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Finding Healthy Options During Fall Festivities

Hot dogs! Funnel cakes! Cotton candy! You can picture it, right? You’re walking through your local fair and vendors are calling out their delicacies to anyone who will listen. Or you’re approaching the concession stand at your team’s football stadium and the nachos and extra-large soda catch your eye. Do you indulge? Do you run away as fast as you can? Do you try to avoid these situations all together?

Illuminated ferris wheel at a county fair in midwestern USA

Don’t be overwhelmed by food options at the fair. Healthy choices can be made, and moderation is key!

Cooper Clinic recommends a diet of moderation, wherein a person eats healthy 80 percent of the time and indulges in less healthy options 20 percent of the time. When it comes to navigating fall festivities with unhealthy food options, Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services offers the following tips:

In the Stadium

You can browse team websites for information on the concession stand offerings. Many ballparks are now serving healthier options that can save you calories, offer heart-healthy fats and provide complex carbohydrates rich in fiber, including:

  • Sandwiches with turkey deli meat
  • Burritos and burrito bowls
  • Baked potatoes
  • Veggie hot dogs
  • Red beans and rice
  • Chicken Caesar salad with light dressing
  • Smaller-sized hot dogs, sandwiches, fruit, fruit juice and milk (great for the kids…and you!)

Try these nutritious swaps and feel great about your eating choices when watching your favorite team. If allowed, bring your own healthy snacks to the game to help limit temptations that arise with a growling stomach. If you are not able to bring your healthy food to the game, eat before you go and try to make only one trip to the concession stand.

At the Fair

  • Eat a healthy meal before going to the fair.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Alternate non-caloric or low-calorie beverages with caloric beverages.
  • If you go for the giant funnel cake, corn dog or other fried specialty, share it! You’ll still get a delicious taste of fair food without overloading on calories.
  • Use a pedometer or fitness tracking device to count your steps throughout the day.
  • Eat slowly and with purpose – sit down at a table to eat instead of continuing to browse other food options, games or shows with food in hand.
  • Take inventory of food options before settling on a meal or snack. Healthier options, such as kabobs or sandwiches, may lie just around the corner!


  • Have a healthy snack before you arrive. Don’t skip meals thinking you can save up for the tailgate. Eat your regularly scheduled meals and snacks.
  • Focus on the game and the good company, not the food.
  • Alternate non-caloric beverages with caloric beverages. Calories add up quickly with alcohol and regular sodas.
  • Fill your plate once so you know what you are eating, instead of grazing all afternoon or evening.
  • Take your time and eat slowly…you’ll eat less.
  • Exercise either before or after the game.
  • Drink wisely and hydrate often. You can bring water bottles, low-calorie fitness water, iced tea, diet green tea or diet sodas.

Enjoying a game or afternoon at the fair does not have to use up your entire caloric, sugar and fats allowance. Do a little research beforehand, take inventory of your options and make the choices that are right for you. However, a little splurge now and then is perfectly acceptable – don’t be afraid to indulge in a scoop of ice cream or fried turkey leg, as long as you plan accordingly and make an effort to abide by the 80/20 rule!

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