Smell the powdered sugar melting on a funnel cake. Hear thick-cut french fries crackling in a fryer. See the fiery, maroon barbecue sauce dripping from a pulled-pork sandwich.
Then remember you’ve been trying to eat healthier. Heading to the York Fair could mean two things: You’re going to sabotage your diet, or you’ll drink water and snack on the veggies you hid in your purse.
Neither sounds appetizing.
But you can have the best of both worlds, in moderation.
Allie Hardy, registered dietitian with Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center, recommended choosing one food that you can’t get any other time of the year and “really indulging in that food that means fair to you.”
For example, Hardy orders a small chocolate milkshake because it was her favorite as a kid.
“The small is probably going to save you half the calories,” she said.
Hardy said fairs are about bringing people together and creating a sense of community.
“In the ’50s and ’60s, when people indulged, it was OK,” Hardy said.
Now, many people have access to excess every day, evident by the rising rates for obesity and chronic diseases.
Hardy said a little indulgence won’t hurt as long as you eat healthy 80 percent of the time.
Gene Schenck, president of the York Fair, said it isn’t just fair food that can be unhealthy — so is most festival food. However, he said wellness and fairs can coexist.
Schenck started Weight Watchers in January through an employee-wellness program at Buchart Horn Inc. He said he lost 40 pounds and that he won’t indulge as much this year at the fair. But he’s looking forward to his favorite — a steak sandwich.
“I’ll have to make an exception and make up for it with some exercise,” Schenck said.
Despite the greasy smoke you see spilling onto the midway, there are some more nutritious options and better choices available.
Gail Moley, 48, of Dover has run Island Chicken Shack at the fair for the last 14 years. The stand serves grilled chicken wraps and salads with jerk seasoning, fresh salsa, honey mustard, barbecue sauce, or Caesar and homemade ranch dressings.
Moley started the stand with her husband, Phil, who died six years ago, because they enjoyed Jamaican food. She said a demand for more nutritious options led her to serve salads and more varieties of wraps.
She said she sells more salads every year and that she feeds a lot of fair workers, along with fairgoers.“It’s a nice alternative — even if you like funnel cake,” Moley said.
She said her stomach can’t tolerate fair food, and she mostly eats salads. Running the stand made her more aware that there are a lot of people who have health conditions or who prefer eating lighter foods. People can customize their orders at the Island Chicken Shack to meet their dietary needs.
“Special orders do not upset us,” Moley said.
Hardy said more healthy options could one day be available at fairs and similar events if people demand more nutritious foods.
“You need those people to be vocal about what they would like to consume,” she said.
Registered dietitian Allie Hardy provided the following tips to eat healthier at the York Fair.
1. Think about the ingredients. If a food is fried, very sweet, or smothered in cheese, cream or bacon, it’s probably not the best choice.
2. Look for Mediterranean foods, including crepes, pitas, fruit with yogurt and kebabs.
3. Choose the smallest size.
4. Go with a group. Everyone pick one splurge, and share with your friends.
5. Avoid foods that you can get yearround, such as foot-long hotdogs, blooming onions and soda.