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Prairie Fare: Plan Ahead for Calorie Splurges at Fairs

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
We’re in the prime season for food-inspired guilt.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“I shouldn’t eat this, but I can’t resist!”

“I’ve really ruined my diet now. Oh well, I’ll take seconds.”

“I’ll start eating healthier on Monday.”

Have you ever heard, or maybe said, these things?

We’re in the prime season for food-inspired guilt. Fairs, carnivals, festivals and all sorts of fun events are in full swing at this time of the year. Foods, such as funnel cakes, deep-fried “just about anything” on a stick and deep-fried breaded cheese curds, entice us with their aroma, texture and flavor.

Here’s the good news: We all have room for some discretionary calories, which are the treats in our diet. Discretionary calories include foods such as cookies, brownies, soft drinks and tempting fair foods.

Discretionary calories are like discretionary dollars because they are available to “spend” as we please. Like discretionary dollars, most of us don’t have as many discretionary calories available as we would like.

Here’s the somewhat bad news: Most of us get 100 to 300 discretionary calories per day, not per meal. You can find out your allotment of discretionary calories, along with your recommendations for a nutrient-rich eating plan, by visiting

As you enjoy portable treats, you might argue that you are burning off all the extra calories as you walk. Yes, walking is an excellent form of exercise. However, to burn the excess calories, you may need to walk more than you planned.

To burn the calories in one fried candy bar on a stick, plan to walk 4.5 miles. Add another 4.5 miles to your trek with an order of cheese fries. If you drink a 32-ounce regular soft drink, you will need to walk an additional 2.5 miles. Add a cotton candy and you can add another 1.5 miles.

To get some fruit, how about adding a caramel apple? They must be healthy because they’re apples, right? To burn the calories in one caramel apple, you would need to walk three miles.

Quite soon, you’re well on your way to walking a marathon. You also might need an antacid.

You can enjoy some fair food, in moderation, with these tips:

  • Plan ahead for a calorie extravaganza by eating lighter during the day. Go heavy on whole-grains, fruits, vegetables and other fiber-rich, filling foods during the day.
  • Curb your appetite with a bowl of soup or a serving of whole-grain cereal and some milk before you leave home for the activity.
  • Have water instead of soft drinks or other caloric beverages.
  • Order smaller versions of your favorite treats whenever possible. Better yet, share a small order of your favorite treat with a friend.
  • Decide ahead of time what you really want to have. Spend your discretionary calories on that one item. Maybe a small order of cheese curds, all for yourself, is your splurge. Eat it slowly, savoring the taste.

If you’re hungry for fair food but not all the fat and calories, try this interesting twist on the classic corn dog. For more information about eating smart, visit the NDSU Extension Service Web site at Visit us on Facebook, too.

Baked Corn Dogs

1 package (8- to 10-ounce) corn muffin mix

5 reduced-fat hotdogs

Additional ingredients (milk, oil, egg) to prepare muffins

Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare muffin mix as directed. Coat 10 muffin cups with cooking spray. Fill muffin cups about one-quarter full of corn muffin batter. Slice each hot dog into six pieces. Place three pieces of hot dog in each muffin cup. Spoon remaining corn muffin batter on top of the hot dog pieces. Bake muffins for 20 to 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Makes 10 servings. Each serving has about 180 calories, 8 grams (g) of fat, 21 g of carbohydrate and 1 g of fiber.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
Prairie Fare: Prairie Fare: Looking Back on Nutrition and Other Trends in the Last 40 Years  (2019-04-18)  Though nutrition recommendations have changed over the years, moderation is still key.  FULL STORY
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