The 2016 Iowa State Fair started yesterday, August 11, and is considered one of the top-ranked state fairs in the United States. The fair draws people near and far with a host of exciting exhibits, enticing entertainment, and crazy (but delicious!) cuisine. But, if you're like us and don't want to blow your diet in the first ten minutes you're at the fair, there is hope!
In recent years, the Iowa State Fair has begun to offer healthier food choices. Even though deep fried Oreos, giant turkey legs, and funnel cakes are fair food staples for many, some of us are drawn to the fair for the agricultural exhibits and the entertainment selection, and would rather opt for some healthier snacking options.
Healthier food selections at the Iowa State Fair comply with the USDA guidelines for healthy meals with school lunches, including:
- Entrées less than 600 calories;
- Side dishes less than 300 calories;
- Less than 35 percent of calories from total fat;
- Less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat;
- Less than 35 percent of calories from sugar;
- And less than 1,000 mg of sodium.
For the full list of healthier foods at the Iowa State Fair, scroll down to the bottom of the page.
“Use the Iowa State Fair Healthy Choices list to help plan what you are going to eat during your visit to the fair,” says Lily Swedenhjelm, RDN, LD, GRMC dietitian. “When we’re hungry, we tend to pick what’s convenient; planning ahead can help you be more aware and mindful of what you are eating throughout the day.”
Having healthier choices and knowing exactly where to find them makes it easier to stay on track with your healthy eating pattern (and think of all the exercise you’ll get by walking between venues and food stops!), but we understand if there are a few ISF favorites that you can't give up.
“One idea for eating healthier at the fair is to choose one or two ‘must-haves,’ and pair them with healthier choices,” Swedenhjelm says. “For example, instead of having a corn dog and grater taters, choose a corn dog and caprese salad on-a-stick or fruit on-a-stick.”
However, we suggest packing your lunch and snacks in a cooler and leaving it in the car. That way you are in control of what you’re consuming and can guarantee that you and your family are getting an adequate amount of fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, grains, and oils, and are limiting the amount of saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium you are taking in. (And it's cheaper!)
Healthy eating options at the Iowa State Fair include:
Baked Potatoes and Corn-on-the-Cob
Find these starchy staples at Westmoreland (south of the Anne and Bill Riley Stage) and Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters (south side of Walnut Square).
Caprese Salad on-a-Stick
Get this fresh and zesty classic of cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette at The Salad Bowl (Agriculture Building and Cultural Center Courtyard).
Caramel Apple Slices
Tangy apple slices and sweet caramel dipping sauce – find this classic combo at Applishus (east canopy of the Varied Industries Building; north side of Walnut Square; and Cultural Center Courtyard).
Carrots with Ranch
Vegging out on the couch just got beat out by vegging out at the Iowa State Fair. Get crunchy carrots and cool, creamy ranch from the Iowa Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (west side of the Agriculture Building).
Dried Fruit Log
Find these lighter-than-air sweet treats at the Iowa Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (west side of the Agriculture Building).
Fresh Fruit, Melon & Berry Cups, and Shish kabobs
It’s hard to beat sweet, juicy fruit on a hot summer day! Find these fruity options at several locations throughout the fairgrounds, including Beattie’s Melon Patch (west of the Giant Slide); Stockman’s Inn (southwest corner of the Cattle Barn); Benoit Concessions (on Rock Island Avenue); Iowa Orchards (Agriculture Building); and the Iowa Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (west side of the Agriculture Building).
Get tasty fruit with sweet, creamy yogurt dip at The Salad Bowl (Agriculture Building and Cultural Center Courtyard).
Green Bean or Potato Bowl
Go green (bean) or go home! These yummy – and healthy! – options can be found at Dawghouse Concessions (north side of walk on Triangle).
Grilled Chicken Sandwiches
Grab-and-go: Get your hot-off-the-grill chicken at several locations, including Barksdales Concessions (in front of the Varied Industries Building); Campbell’s Concessions (Elwell Family Food Center); Stockman’s Inn (southwest corner of the Cattle Barn); B&S Concessions (west side of the Anne and Bill Riley Stage); and Dawghouse Concessions (north side of walk on Triangle).
Grilled Turkey Sandwiches
Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to get your turkey on…gobble up some summer-approved turkey (grilled) at Turkey Time Concessions (north side of walk on Triangle).
Get this delicious Italian classic at Parlo Pizza’s (on the hill by Grandfather’s Farm).
Not Your Mamma’s Taco
Turkey trumps traditional ground beef in this scrumptious twist on a beloved classic: enjoy shredded turkey, homemade veggie slaw, and sweet mango salsa atop a deep fried tortilla at the Iowa Turkey Federation Stand (west of the Anne and Bill Riley Stage).
Peanut Butter and Jelly on-a-Stick
Grapes and peanut butter sandwich pieces wedged onto a skewer: the closest you can get to putting in an order for your childhood…on-a-stick. Get yours at The Salad Bowl (Agriculture Building and Cultural Center Courtyard).
Pork Chops on-a-Stick
An Iowa State Fair must-have; you can find pork chops on-a-stick at the Iowa Pork Producers Association (east end of Grand Avenue; east of the main stand on Grand Avenue; and Rock Island Avenue west of the Livestock Pavilion).
Rib Shack Cowboy
Traditional ice cream in a waffle cone can get boring, so try the Rib Shack Cowboy at the Rib Shack (south of the Anne and Bill Riley Stage) for an extreme break from the ordinary. A savory mix of cowboy beans, brisket or pork, coleslaw, and a signature chip all smothered in BBQ sauce fills a spice-flavored waffle cone to create a food experience that is anything but ordinary.
If you like iceberg lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes served kabob-style (and with dressing), salad on-a-stick is the snack for you! Find it at The Salad Bowl (Agriculture Building and Cultural Center Courtyard).
Get a variety of salads from a variety of stands, including Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters (south side of Walnut Square), Campbell’s Concessions (Elwell Family Food Center), Diamond Jack’s (west of the Livestock Pavilion), Doc’s Bud Tent/Pizza Parlor (north side of Grand Avenue), The Salad Bowl (Agriculture Building and Cultural Center Courtyard), The Greek Garden (north of the Varied Induestries Building and southeast of the Administration Building), K’s Concession (on Triangle east of the Administration Building), and Steer and Stein (east of the Grandstand).
Take a break from the fried food bonanza all around the fairgrounds and opt for a refreshing sandwich wrap from The Salad Bowl (Agriculture Building and Cultural Center Courtyard).
This seafood specialty comes dipped in corndog batter, fried till golden and crispy, and is topped with a sweet jalapeño glaze. Get yours at the Po Boy Stand (on Rock Island Avenue).
Find luscious, garden-fresh tomatoes at Hardenbrook Concessions (southwest of the Agriculture Building).
The turkey breast sandwich has less than five grams of fat and is low in calories. Several delicious and healthy options can be found at the Iowa Turkey Federation Stand (west of the Anne and Bill Riley Stage).
Veggie Corn Dogs
Longing for the experience of a corn dog while at the Iowa State Fair, but can’t or don’t eat meat? Get the best of both worlds with a yummy veggie corn dog from Veggie Table (north of the Varied Industries Building)!
Check out the Iowa State Fair map to locate these food venues throughout the fairgrounds that offer healthy options. https://www.iowastatefair.org/upl/downloads/library/fairgrounds-map.pdf.