This past weekend a couple of the Practical Nutrition Associate Dietitians attended the Big Eastern States Exposition…aka Big E! I personally haven’t been to the big E since childhood, so getting into the spirit of the fair was lots of fun. The experience was full of childhood memories, excitement over the 100’s of vendors lining the streets, over crowded conditions (if you like to people watch this is the place to be!), but most of all…“FOOD!” (I have that in quotations because the nutrient depleted, over heated, battered, inorganic, synthetically derived, grossly portioned “food” offered at the fair goes against my every definition of food…but thats not the point of this post!) There were amazingly over 140 locations offering food and beverages ranging from from fried butter balls, to pulled pork parfaits, “Craz-E-Burgers” (bacon cheeseburger sandwiched between two glazed doughnuts), and types of meats and sweets in every shape, form, and flavor. I never thought I could see the word “fried” in front of so many foods- from oreos, cheesecake, kool aid, cream puffs, and jelly beans, to clams, vegetables, and kangaroo!
I went into the day only focusing on the positives…how could I not, its the BIg E! We all know the food choices at fairs are disastrous- and part of me wishes I could have handed out “day after nutrition recovery” cards to reverse some of the damage people were doing to their body all day long. But that’s not why I went. The neat thing about the Big E for me was the variety of “classes” of food available. The craziest food options were found scattered throughout the fair in between tents selling things that were fun to look at but otherwise completely useless. The interesting and real food options were found on the Avenue of the States. Each state in New England was designated their own building and featured food and beverage options traditional to their state- of course Vermont had Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and every possible grade of real maple syrup, New Hampshire featured fresh culinary herbs and homemade fudge, Connecticut had local J Foster ice cream and Rose’s Berry Farm, and Maine offered fresh lobster rolls, wild blueberry crisp, and what seemed to have the longest line of them all: Maine Baked Potatoes! These bad boys were the biggest baked potatoes I’d ever seen, loaded with every type of topping imaginable! When I went onto the Maine Potato Board’s website I was amazed at some of the ideas they have for baked potatoes- breakfast baked potatoes, Maine crab baked potato, and even a sloppy joe baked potato! No one thinks quite like a native of Maine!
After a few laps of strolling around the fair observing the most popular “foods” consumed, we had to try a few! The items of choice for the Practical Nutrition team were as follows: Vermont apple pie with vanilla ice cream, giant turkey leg, home cooked kettle corn, and yep, I’m admitting it…fried butter balls (had to do it!)!
A day at the fair was definitely a bonding and eye opening experience for the Practical Nutrition team. As fun as it was trying a few out of the box foods, we were excited to stop at a local health food store on the way home and pick up a bottle of Kombucha (a cleansing, fermented tea beverage!), some fresh vegetables, and lots of water. The night was finished off with a huge salad, loaded with protein and some more water to wash help regain hydration in our body after all of the offending treats.
Here are my three takeaways from our field trip to the Big E:
1. Make time to enjoy the simple joys in life…enjoy a ride at a fair… even in the rain…be a kid again!
2. Don’t let a fear of “bad food choices” get in the way of enjoying an event with family and friends- include detox foods (beets, greens, bright vegetables at most meals, lean protein, healthy fats, lots of water) on a daily basis so your body can handle the once a year you eat a fried butter ball
3. Have a plan after a splurge day to get you back on track with your nutrition maintenance plan. A solid “recovery nutrition plan” includes a meal heavy in greens, vegetables, and a protein the night after, lots of water, a cup of Yogi Detox tea, 2 Cleanse Smoothies the day after, 20-30 minutes of vigorous exercise, and being conscious of limiting refined sugars/grains, sugary drinks, alcohol, and excess caffeine 3 days after the splurge to make sure you don’t get caught in what I call a “sugar cycle”- which can dangerously turn a one afternoon splurge into a week long, unintentional spiral of eating fair food!
Keep in mind making healthy choices is something you have to do for yourself, and can’t be influenced by the choices of those around you. Make sure your decisions to splurge are your own. If you’re feeling a treat outside of your usual plan, go for it! If not, hold back even if those around you are indulging…slowing down and taking time before you enter a social situation to identify what’s best for you is the easiest way to succeed in staying on track with your health.
Stay disciplined and treat your body right with real food as much as you can. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Do what you have to do to get back on track when you get off…don’t make excuses. Enjoy life, family, and friends. Its a good life!
As always, stay well, eat well, and have a beautiful week!