This weekend my family and I attended the outdoor Joyful Noise Family Fest in Blaine, MN. We were there on Saturday for about 9 hours and no outside food or drink are allowed into the Blaine Sports Complex where Joyful Noise is held. Us, and 20,000 of our closest friends, worshipped God alongside each other with the likes of the Newsboys, David Crowder, and everyone's favorite, Chris Tomlin. It was awesome. But...
What do to about food?
Fair food everywhere! Warning, warning!
Food trucks hawking onion rings, corn dogs, cheese curds, soda, hand-made suckers, and french fries as far as the eye can see!
I ignored how my children each spent their 10 bucks over the course of the 9 hours there and focused on how, at the very least, I was going to eat somewhat (!) healthy here.
Now, I'm not saying I'm the poster child for healthy eating every day of my life, but I did okay yesterday.
I thought a quick analysis of fair food might help you make good choices this summer when presented with *only* unhealthy options.
You've seen those fresh-squeezed lemonade stands, right? Okay, now, although one glass of lemonade costs like 7 bucks, I have to say go for that instead of slushies or soda. Its "natural" in the sense that they use fresh lemon juice (an alkalinizing substance, which is good), ice, water and regular white sugar. Wait, just to clarify, regular white sugar is NOT good for you, but, it is slightly less worse for you than high-fructose corn syrup, so.....
Water is better. (Note, I hate paying $2 for a small bottle of water at fairs! Ugg!) I mostly drank water from the water fountain.
At Joyful Noise, it was chilly, so I ended up with a large decaf late (unsweetened) and it was great actually!
There were also smoothies for sale and one of my sons bought one. I tried it and although it was very tasty, it was so sweet, my insulin level spiked so high from one drink I heard my pancreas crying, so I let him finish the rest.
Almost no snacks at fairs are "healthy". At Joyful Noise, I did end up getting some candied pecans, trail mix, and cinnamon-roasted almonds at a stand, and they rocked. Would've been better if they weren't coated in sugar, but I still believe that this is better in the long run than artificially colored cotton candy (my son shoved a piece in my mouth and I didn't want to make him feel bad so I ate it - wow, I forgot how sweet that fluffy colored stuff is - ugg!)
The pickle booth isn't bad. High sodium, but it is a pickle after all - it only has a few calories and it is made from a cucumber.
A friend of mine was eating a corn-on-the-cob that had been grilled in the husk, peeled back, and slathered with some delightful seasoning mixture. They generously let me try a bite of that and if it hadn't been such a long line and too far from the music, I would've gone to get one myself. However, the seasoning probably contained MSG, but there is no way to tell. No regrets. The corn on the cob would still be a better choice than fries or cheese curds.
Of all the choices, I would have to say the Gyros were the best choice. The lamb meat is lean, there was plentiful lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers in the pita. Speaking of the pita, it was one of those lightweight, thin ones, not the thick, super-bready ones. No fries came with it and that's it. There was also a Gyro salad option but my only beef (I mean lamb) with that was that they didn't use a romaine or spinach mix (iceberg shreds).
My compadres were half-kidding, half-serious joking that we need to create a Luminaries Food Truck for Joyful Noise next year. Now, would people buy fresh fruit, grilled vegetables, kombucha on tap, and grilled chicken salads with avocado, etc? Who knows, I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens.
If I was on a super hard-core detox or restricted diet to try to get my metabolism back in check, I would have to say there was almost nothing at this fair that I could eat. Fasting would be a choice, but probably not the ideal time to choose to do that. I would say, the only reasonable option, then, would be to bring a cooler and leave it in the car and walk the million miles to back to the car when you're hungry. And actually, the walking part might not be such a bad idea....food for thought.
One thing I learned is that even if you have tough days sticking to a healthy eating plan, re-group the next day, hit some cardio exercise, and make better choices the next day. Don't fall off the bandwagon, just make good choices when you have the opportunity. That's how you make healthy eating a lifestyle, not a diet.
How Not to Let Fair Food Become a Fair Fight?
No fried food
(these don't hold a candle to real desserts which are actually worth eating!)
Avoid things "on a stick"
(I did have a "Caprese Salad on a Stick" at the MN State Fair a few years ago and it was fab - fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil on a stick, over a bed of mixed greens with a balsamic reduction glaze)
Have one "treat" and be satisfied with that - don't beat yourself up about it
Be grateful that you have the resources to eat this food at all -
At Joyful Noise we were reminded through the work of the Union Gospel Mission (local homeless shelters/food banks) and Compassion International (provides sponsorship to impoverished children around the world) just how blessed we are to even be able to enjoy a day eating fair food and singing in safety. Let's enjoy our blessings with gratitude even if it isn't the most "healthy" choices!