Visiting the State Fair with Diabetes

Visiting the State Fair with Diabetes

The State Fair is a favorite fall activity. Baby farm animals, fun rides and all the food! But registered dietitians at Parkland know that some of the unhealthiest items can be the most tempting for people with diabetes.

If you’re planning on visiting The State Fair, you want to make sure you don’t make decisions you may regret later.

Parkland dietitians and diabetes experts, Sarah Solly, Rachel Trammell, and Melissa Mendez gave tips for how you can still have a great time at the State Fair, without throwing healthy eating out the window. You can watch the video or read the recap below!

Are occasional cheat days healthy? Should I be more restrictive of my diet for a couple of weeks leading up to a splurge meal?

Rachel: Make sure that your splurge meals for special occasions are exactly that—reserved for special occasions. You don’t want to make it a habit to eat unhealthy foods. That being said, you should maintain your regular, healthy diet for weeks leading up to your visit at the fair.

Melissa: Instead of considering it a cheat day, think of it as a cheat meal instead. Choose one item that you want to try instead of dedicating the whole day to eating poorly.

When do I need to check my blood sugar?

Melissa: It should be the same as normal. Check it once after waking up and two hours after eating a meal. You should always know what your numbers are.

Rachel: Knowing your numbers will help you get an idea of portion control and help you know when you should adjust your eating habits.

Melissa: A good range is between 80 and130, it may be a little high after eating but just being aware of your number can help you make better choices.

Do I need an ‘in case of emergency’ kit? What should be included?

Rachel: You don’t need to bring anything that you wouldn’t normally bring. For example, if you know you need glucose tablets in case of a low blood sugar, bring those.

Melissa: It’s always good to bring your glucose meter and water to stay hydrated.

How do I keep track of what I eat? Will fair foods have nutritional information listed somewhere?

Melissa: I didn’t see any nutritional information or a complete list of foods. So, unfortunately, there’s no real way to track what you’re eating.

Rachel: If you choose packaged foods like an ice cream bar, those nutritional facts are available.

What should I do to plan ahead?

Melissa: I think it’s important to have your regular meals. Some people think they should skip meals in anticipation of splurging later. That’s dangerous because this will affect your blood sugar.

Additionally, if you eat a healthy item high in fiber such as fresh or steamed veggies in advance, you will be more satisfied and you’ll be less likely to overeat at the fair.

Rachel: Eating a meal in advance will also help you with portion control later. You can share with friends and use fair foods as snacks instead of meals.

Sarah: Another tip is to create a game plan by selecting the foods you want to try and mapping out where you will go to get them. This will help you stay focused and keep you from eating unnecessary items.

Rachel: Apparently, there is a location called the Tower that has some healthy items. Try and find that area for some choices that are better for you.

What do I need to do to stay hydrated?

Rachel: Well, water is definitely key. If you have a bottle of water with you at all times, your thirst will be quenched and you won’t crave soda or unhealthy beverages.

Melissa: You are also allowed to bring a cooler to the fair. So pack your own healthy beverages! Some great options are sugar-free flavored water or make your own beverage by spritzing lemon juice in water.

Sarah: Don’t waste your carbs on beverages, drink water and save those carbs for the things you really want.

Are there any big things that I should avoid?

Rachel: Go in there with a plan and clear boundaries. Avoid eating each item in its entirety. Simply have a little of those items.

Melissa: There are so many unhealthy items at the fair. Use your judgment to know which items are high in fat, carbs, sodium, and calories. If you want to taste something, share it with others and choose wisely.

Should I snack before going to the fair?

Melissa: Yes definitely. It’s always good to get a protein and a carb. This will help you feel full for a longer time period. Maybe some string cheese with 2-4 whole-wheat crackers.

Rachel: The last thing you want to do is go to the fair on an empty stomach. This will cause you to eat unhealthy items and larger portions. Eat before you go, and create a plan of action.

How do I use portion control at the fair?

Rachel: The serving sizes are huge at the fair. It’s a good idea to go with others and split the items.

Melissa: If they have pictures of the items on the menu, try to choose items that are easy to split or choose the smaller item.

Rachel: Try to remember that leaving unfinished food uneaten is okay. Just because you bought it doesn’t mean that you have to finish the whole thing. That’s another reason why you should share with others. If you’re worried about wasting money, split the cost (and the serving) with someone else.

What happens after, how do I get back into my routine?

Melissa: If fair foods are your dinner, start your routine the next day with breakfast. If it’s your lunch, continue with dinner so that your blood sugar doesn’t drop.

Rachel: The great thing about fair foods is that it doesn’t come home with you the next day. Don’t overthink it; just make it a smooth transition into your regular diet. Don’t make your splurge meal into a splurge month.

I plan on eating at the fair, but know I will feel guilty afterward. Is this healthy?

Melissa: I think it’s common to feel a little guilt, but there’s really no need to feel that way.

Rachel: Give yourself grace by knowing that you’ll get back into your routine afterward. We should never associate guilt with eating.

Are there any good or healthy foods at the fair?

Melissa: You should be able to find salads, grilled corn (not elote). Even making small changes to dishes could make it healthier (skip the chocolate drizzle or whipped cream on the dessert, for example).

Sarah: If you see something that’s not fried, go for it.

R: Use your judgment. If it’s something that’s fried, it probably has a lot of fat. If something has a lot of sauce, it probably has a lot of sodium. If it’s super sweet, there’s probably lots of sugar. These guidelines will help you make better decisions.

View more tips on being healthy with diabetes on the blog!



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