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Planning Fair Food In Your Diet

Can you enjoy fair foods and still not gain weight?

Nashville, Ark. – What could be better than a night at the county fair checking out the exhibits, watching a livestock show, enjoying one of the famous hamburgers from the kitchen, peach cobbler or ice cream? Can it get any better? Fair season is upon us. The Howard County Fair starts Monday, followed by other fairs around the area, and ending with the state fair in October.

            At each fair, food is as much a part of the fair as the exhibits, rides and livestock shows. All the fair food we enjoy this time of the year can add extra calories. But hey, fairs involve a lot walking, so we’ll probably burn off those extra fair food calories, right? Maybe – if we walk up to 1.5 miles for a bag of cotton candy and 3 miles for a funnel cake.

            Big portions with lots of sugar and fat calories characterize most of the foods we traditionally associate with fair. For many of us, attending the fair wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without these treats. Some may be once-a-year foods for us, and we look forward to those foods at the fair.

            So, can you enjoy these foods and still not gain weight? It depends on what you eat and how much you eat.

            On average, you have to walk about 1 mile to burn 100 calories. Most walking trails around the county are laid out for you to easily get a mile in. At Dogwood Pavilion trail, at the city park, two times around the trail equals one mile. Or, if you prefer to go by time, at a 3 mph pace, it’ll take you 20 minutes to go a mile. Walking at 4 mph, it’ll take 15 minutes to go a mile.

            Here is a list of favorite fair foods and the distance needed to walk to burn off the calories.

  • Caramel apple – 3 miles
  • Corn dog, large – 4.5 miles
  • Cotton candy – 1.5 miles
  • Fried candy bar on a stick – 4.5 miles
  • Funnel cake, 6-inch diameter – 3 miles
  • Soft drink, 32 oz. – 2.5 miles
  • Sno-cone – 2.5 miles
  • Soft pretzel – 3 miles

            Wow! Before you stuff your picnic basket with carrots and celery sticks and head to the fair, consider this: With a little planning, it’s possible to fit in many favorite fair foods in an overall healthy diet.

  • Start by ordering the small drink instead of the larger sizes. Better yet, buy water to drink at zero calories and spend your fair-day calories on something else.
  • Split fair foods among several people. For example, share a large funnel cake with friends.
  • Limit yourself to your favorite fair foods. Choose reasonable serving sizes of lower sugar and lower fat items. They are possible. Instead of the double meat, double cheeseburger; order the single meat, single cheese version.
  • Plan times to eat, rather than grazing your way from one end of the fair to the other. Mindless eating is eating without paying attention. Before you know it, that whole bag of chips is gone!
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You are more likely to walk further if your shoes are comfortable. Consider tracking your steps to see how far you walk. There are free apps available or wear a pedometer. One mile equals about 2,000 steps.

            Finally, if you do overindulge, try to eat healthier the next day. Going overboard one day will not necessarily ruin your diet. It’s when we go overboard several days in a row. So go ahead and enjoy some of your favorite foods at the fair, just don’t over do it!

            Need some help getting started with a walking plan? Consider forming a team and joining the Fall Walk Across Arkansas starting September 29 and going through November 23. This eight-week program encourages participants to get out and exercise! To join, you just need to form a team of 2 to 10 people, register your team and members online at and start walking.

            Throughout the 8 weeks, members will log the time they exercise each day. This can be done by the team captain or members on a weekly basis. While walking is the preferred method of exercise, many other types of exercise can be counted, including housework, gardening, etc. The goal is to get up and get moving!

            Members will receive encouragement throughout the program through online newsletters, which is full of tips and tricks to keep you on track plus nutrition information. And the best thing is it is free to join!

            If you would like more information on healthy eating, Walk Across Arkansas, or other exercise programs offered through the University Division of Agriculture, contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

A couple of tips about entering items in the Howard County Fair. All home arts entries will be accepted on Tuesday, September 3 from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Baked goods and plants can be brought that day or you can bring them on Wednesday from 8:00 – 9:30 a.m. Photographs must be mounted on an 11 x 14-inch mat. For complete rules and regulations, pick up a copy of the fair tabloid available at the several locations around the county or at the Extension Office. There are several new contests and activities to check out!

Recipe of the Week

            You can make your own funnel cakes at home. Here is the recipe!

Funnel Cakes

2 ½ c. self rising flour

¼ c. sugar

1 1/3 c. milk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

Vegetable oil

Sifted powdered sugar

            Combine flour and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add milk and eggs and beat until smooth. Heat oil to 375 degrees. Pour ¼-cup batter into a funnel with a 3/8-inch opening, keeping finger over the bottom opening of the funnel. Hold funnel over hot oil. Remove finger from funnel end to release batter into hot oil; move funnel in a slow, circular motion to form a spiral.

            Fry each funnel cake 1 minute or until edges are golden brown; turn and fry until golden. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining batter. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm. Yield: about a dozen (5-inch) cakes.

            Note: These are great as snacks anytime. They are also nice for breakfast. They can be sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon or topped with syrup.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.