Let’s Go to the Fair! How to Stay Low-Carb at Your County Fair – CarbSmart Podcast Episode 13

Originally published 6/20/22, Updated by Dana on 6/23/24

Watch the CarbSmart Podcast Episode 13 on YouTube

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Show Notes for the Podcast

Let’s Go to the FairPhoto by John Matychuk on Unsplash

How to Stay Low-Carb at Your County Fair

Summer is here! And for many of us, especially those of us who live in rural-ish areas, that means a trip to the county fair.

Ah, yes, the county fair, home of deep-fried Snickers bars, corn dogs, elephant ears, and so, so much more. Too many folks simply assume that “It wouldn’t be the fair without !” and give themselves permission to gobble every carb in sight, many of them deep-fried in questionable oils, for the duration.

Should You Pause Your Low-Carb Diet for Special Occasions?

I will, therefore, start by denying that “special occasions” give you a pass nutritionally. Your body neither knows nor cares that you’re at the fair; your blood sugar and inflammation levels will rise as high as the fireworks. Yes, I think that an occasional indulgence can work for some people. But. . .

Let’s Go to the Fair
Image by Stephen Marc from Pixabay

But once you give yourself a pass for one special occasion, it’s amazing how many special occasions appear. “I can have one slice of cake on my birthday” becomes “I have to have cake because it’s my kid’s birthday,” then “It was Sheila’s birthday at the office, and everyone was eating cake, so. . .” In the same way, “It wouldn’t be the fair without cotton candy!” starts to bleed over into, “We’re at the shore for the weekend, I have to have frozen custard!” and “The Robertsons brought such a pretty red-white-and-blue cake to the Fourth of July barbecue, it would be rude not to have some.” Next thing you know, you’re indulging for International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Also, some people can, indeed, have a modest indulgence and be right back on track with the next meal. I do this maybe three times a year with potato chips at a party, potato chips being my personal kryptonite. But many of us are addicted, whether to sugar, to wheat (William Davis, MD opened my eyes to the opioid-like addiction wheat can cause), or to carbs in general. I cannot count the times people have told me that they’d been doing great, lost a ton of weight, made huge strides in their health and energy, and were not even having cravings, until they decided, “I’m on vacation!” or “It’s Christmas!” or whatever other occasion they thought merited a “treat”, only to be sucked right back under. I hear from them ten months and forty pounds later. You must be ruthlessly honest with yourself.

So that’s the stern lecture. Let’s get to the enjoyable stuff.

Live Music at the Fair
Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

Let’s acknowledge that there is plenty of fun to be had at the county fair that has nothing to do with food. That Nice Boy I Married and I love visiting the animals, from the chickens to the horses and everything in between. We also have a fondness for the 4-H exhibits, from Lego creations to hand-tailored clothes. And we always tour the commercial buildings; we never know what we’ll find. We particularly love it when the local public library brings used books for sale, or when the shelter brings adoptable dogs we can pet. And who needs to buy pens, pencils, note pads, and other paraphernalia when you can grab swag? Our county fair also has musical performances, stock car races, demolition derbies, horseback riding competitions, obedience and agility trials for dogs, all sorts of things. Heck, I once got bit by an ostrich at our fair!

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Let’s not forget the Midway

How to Stay Low-Carb at Your County Fair
Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

Let’s not forget the Midway. I’m old enough that most of the rides don’t do it for me anymore, but I’ll still ride the Ferris wheel any chance I get, both because I dig it and because George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr, who invented the Ferris wheel, was some degree of cousin. Family honor and all that. But games and rides abound and are not carby in the least. Especially if you’ve got kids, you’ll want to spend plenty of time on rides.

The Ferris Wheel
Photo by Kieran White on Unsplash

And the people-watching! The people-watching at the fair is priceless, and we always, always run into friends.

What Can You Eat at the County Fair?

Still, you may get hungry. So, what can you eat at the fair without torpedoing your nutritional program?

meat on a skewer
Image by Dinor Chagas from Pixabay

I’ll have to go by what I’ve found at my local county fair, Monroe County, Indiana. I have always been able to find something to eat and drink. One vendor sells slabs of grilled pork on a skewer, a meat lollipop. Gotta love that! If you can find a barbecue place that doesn’t automatically slather their ribs with sugary sauce, they’re a great choice, too.

Bratwurst at the County Fair
Bratwurst at the County Fair

A steak sandwich with all the trimmings hits the spot. Maybe you’d prefer a bratwurst? Or Italian sausage with grilled peppers and onions? A hamburger or even an elk burger? In all of these cases, you’ll need to practice the fine art of using the bun only as a holder, sliding the meat and other fillings forward as you consume them – unless, of course, you can find a fork.

I don’t know about your fair, but ours has a vendor that does a brisk business in freshly-fried pork rinds in several flavors, a great choice for munching as you wander around and see the sights.

What to Drink at the County Fair

More Ice Tea at the County Fair
Image by Mufid Majnun from Pixabay

Thirsty? Surely you can find water or diet soda, but I always go for unsweetened iced tea. If you like your iced tea sweetened and don’t want to use artificial sweeteners, a few packets of Truvia or the like slip easily into a pocket or a bottle of liquid stevia into a purse. I have seen sugar-free lemonade our fair, but not every year. However, there reliably are sugar-free lemon shake-ups, although again, this will depend on your feelings about artificial sweeteners.

Michelob Ultra 2.6g Carbs 95 Calories
Michelob Ultra 2.6g Carbs 95 Calories

How about beer? Miller Light has 3.1 grams of carbohydrate per 12-ounce serving, while Bud Light has 6.6 grams, more than twice as much. Michelob Ultra has 2.6 grams. If you’re lucky enough to find Corona Light, 4.8 grams; or Corona Premier, 2.6 grams, they are also gluten-free.

Surely with all that to see, do, and eat, you can have a super-fun time. So go to the Fair!

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