Tag Archives: Minnesota State Fair Food

New State Fair Food Facts List For Diabetics

2 Sep

     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.

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Health Partners dietitian Susan Marschke talking about the Cajun peel and eat shrimp as a zero-carb healthy food option at the Minnesota 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.  

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Figure 1

     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. 

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Figure 2

     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!

A Diabetic’s Guide to Eating at the State Fair!

25 Aug


OK, it’s once again time for the annual trek to the 320 acres of fried food on a stick we call the Minnesota State Fair.

For most hearty Minnesotans, a visit to the fair is the one day where fun replaces common sense, where a balanced diet is as foreign as a balanced budget is to congress.

At the extreme risk of being “That Guy,” the fair poses a challenge for folks who really DO have to watch their diet.  As a parent of two children with type-1 diabetes, a day at the fair is a constant guessing game of how to insulin dose and carb-cover.  Get it wrong, and blood sugars go through the roof and the girls feel sick for the next day.  It’s even worse for cardiac patients who have to keep a keen eye on their fat and cholesterol.

The dietitians at Park Nicollet’s International Diabetes Center have put together a wonderful Food Facts list to help us navigate the fair and still have a lot of fun.  Under the guise of ‘knowledge is power’ they’ve broken down the calorie, carb, and fat content of most of the major food items.

“They don’t need to derail their diet, they don’t need to feel like they’re stuck outside of the group and not enjoying anything,” said Park Nicollet dietitian Mary Ziotas Zacharatos.  “They’re able to eat the things that they like and have more awareness of what their putting in their mouth.”

Park Nicollet Dietitian Mary Ziotas Zacharatos says to enjoy the fair, go with a bunch of friends and share small samples of food.

One of biggest offenders is the Booming Onion.  At 1,565 calories it has 186 grams of carb and 84 grams of fat.

“Most people don’t think about it because it’s an onion and it’s got a little bit of batter on it. But it really could derail your diet,” said Zacharatos.

Those fried cheese curds are another food item to be aware of.  One little paper tray of those golden nuggets of heaven actually add up to 533 calories, and 34 grams of carb and another 34 grams of fat.

Believe it or not, a better choice is a corn dog.  At 210 calories, it only contains 25 grams of carb and ten grams of fat.  Zacharatos says it’s a nearly perfect blend of protein, carb and fat for walking around at the fair.

Zacharatos says you don’t necessarily have to avoid some of the higher calorie and carb food items, just SHARE them.

“The best part about the state fair is to go with a whole group of people and just try a bunch of different things.  That way you can enjoy everything,” said Zacharatos.

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