride the Ferris wheel for some amazing views of your surroundings.

The fair is all about family fun, with or without the fried food, so stay safe and enjoy yourself!