Photos of the state fair rides and food vendors

8 Helpful Tips for Eating Healthy at the State Fair

Eating healthy at the state fair can be so difficult! If you’re looking for some tips for how to make it easier, you’ve come to the right place!

I love the state fair! Every August the Indiana State Fair is on my calendar for at least one day, often two. (It helps that we get in free one day thanks to our AAA membership!)

I love the atmosphere of the fair. From the baby pigs squirming around mom to the Clydesdale horses parading their strength. From the 4-H dancers and cake decorators to the rocket model displays and handmade furniture. From the free music stage to the Ferris wheel lit up at night. I love it all!

Well, almost all.

There was a day I loved the food too. But anyone on a healthy diet knows eating healthy at the state fair is difficult. Two weeks before the fair even begins advertisements for the new top thing they are going to deep fry bombard our feed. (At some point they’ll run out of options, right?!).

Most of it actually sounds appealing, though I have to say donut hamburgers sound nasty, guys! You cannot convince me otherwise!

What are the Best Tips for Eating Healthy at the State Fair?

Some of you came to this post today because you genuinely want to eat better at the fair this year. I commend you! Others came to this post because you have no option but to avoid certain foods or have chosen a certain diet for many reasons.

If you are on a restrictive diet of any kind, I get it. I’m right here alongside you, smelling that deep-fried cookie dough, envying that woman with her huge ice cream cone, and craving those kids’ elephant ear.

But we can do this!

*** Note: Each person is different and responds differently to foods. This blog shares Alicia’s experiences and options you may want to try if you are trying to avoid similar foods. Please do your research, speak with your healthcare professional, learn what bothers you and helps you personally, and make choices from there.

A photo from the sky ride high above the state fair. eating healthy at the state fair

1. Research the Fair Food Ahead of Time

As discussed in a former post, it is best to research restaurants before visiting a new city. But it is also best to do some research on healthy options before arriving at the state fair.

Every state fair is a little different, but some of them will list the gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options on their website. While that doesn’t help those of us with several food restrictions, it gives us a better idea of what is available.

2. Arrive Early Enough to Scout Out Your Options

Photo of the entrance to kiddie land at the state fair. Eating Healthy at the state fair

Don’t arrive at the fair on an empty stomach. Give yourself time to enjoy the fair while seeing what’s available.

You might be surprised at some of the food vendors you find. Last year, at the Indiana State Fair, I noticed a vegan vendor right as we were leaving. Indiana does not have many vegan restaurants, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a vendor! I don’t know what they sold, but I made sure to tell a few of my vegan friends. It’s vendors like these that you might be surprised to find!

3. Tips for Eating Healthy at the State Fair: Look for Fruit and Veggies

A food vendor selling vegetables at the state fair, allowing visitors to be eating healthy at the state fair
There are often several food vendors selling vegetables at the state fair.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to find the fruit and veggies. This is no easy task! Meat and processed sugars are everywhere. Fruits and veggies, on the other hand, are a diamond in the rough. But there are usually a few stands.

Fruit can sometimes be found in a fruit bowl or even on a stick with yogurt to dip (if that’s within your diet). Veggies may be found raw, but can often be found sauteed. Those trying to avoid wheat may like corn on the cob, though I recommend you avoid (or drastically reduce) the butter if you’re trying to eat healthily. Pre-made salads may be ideal. I’ve even heard of some state fairs having salad on a stick!

4. Search for Simple Meat

Look for meat options that don’t come with breading or seasonings that may be harmful to you. For example, I avoid corn and wheat, so I may ask to see the seasoning for the meat and cross my fingers it doesn’t contain corn derivatives. (However, I am “corn lite”. If you are allergic to corn, please do your research. The definition of “safe” when it comes to corn is different for everyone).

Turkey legs can often be a great option for eating healthy at the state fair! At our state fair, I can often find several turkey leg stands throughout the fair.

Another option may be grilled shrimp.

One time we found steak bites that I could eat. Even better, the food stand was also selling sauteed veggies!

5. Tips for Eating Healthy at the State Fair: Remember the Long-Term Goal!

I get it. It’s hard to remember the long-term goal when you’re at the state fair. People are walking around with cotton candy and fried twinkies. The food looks good and smells even better. It’s a bit torturous!

