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It's not a race: 4 tips for mindful eating at the fair

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A fairgoer holds a full bucket of Sweet Martha's cookies.
A fairgoer holds a full bucket of Sweet Martha's cookies on the first day of the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Rasa Troup isn't here to tell you to "eat this, not that" when it comes to the Minnesota State Fair.

In fact, she says, go ahead and eat that Pronto Pup. It's just one day (or maybe two) of eating deep-fried food on a stick all day.

"It's part of the experience of going to the State Fair," says Troup, a registered dietitian with University of Minnesota Physicians. "If there is more consumption of fried food on that particular day, it doesn't cause me too much concern because patterns and nutrition are more meaningful than one day of eating fried foods."

Instead, what she does advocate is more mindful eating at the fair: slowing down, savoring each moment and listening to your body. After all, it's an experience, not a race.

1) Don't fast beforehand

Sure, it might sound like you're doing a smart thing by skipping one meal so you can eat more later. But that's the problem — you end up overeating.

"Skipping the meal and preparing yourself for the feast is not the best technique," Troup says. "If you nourish your body in the morning with a wholesome breakfast, you're less likely to overeat (at the fair)."

2) It's all about moderation

Sure, you could eat that entire bucket of cookies by yourself. But why should you? Troup suggests that you consider sharing whatever food you try in order to watch portion sizes.

Or, if you find yourself feeling full, don't force yourself to finish something. It might sound sacrilegious, but you're not obligated to eat all of something just because you paid for it.

"If you notice, if you're mindful, you'll be able to say, 'That's satisfying, I don't have to finish the whole portion,' " Troup says.

3) Sit down and slow down

You're (probably) not in a State Fair eating contest, so take it easy. Take the time to truly enjoy — or at least experience — whatever it is you're eating by sitting down to eat, looking at your food and even smelling it. It'll add to the experience, Troup says.

"If we do realize it's not the last supper, it's not the last State Fair experience that I will have, I'm more likely going to experience the foods that I like and be curious about them," she said. "And then next year, I can come again and try different food."

Slowing down will also give you the chance to assess whether you're actually still hungry or whether you're full (or at least reasonably satisfied).

4) Sprinkle in some healthy food, too

Just because the State Fair has an abundance of deep-fried food doesn't mean that's all you have to eat, Troup says. Remember that there are plenty of healthy options throughout the fairgrounds, too. Mix some of that healthier fare into your snacking for a more balanced approach.