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Live healthy at the Iowa State Fair

Pork Chop on a stick
The Iowa State Fair is known for its livestock, rides, entertainment, exhibits and incredible food, just to name a few. But for those who are keeping tabs on their health, there are delicious, healthy eating options available and the opportunity to log some exercise every single morning of the fair.

It’s amazing just how many miles and steps you can log while visiting the fair, but Jami Haberl, executive director of the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative, said for the past couple of years, the organization has led exercise sessions from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Expo Hill by the MidAmerican Energy building called Fitness on the Hill.

“On opening day of the fair, we do a special walk that starts at the Grand Concourse and winds around the fairgrounds,” Haberl said. “Then we offer a wide variety of exercises, from tai chi to yoga to Pilates and a boot camp every day of the fair. We want to give people a sampling of the different fitness opportunities that might exist in their own community.”

A lot of campers participate, as do daily visitors. Haberl said Fitness on the Hill helps people burn extra calories before digging into a corndog. But fairgoers seeking healthier fare can rely on the Iowa State Fair’s food finder on its website that lists options for fewer calories.

“We used criteria established by Iowa State University, who contacted the vendors and asked for the calories, total fat, sugars, saturated fat and sodium content for food. The main dish has to be less than 600 calories, and a side dish must have fewer than 300 calories, both with only 25 percent of the calories from total fat and less than 10 percent of the calories from saturated fat, to qualify for the list,” said Mindy Williamson, marketing director for the Iowa State Fair.

Some of the food items starring on the list include baked potato, corn on the cobb, salad on a stick, caramel apple slices, carrots with ranch dressing, watermelon, fruit on a stick, a grilled chicken sandwich, grilled turkey sandwich, peanut butter and jelly (PBJ) on a stick, pork chop on a stick, the Rib Shack cowboy, salads, wraps, shrimp corndogs, veggie corndogs and a slice of margarita pizza.

“Anything on a stick is mobile and great to take with you. There are five different places that serve the grilled chicken sandwich. The kids love the PBJ on a stick. One of our biggest fair favorites is the pork chop on a stick. The Iowa Pork Producers sell thousands of them, and they’re high in protein,” Williamson said. “The Rib Shack’s cowboy has cowboy beans, brisket pork and coleslaw in a waffle cone. We also have tons of locations that offer salads and wraps. The shrimp corndog is a great alternative with fewer calories than a traditional one. It comes with a sweet jalapeno glaze. We also have veggie corndogs.”
 
There are 26 new foods debuting at the 2016 fair. One of those three also is on the fair’s healthy food list: the "Not Your Mamma's Taco" from the Turkey Grill.

“The hardboiled egg on a stick from the Iowa Egg Council also is a good source of protein, a fair favorite and easy to take around. They go through thousands and thousands of eggs feeding fairgoers," Williamson said.
 
Danley-Greiner is a freelance writer from Runnells.