Fall Festival Eating – Can it be HEALTHY??

Fall is here, the leaves are changing, and the smell of apples is in the air. Local produce is beaming with color from delicious red apples, to bright orange pumpkins, to dark purple eggplants. Many local communities have fall festivals and fairs that families can enjoy while the warm weather remains. Perhaps you could pick out a pumpkin, just in time for Halloween.

When faced with these outdoor festivals, many struggle with healthy eating choices. A weekend outing can turn into a nutrition nightmare. What do you to choose when the options are the following???

Hot Dog, Corn Dog, Bratwurst, Hamburger, Cheeseburger, Pizza, Pretzels, Nachos, Popcorn, Cotton Candy, Roasted Corn on the Cob, French Fries, Funnel Cakes, Taffy Apples, Chips, Donuts, and Chili.

My five tips when confronted with making healthy eating decisions at outdoor festivals:
1) Don’t stress; enjoy the day and try to put your nutrition know-how aside.
2) Choose items that are not fried (for example: Corn Dog, Nachos, French Fries, Chips, Donuts should all be avoided)
3) Avoid the “extras”, choose one item, such as a hamburger or pizza, and avoid the chips, cookies, cotton candy to go on the side. These items are just extra calories, without any nutritional benefit, and really just a waste of money.
4) Look for some potential nutritional benefit. Let’s take corn for example. Corn, technically a vegetable, albeit a starchy one, has about 4 grams of dietary fiber per ear (7-9 inches), only 125 calories, 2 grams of fat, and about 5 grams of protein! Further, corn is a good source of vitamin C, thiamine, folate, magnesium and phosphorus.
5) Watch what you drink! Choose water, avoid temptation for soda or juice. Kids don’t need the extra sugar in soda, ever. Juice, though it has some potential for vitamin content, simply tacks on the calories to our typically overfilled fuel tank.

Thoughts to take home: Enjoy the changing season, and go out and pick a pumpkin with your kids! There are some fantastic apple orchards and local produce festivals around just waiting for your arrival. However, come prepared. Check out the menu options ahead of time, or travel after you have eaten a meal so you aren’t tempted to make a nutrition nightmare of your own! Happy Autumn!

Lara Field MS, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian and Specialist in Pediatrics with over a decade of clinical and client experience. When she’s not actively working to keep her clients healthy, she’s a busy mother of two active boys and loves testing new recipes in her kitchen. Follow her on Instagram to see her recipe ideas, product suggestions, and see how she manages a healthy lifestyle @larafield.