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Falk Students Find Healthy Options at the Fair
Two nutrition students from Falk College set out to find healthy options at a place not known for low-calorie snacks: the New York State Fair.
After their quest at the New York State Fair, nutrition students Mary Briggman ’15 and Rachel Johnson ’15 shared some further insights in their own words.
Mary E. Briggman
Take a moment to imagine that you’ve just crossed the threshold leading into the Great New York State Fair. You quickly scan the surroundings and notice a sea of people, all moving in different directions. Inaudible chatter of conversation fills the air, along with the very distinct and familiar aromas of Fair food. You move forward hoping to discover the source of these delightful smells and find yourself gazing down an aisle with dozens of vendors on either side. Colorfully designed signs promising “Fried Oreos,” “Corn Dogs,” Curly Fries,” and “Hot Dogs” immediately fill your line of sight, while enthusiastic Fair workers vie for your attention, screaming out their product’s attributes.
Although these sinfully rich and, at times, overtly greasy delicacies assault your senses and attempt to pull you in, you move forward with determination in your eyes. You have come to the Great New York State Fair with a mission that most would consider impossible and utterly unthinkable. You must find delicious, satisfying, and HEALTHY Fair food. Can you do it?
The above scenario is the experience I had, along with fellow nutrition student Rachel Johnson, at the 2014 Great New York State Fair. On Saturday, August 23, we traveled to the Fair with high hopes of finding healthy and delicious options. Luckily, we were able to achieve this goal with hard work, dedication, and empty stomachs!
First, we entered the Dairy Building, a very popular destination for fairgoers. There were long lines of people waiting for milk, ice cream, cheeses and various desserts. Rachel and I worked our way through the crowded room and noticed a newly introduced stand called Yo2Go Yogurt, which offers nonfat Greek Yogurt, vanilla yogurt and an array of toppings. According to the wall adjacent this stand, a sign touted “Yo2Go Yogurt is made from New York State farm-fresh milk at the Cornell University Dairy in Ithaca, N.Y.” What can I say? They had me at Yo2Go. The employees graciously provided a list of the product’s nutritional information at our request. I opted for the nonfat Greek yogurt (which packs only 80 calories per cup and also 20% of your daily value in calcium – Woo hoo!) and ordered strawberries, mangoes, and blueberries for the toppings. The combination of thick, creamy Greek yogurt and vibrant fruit was incredibly enjoyable, light and fresh.
At this point in the journey I was excited, not yet full but newly energized to search for more healthy food. Rachel and I traveled from the Dairy Building and down a busy stretch of pavement to a little stand called Sonny’s Landing Gyros. I quickly examined the various toppings and the method in which each gyro was prepared before ordering a meal. Again, the employees kindly provided nutritional content and willingly constructed a gyro, despite several very specific requests: I ordered grilled chicken, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and Feta cheese, stressing that the Tzatziki sauce go on the side. The grilled chicken, a leaner cut of meat than lamb, was cooked perfectly and combined especially well with the toppings, resulting in a very satisfying blend of flavors. The Tzatziki on the side allowed me to monitor and choose the amount of sauce I’d consume, rather than eating whatever amount was spooned-on by the friendly gyro stand employee. In addition to all of these healthy tweaks, Rachel and I shared the meal, cutting calories in half and saving room for more healthy food ahead.
Before leaving for the night, we made two more stops. First, we went to the International Building, where Rachel pointed out a quaint stand called Las Delicias. The vendor offered many choices, of which we selected an entre consisting of plain white rice, black beans and roasted chicken mixed with potatoes and corn. Although the meal was simple in presentation and ingredients, it was packed with flavor and lacked excess grease.
Finally, after a long afternoon of searching, we found ourselves in the Horticulture Building next to a New York State Apple stand. Both of us agreed that a crisp apple was the perfect end to a satisfying day. Although it was not necessarily an easy task, Rachel and I successfully located stands that offered fresh, delicious and nutritionally sound items. Of course there is nothing wrong with indulging in a fried Oreo cookie or corn dog from time to time, but it is incredibly encouraging to know that healthy options exist at the Fair. You can still enjoy the Fair, and choose foods that make you feel full and satisfied, and also avoid the caloric repercussion of, say, the infamous Heart Attack Burger.
A final take away message from our Great New York State Fair adventure: Never be afraid to ask what is in your food or to have it prepared in a manner that meets your dietary goals. From our experience, vendors willingly offered nutritional information and prepared the items to our liking. Even small requests, such as asking for sauce on the side, can make a world of difference when you are attempting to eat mindfully.
You would be surprised at how many puzzled looks you receive from people when you tell them they can eat healthy foods at a Fair. Most people, after hearing such a statement, tend to rattle off a list of unhealthy Fair foods – the Fried Oreos, Cotton Candy, Heart-Attack Hamburgers, Chocolate Covered Bacon – and then they ask which is the healthiest item from that list. If you’re wondering whether you can eat healthy at the Fair, you can. Recently, Syracuse University nutrition major Mary Briggman and myself decided to put a Fair myth to rest: It is impossible for fairgoers to eat healthy foods at the Great New York State Fair. With that in mind Mary and I walked throughout the New York State fairgrounds in search of healthy beverages, snacks and meals.
We began our healthy food-tasting challenge by going to the Dairy Building. While there, we went to a new booth, Yo2Go, sponsored by Cornell University. Fairgoers have the choice of a nonfat Greek yogurt, a vanilla-flavored yogurt, or cottage cheese. After choosing a dairy product, fairgoers can then select from 15 different toppings such as pineapples, mangoes, blueberries, chocolate chips and granola. This parfait option can be a healthy substitution for a fairgoer who wants to satisfy a sweet-tooth.
Mary and I also wanted see if fairgoers could get a complete meal consisting of most of the food groups in the Food Pyramid, if not all of them. For our next food item we went to the International Building and ate at Las Delicias. The name of the booth may sound familiar because it’s one of the restaurants along Westcott Street in Syracuse. At this booth, Mary and I ate a roasted chicken marinated in a broth with potatoes and chunks of corn. The meal came with a side of white rice and black beans. If you get the roasted chicken meal, consider sharing it with someone or save it for later. With this meal we were able to get a grain, two proteins and two vegetables. Also, the food was either roasted or baked, which are healthier ways of preparing these items compared to frying them.
It’s normal to attend the Fair and crave a particular item, and my craving at the Fair this particular day was for an apple fritter topped with ice cream. I had been hearing good reviews about the apple fritters. However, while searching for the apple fritter stand, we found a fresh apples and apple cider stand. Here fairgoers can purchase three apples for a dollar and cider for $2. I opted for the fresh fruit, and I can honestly say that these products were so fresh and deliciously satisfying that I did not even miss the apple fritters. This is just one more way of finding healthy items at the Fair.
Although Mary and I went to the Fair in search of healthy foods, the Fair comes only once year! It’s OK to indulge in your guilty-pleasure foods every once in a while, which is why I decided to try Tully’s Good Times restaurant’s infamous chicken fingers and fry combo. Although most of the product was fried, it was delicious. So if you’re going to the Fair, search around for those healthy and delicious food items. However don’t be afraid to go to your favorite food booth and eat your favorite food item.