The Mississippi Valley Fair is one of the Quad-City area's top summertime attractions, but the eclectic food choices to be found on the midway don't have to take away from your fitness initiative.
In fact, taking an approach to the fair that includes a bit of pre-planning and forethought will go a long way toward having an experience that's both enjoyable and healthy, local experts say.
Just walking around the Davenport fairgrounds is a sound way to get some exercise, and it's a good idea to actually measure the number of steps you take, suggested Christy Filby of Activate Quad-Cities.
"It's fun to wear a pedometer at the fair. That's a great way to measure your steps and to see just how much you actually move around the fairgrounds," she said.
The spacious fairgrounds on West Locust Street include paved paths that create a loop of about half a mile. Walk that loop just twice and you've got a mile in, pointed out Bob Fox, the fair's director.
Fox's administrative office is along the loop, so he sees walkers on the grounds all the time, certainly beyond the six days of the annual event, which continues its 92nd version through Sunday.
On a hot day such as we had for the start of the fair, it's important to pace yourself and find shade or an air-conditioned place to cool off. All of the fair buildings that are used year-round are air-conditioned, Fox said, and that means virtually every major structure except the barns and the shop area.
The grounds are fairly shaded, but Fox said some of the 100-year-old trees were blown down this year. There are a number of tents, though, and the shade situation gets better after about 5 or 6 p.m., he added.
It's important to stay hydrated, and Filby suggests that you drink water before becoming thirsty. "A lot of overeating issues come when people are actually thirsty, but they perceive it as being hungry," she said.
Some of the food products sold at the fair may trip up your diet, but the cuisine experience should be kept in perspective.
"A lot of times we'll go to the fair all excited about the events or the food without stopping to think about the impact on our health," said Janet Macon, a registered dietitian for the Hy-Vee Food Store located half a block from the fairgrounds.
"But keep in mind that you are at the fair a few days out of the year," she said. "It won't make or break your health. What you do the other 362 days of the year is what impacts personal health."
Some suggestions from Macon about dealing with the fair's food fare include:
- Snack before you go. Have a good meal that's high in fiber and that will help keep you feeling full and not frantically hungry.
- Keep your hands busy with a bottle of water. Idle hands are more likely to hold an unhealthy food item, Macon said.
- Pace yourself if you love a treat or two. "Maybe you have one, two snacks that you only get at the fair this time of year. Have one at the beginning because that's what you are focused on and have the other one later in your visit," she suggested. That way, there's no need to feel deprived and you won't reach for a treat every time you pass a booth.
- Share your treat if possible. A person's enjoyment of a food can pass after about four bites, Macon said. Many of the foods that are offered at the fair come in a huge serving and can easily be split with another person or two.
- Walk off the treat while still on the fairgrounds and then get back on track next week.
"Don't kick yourself. Just get back to your regular routine in the next day or so," Macon said.