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A Spring Fling guide to eating: fast or funnel cake?

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Lindsey Otto | The Daily Wildcat

This graph offers the caloric value of common fair food, alongside the approximate exercise that would be required to burn it completely off.

Fairs like Spring Fling mean rides, game booths and lots of sweet  deep-fried treats. But for someone looking to eat healthy, fairs can be a tricky situation. 

The classic funnel cake has 760 calories and 44 grams of fat— roughly the same amount as four servings of cheese pizza, according to food nutrition comparison sites.

Meanwhile, frying a candy bar, like a Snickers, ups the calories to 444 and 29 grams fat from the usual 250 calories and 12 grams of fat.

While cotton candy is perhaps the healthiest of the sweet treats, with 200 calories and no fat per serving, 200 calories is about equal to two large apples.

Tracy Crane, an assistant professor in the UA College of Nursing, said the best way to avoid eating too many unhealthy snacks at a fair is to make sure to eat before arriving.

“Before you go out, eat,” Crane said. “Even eat out first, just don’t show up hungry, because when you’re hungry you tend to overeat in general, not just at a fair, but at a fair people tend to snack as they walk.”

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Additionally, staying well-hydrated won’t just prevent sunstroke, but could also prevent overeating, according to Crane, as it’s common to mistake cues for thirst as hunger. However, hydrating with water is key.

“Watch out for drinks,” Crane said. “Remember that drinks have calories, too; don’t over do it. Many people will consume hundreds of calories in drinks without even thinking twice about it.”

Eating healthy at an event like Spring Fling starts with having a plan.

“If you have the time, if you’re not meeting someone or something like that, you can take a lap around the whole fair first,” Crane said. “Walk through and see what’s there before you make your decision on what to eat, instead of buying the first thing that looks good to you on impulse. One, walking a lap you can burn some calories, and two, it just helps you make healthier choices.”

Overindulging can cause a range of issues in the long and short run, from weight gain to diabetes or cancer.

“As you get older, your chances of developing other health risks get higher, like heart disease, diabetes and cancer,” Crane said. “For college students, what you’re going to increase is your weight, but we know that later on that leads to those same problems, too.”

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However, fair foods, when eaten rarely and in moderation, don’t have to wreak havoc on the body.

“If you’re going to indulge, think about sharing or splitting it with someone else so it equals out a little more,” Crane said. “Or take some of it home for later; there’s no rule that says you have to eat it all while you’re there.”

Spring Fling club relations director Grant Rees, a business economics junior, said the menu for the event includes fry bread, pizza, tacos, funnel cakes, fries, churros, kettle corn and fried Snickers, Oreos and Twinkies, as well as other typical fair foods.

However, there are also options like meat pies, suya and roasted corn, all of which Crane said could be a better option.

“Look for grilled meat, like kababs, that have lean meats like chicken or turkey,” Crane said. “Grilled corn is also usually a pretty good choice.”

Ideally, look for foods without too many highly processed ingredients, and avoid foods brimming with fat, as those things will cause the body to store fat at a higher rate.

“When you eat foods that are high in processed sugar, sodium, excess fat, those are all things that tend to add extra calories, more than your body needs,” Crane said. “Then, you have a higher risk of putting on weight by laying down those extra calories as fat.”

Overall, Crane said people burn 100 calories per mile on average, whether they’re walking or running, so eating a funnel cake with 760 calories would require around 7.5 miles to work it off—more than just wandering around the fair will add up to.

By eating at home, sharing just one pre-decided food with a friend and drinking enough water, fairs like Spring Fling can be tasty and fun without requiring a half marathon to get back in shape.


Follow Marissa Heffernan on Twitter.



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