Fat Festival? Calories in Food at the Fair

The scary truth about foods found at fairs, festivals, and amusement parks.

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

People go to festivals and fairs to enjoy the rides, games, animals, and bake-offs. But what really attracts the crowds is the food -- especially the fried food. And these days, the food at fairs, festivals, and amusement parks is scarier than the tilt-a-whirl or roller coaster! WebMD spoke to nutrition experts to get the truth about fat and calories in food at the fair.

Deep-Fried Diet Disasters

Food was no doubt served at festivals even before the nation's first state fair, held in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1841. But it was in 1904, at the St. Louis World's Fair, that fairgoers were introduced to the first real ''fast food'' -- hot dogs and ice cream cones that could be eaten as they walked, according to the statefairrecipes.com web site.

Since then, fair food has progressed way beyond caramel apples, corn on the cob, and nachos. There appears to be no end to what can be battered and deep fried -- cookies, candy bars, cheese curds, macaroni and cheese, pralines, chocolate-covered strawberries, even cola (the last made with a cola-sweetened batter that's deep fried and topped with cola syrup and powdered sugar). The Minnesota State fair, for one, boasts 54 varieties of food on a stick at this year's fair.