Deep fried avocado slices were one of the few vegetarian options available during the 2019 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa.

Snow cones and cotton candy. Nachos with cheese and jalapeños. And let’s not forget corn dogs (my personal downfall). Yep, it’s fair time.

Fair cuisine doesn’t have to completely put us into a food coma every year. But consider this from Dr. Steven E. Nissen, Chief Academic Officer for the Heart and Vascular Institute at the Cleveland Clinic: According to Dr. Nissen, the world’s most atherogenic (i.e., promotes heart disease) food in the world is a deep-fried Mars bar. If you haven’t seen this fair delicacy, it is a Mars-brand chocolate bar covered in batter and then immersed in boiling fat.

Nutritional value? About 600 calories and about 2 tablespoons of fat per serving most of which is the stick-to-your arteries saturated fat type.

I know, I know. Fair time calls for momentary indulgences. What’s life if you can’t dive into a gooey-gooey treat every once in awhile?

Trouble is, says Dr. Nissen, there is no known medicine we can currently take to counteract the excess junk we seem to be packing into our bodies … not just at fair time.

At a recent conference sponsored by the University of Colorado Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes, Dr. Nissen told us that a poor diet is outdoing everything else medical experts have done thus far to reduce heart disease. How? Abdominal obesity (excess fat that hangs around our mid-sections) overflows into the liver, heart and muscles and interferes with the health of all these organs. That can eventually lead to heart disease, diabetes and a shortened life span.

So how do we enjoy our beloved fair food and not fall off the Ferris wheel from a stroke or heart attack? Here are some suggestions:

– Be picky. There are plenty of “this is probably a better choice than that” among your usual fair food selections. Corn on the cob or turkey leg might be just as fun and a lot less damaging than fried chicken and gravy in a waffle cone. Or maybe an ice cold lemonade in place of deep fried Oreos.

– Ask yourself these questions: How important is it to me to add this succulent hunk of fat and sugar to my body? If I eat this, will I feel a) intensely satisfied? b) like a bloated water buffalo? c) or like I had my day at the fair and all is right with the world? Then choose accordingly.

Remember, too, the dose makes the poison. Balance a day blown at the fair with a light, light day afterwards … such as plain water and a stomach pump, for example. Just kidding. Enjoy!

Barbara Quinn-Intermill is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to

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