But, whether the long-term goal is weight loss, a good report from the doctor, or not feeling like crap the next day, the rewards really do outweigh the temptations. I used to feel sick for hours (sometimes even days) every time I ate dairy and corn. I eventually learned I didn’t want to feel like that anymore.

A ferris wheel at the state fair

Similarly to me, I doubt you want your doctor getting on to you or, for the first time is several weeks, the scale not dropping a few numbers JUST so you could cheat with unhealthy food for a few minutes. Remember your goal, and keep it at the forefront of your mind!

Looking for lists of restaurants that can help you follow your healthy diet even while on vacation?

Jacksonville, FL,  Savannah, GA, Indianapolis, IN, and Washington DC.

6. Tips for Eating Healthy at the State Fair: Consider Bringing Your Own Snacks to the State Fair

Picnic tables in front of a music stage at the state fair. Bringing food makes eating healthy at the state fair easier.
Bring your own healthy snacks or food and eat at a picnic table at the state fair.

This is by far the best way to know you are eating healthy at the state fair. It also saves you a lot of money! (Those corn dogs and ribbon fries are not cheap!)

And it allows you to eat whenever and wherever you please. No waiting in line for half an hour or walking for several minutes around the state fair for that one stand with vegetables. You can eat healthy at the State Fair whenever you want!

7. Drink Water with Lemon to Jazz it Up

Adding lemon to water is a great trick to make you feel like you still get a little treat.

Hydration is so important, especially on the hot days that usually accompany the state fair.

Lemon water is a fun way to jazz it up. It’s a healthy version of lemonade! Yum!

If drinks are allowed to be brought into your state fair, add lemon to your water before heading out. If not, try asking the vendor selling lemon shake-ups for a cup of water with a few lemon wedges. You may pay a few dollars, but it’s so worth it for a nice, cold, healthy drink!

8. Eat Ahead of Time

If you only plan on visiting the state fair for a few hours, possibly eat ahead of time. It is so much easier to avoid the bad food when you aren’t hungry!

Best Tips for Eating Healthy at the State Fair: Remember You Got This!

I will be the first to say eating healthy at the state fair is hard. Really hard. But by researching ahead of time, bringing snacks, arriving with enough time to scope out the place, and remembering your long-term goal, you’ll be much more equipt to stick with the diet you intended. You got this!

Two llamas in a crate looking at the camera
They’re cheering you on! 🙂
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2 years ago

The smell of fair food is definitely hard to resist! Thank you for sharing these tips for eating healthy at the state fair.

Keirsten Morris
2 years ago

These are some great healthy eating tips for travel too, not just at the state fair! Planning & researching menus is always key for me. Thanks for sharing 🙌

Lisa Manderino
Lisa Manderino
2 years ago

It is so hard to eat healthy at the fair! These are some great tips to stay on track

2 years ago

These are great reminders for eating healthy at the State Fair. We like to bring our meals in a cooler in our car. Then we take a break at our car to have a healthy meal that will keep us energized for the next few hours.

2 years ago

Bringing your own snacks seems the best choise of eating healthy at the State Fair. It might be a lot of work to find fruits and veggies — that aren’t deep fried.

Cindy Moore
Cindy Moore
2 years ago

These are excellent tips for eating healthy at the state fair! As one living a plant based, sugar and gluten free lifestyle I usually have to bring snacks, or eat ahead of time and simply drink water. It’s all good though. Eating healthy has too many benefits to cheat!

Stacey Billingsley
2 years ago

These are great tips! It’s been a while since I’ve been to a state fair. This post makes me want to go back! I don’t know if I can resist the treats, but you’ve given some great examples for alternatives!

2 years ago

I love fair food but I can’t have dairy. Thanks for these great tips.

2 years ago

These are great tips on how to eat and enjoy healthy food at the state fair. Funnel cakes always smell like a good idea but then feel awful afterwards.

Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog
Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog
2 years ago

The smell of the food fair is absolutely tempting! These are amazing ways to eat healthy while a the fair. Thank you for sharing.

Karen Kasberg
1 year ago

As someone who has to eat gluten-free, I usually avoid fair food all together. I just eat before I go and enjoy a lemonade while I’m there. You do offer some really great tips however. Thanks for sharing.