It’s become something of an annual rite: gawking at the outrageous concoctions that pass for food at the nation’s state fairs. But amid the deep-fried beer (yes, there is such a thing), two-foot-long corndogs and mac ‘n cheese on a stick, concessionaires are coming up with healthier fair foods—beyond the requisite grilled chicken sandwiches and side salads. Take a look at some of this year’s more interesting offerings.
Minnesota State Fair: Gluten-Free Chicago-Style Hot Dog
August 23-September 3
While hot dogs aren’t exactly health food, folks who’ve gone gluten-free deserve the right to partake in typical fair fare. So we applaud Chicago Dogs’ offering, a quarter-pound 100% all-beef frankfurter served on an Udi’s gluten-free hot dog bun. For the uninitiated, Chicago-Style dogs feature brown mustard, diced onions, green relish, diced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, sport peppers, a dill pickle spear and a dash of celery salt.
Iowa State Fair: Salad-on-a Stick
Bypass this summer’s newest artery-clogging debut—the double bacon corn dog—and seek out The Salad Bowl concession stand’s Salad on a Stick, an iceberg lettuce wedge with carrots and tomato served kabob-style, with dressing for dipping. Also at this nutritional oasis in the midst of diet decadence is the PB&J-on-a-stick, a skewered version of the childhood favorite with fresh grapes wedged between the sandwich pieces.
State Fair of Texas: Red Velvet Cake Frozen Yogurt
September 28-October 23
In a state where bigger is better and barbecue takes center stage, the Texas State Fair can be a nutritional nightmare. Coming to the rescue for health-minded folks with a sweet tooth, Cassie’s Frozen Yogurt offers creative flavors including Red Velvet Cake. This Southern favorite is low in calories and fat—a rare find for a dessert at a fair that honored Fried Beer in its annual Big Tex Choice Awards.
Wisconsin State Fair: Bison Sandwich
For fair food that won’t bust your gut in this land of cheese and beer, check out WI Bison Producers’ Bison Sandwich, a moist, lean cut of bison (aka buffalo) served atop a toasted bun. The unsung hero of healthy meat, bison has only 2.5g fat per serving, only a fraction of the amount in beef, pork and even chicken.
The Big E: Smoked Salmon on a Stick
September 14-30 2012
The Big E, dubbed New England’s Biggest State Fair, is teeming with a variety of deep-fried delights. Skip mega-calorie creations such as fried butter and head over to the Maine Building for smoked salmon on a stick, a 350-calorie meal that packs a good dose of omega 3s and stick-to-your ribs protein.
Indiana State Fair: Edamame Corn Salad
Pepsi. Bubble gum. Kool Aid. Pizza. Everything, it seems, at the Indiana State Fair is deep-fried. This year, though, fair-goers can actually work off some of those calories in the Summer Fit Plaza. Choose from the likes of Zumba, jump rope, soccer, boot camp—each day, a different activity is featured. Also featured in the plaza are cooking demonstrations and sampling, including Edamame Corn Salad. If you do choose to indulge, a helpful, but depressing chart from Indiana University Health will tell you how many calories and fat are in that Fried Twinkie or Caramel Apple—and how many minutes (or hours) it will take to walk it off.