Food at the Fair - Fat Festival for Calories? (cont.)

Most nutrition databases don't include fat and calorie values for such foods. But according to Lona Sandon, assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, you can count on these foods to have a shockingly high level of fat and calories.

''My educated guess is a serving of fried cola dough, whipped cream and Coke syrup on top is roughly 830 calories,'' says Sandon. ''The fried macaroni and cheese is approximately 610 calories; the fried cheesecake in the ballpark of 500 calories; a fried praline will come in around 350 calories; and a tortilla-wrapped hot dog and cheese from the fryer about 550 calories.''

Here are more frightening nutritional figures, from the Calorie King web site, about fat and calories in food at the fair or festival:

  • Fried Snickers (5 oz.): 444 calories and 29 grams (g) fat
  • Fried Twinkie (2 oz.): 420 calories/34 g fat
  • Funnel cake (1): 760 calories/44 g fat
  • Twinkie Dog Sundae: 500 calories/14 g fat
  • Cotton candy: 171 calories/0 fat
  • Fried cheesecake (6 oz.): 655 calories/47 g fat
  • Foot-long hot dog and bun: 470 calories/26 g fat
  • Giant turkey leg: 1,136 calories/54 g fat

"Eating at a fair or festival can wreak havoc on your waistline because it is so easy to consume thousands of calories," says Christine Palumbo, RD.

The Truth About Trans Fats

Common sense tells you to stay away from deep fried cheesecake. But in some states, like Indiana, they have decided to follow the lead of New York and KFC and try to make fried foods healthier by banning cooking oils containing trans fats.

Even without trans fats, however, fried foods are not exactly low in calories or fat.

"Using trans fat-free cooking oil is certainly better. But no matter how you look at it, that doughnut is still a doughnut and it is still fried, and anytime you fry foods you pump up the fat and calories," says Joan Salge-Blake, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Fair Food Choices

So just what can a health-conscious person find to eat and drink at fairs, festivals, and amusement parks?

"You can find healthier choices on the menus at the state fair. Cotton candy, also knows as spun sugar, is among the least offensive foods at the fair," says New-York based nutrition expert Bonnie Taub-Dix, MS, RD. "Look for fruits, vegetables, lean meats, pickles, corn on the cob (hold the butter) -- even caramel apples are better than most fried foods."

There are more options than there used to be, at least at Disney amusement parks, says Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA, an associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

"Fruit and water carts are all over the parks showcasing chilled, cut fresh fruit that kids and adults love, especially on hot days, along with cold water and sugar-free drinks," says Ayoob, who served as a nutrition consultant to Disney.