As a father of two daughters with Type 1 diabetes I know first hand the minefield that fairs and festivals are for eating and bolusing for insulin coverage.
Get it right, and it’s a wonderfully enjoyable day. Get it wrong, and the entire family pays a price. But at best, getting it right is a guessing game. Those nutritional food apps we carry on our smart phones cover commercially made food products, but not always the treats from the mini-donut stand at your state fair.
Several years ago the dietitians at the International Diabetes Center in Minnesota published a Fair Food Facts list of all of the popular items at our Great Minnesota Get Together. I produced a television story and a corresponding blog article about the list and to this day it is one of the most popular stories I’ve done. But with constantly changing food items, the IDC team of dietitians decided to revisit and update their list.
You’ll find the downloadable version at the top of this post.
“You look everywhere at the Fair and there’s somebody walking and eating food,” said Susan Marschke, a Registered Dietitian with Health Partners.
“The one that surprises me is just anything that’s breaded and fried, like those fired Oreos or Twinkies, it’s already something that’s already really rich,” said Marschke.
Perhaps not all too surprising is those deep fried Oreo cookies are among the most popular novelty food items at the Minnesota State Fair. The dietitians discovered they are also among the worst items on their new list. (Figure 1) A serving of five cookies (because no one can eat just one) comes in at 108 carb and 891 calories. That’s a nutritional disaster for anyone watching carb intake, not to mention their calories.
Equally as disastrous are the Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookies. Yes, they’re the most delicious food item at the State Fair, and it doesn’t help that one can buy them in an overflowing pail. But just three of these small treats are 42 carb and 270 calories. (Figure 2) By the time you add that to other snacks at the fair, that’s a lot of extra insulin to cover the carbs, and if you misjudge the dosage or bolus, that person is going to feel pretty sick in no time.
“So I think one of the first things to think about when you plan a trip to Fair for anyone is really, is to pick and choose the things you really like and are really special and eat a little bit of that and share some of it,” said Marschke.
It’s pretty sound advice.
No one, especially parents, are trying to take the fun out of going to the fair. But finding the right foods and the right insulin coverage can make all the difference in having a great day, or a miserable day.
Hopefully this new Fair Foods Facts guide can help. Have fun!