The Orange County Fair may be heaven for junk-food junkies, but for the diet-conscious masses, it can be culinary hell.
Lots of people have "food issues" when they get to the fair, experts say.
"You're there to have fun, but there's a lot of temptation. Wonderful food is a part of life," said Wendy Yellin, public relations manager for Weight Watchers, North America.
"We all know what kind of food they have at the fair," Yellin added, "and we tell our members to plan ahead when it comes to events that have food like that."
Why sugarcoat it? "Food like that" means one thing: fat.
While concession folks generally would prefer to be lowered into the vats of fat they use than reveal how much of it they go through, officials at RCS Carnivals did say their 10 food service units expect to use 10,000 pounds of sugar, 4,000 pounds of popcorn, 37,500 apples and 75 cases of caramel dip during this year's 17-day run that starts Friday.
So, what if you do decide to give in to the sausage sandwich with a side of fried sweet potatoes and a funnel cake chaser? Will you wake up the next day ready for one of Elvis' latter-day jumpsuits?
"No, you aren't going to gain 20 pounds from a day of overdoing it," Yellin said. "But the next moment you can, you start over. And if you have advance notice, plan ahead."
That means taking along sugarless gum, water and low-fat snacks, or opting for more healthful items that have cropped up in recent years.
Designer water is available, and the Fruit Caboose, for instance, has strategically placed nonfat yogurt among such menu items as frozen drumsticks, shakes and strawberry shortcake.
Selections at Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls also include a few departures from fair cuisine, such as fruit smoothies, hot tea and iced cappuccino.
Perhaps the sneakiest health-food addition in recent years, however, is at the L&L; Concessions booth, located this year on Commerce Lane at the fairgrounds.
Tucked within the traditional, mega-caloric offerings such as roast beef, barbecued beef, hamburgers, hot dogs and fries, they have--yes, it's true--a garden burger.
"Veggie burgers at the fair?" asked one out-of-towner planning to hit the fair.
"In the Midwest, they'd laugh at a veggie burger at the fair. That's just way too California," he said.
Finally, for those who simply can't resist the 10 Pound Buns and Texas Donuts, Yellin advised, "Don't beat yourself up. Have fun."
Some tips to give your diet a fighting chance at the Orange County Fair:
* Drink lots of water: Drinking water throughout the day will curb your appetite.
* Exercise: Offer to be the one in your group to take the kids on trips to the restroom or attractions a brisk walk away. Keep moving.
* Ease up now, splurge later: By eating less the day before and the morning of the fair, or filling up on raw veggies before you go, you can splurge on that corn dog or favorite fair treat.
* Don't finish: There's no law that says you have to polish off the entire cheesecake on a stick. If it's a taste you crave, take a few bites and toss the rest.
* Make trade-offs: It may not hit the spot like a Monster Cinnamon Roll, but a fresh-fruit smoothie or a nonfat yogurt are sane alternatives and are available at the fair if you have the fortitude to seek them out.
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Belly Up to Calorie Counter
Vital Statistics on Fair Food (may vary with portion size and preparation):
Item Calories Fat grams Corn dog 360 25 Funnel cake 492 28 Bratwurst on a bun 437 23 Turkey leg with skin 1,080 60 Nachos 475 35 Frozen banana 370 15
Source: Theresa Grumet, dietitian, Newport Physical Therapy
Item Calories Fat grams Corn dog 220 9 Funnel cake 620 38 Bratwurst on a bun 340 29 Turkey leg with skin 1,133 53.6 Nachos 580 32 Frozen banana 591 25.4
Source: Provided by Weight Watchers from The Complete Book of Food Counts by Corinne T. Netzer