All those flashing carnival lights might lure you in to eat that corn dog, but back away slowly. The fried part is even worse for you than the hot dog part, according to this personal trainer.
Summertime is the most deceptive season of the year. It lures you into a false sense of relaxation and leisure with its tank tops and umbrella drinks, but then, BAM! It’s all sunburn, swimmer’s ear, and waffle thighs from cushion-less patio chairs. Another one of summer’s cruel jokes is that it’s the season with the skimpiest clothes, and the one with the fattiest foods. Summer, why do you hate us?
To examine the foods of summer, I talked to Briana Stockton, a professional raw food chef and certified personal trainer, whose clients are so famous I can’t tell you their names. Despite her busy schedule, I was able to talk to her about the foods you’re likely to find this summer at a carnival, BBQ, and the beach. She gave each one a grade, and offered alternatives for how to eat (relatively) healthy, no matter where summer takes you.
Fairs and carnivals
Briana: The fried part is worse for you than the hot dog part.
Dara Nai: Even with the nitrates and random snout parts in a hot dog?
Briana: That’s how bad frying is.
Fried dough and funnel cake
B: They’re all an F!
DN: What if the dough is light and airy?
B: If the dough is light and airy, you would think that’s better. But you’re in danger of eating even more of it. If the dough is dense, maybe you’ll eat less? Either way, fried dough is an emphatic F.
B: If you mean the deep-fried ones with no batter, they’re not the worst things you could eat at a carnival.
DN: And you’ll look like Fred Flintstone, or a medieval knight holding one.
B: At least turkey is a lean protein. It should be lower than a C- for being fried, but compared to funnel cake …
B: You mean fresh-squeezed citrus, but then ruined with a pound of sugar?
DN: If by “ruined” you mean “made better,” then yes.
B: Yeah, stick with water.
BBQ tri-tip, brisket, ribs, pulled pork, etc.
Grade: C (sandwich), B (no bread)
DN: What about the sauce with all its brown sugar, molasses, and whatnot?
B: Even with the sugars in the BBQ sauce, it’s not fried! If they’re also grilling vegetables, I would actually choose those over anything else. If choosing the meat, I avoid white bread.
B: Fattening dairy is not great for you, but hey, we’re at a carnival. If it’s coconut milk ice cream, I’d give that an A+.
DN: Coconut milk ice cream? What carnivals do you go to?
DN: Really? I thought “F” is for fried.
B: Pickles are a great source of electrolytes. Pickle juice is one of the best things after a workout.
DN: How many electrolytes could there possibly be in a fried pickle? One?
B: I guess that would depend on how juicy it is.
B: Fried processed sugar!
DN: What’s your point?
B: Is there something below F minus?
DN: Really? That’s not so bad.
B: Here’s the deal. Yes, it’s just sugar and will go straight to your bloodstream, but it’s not a funnel cake. And, it’s mostly air.
B: It’s ice, with a splash of simple syrup. If you’re doing a no-sugar summer, obviously stay away. But snow cones are essentially just water.
DN: Worse than cotton candy? Interesting.
B: Cotton candy isn’t going to stick in your colon. Kettle corn will.
DN: Thanks for that mental picture.
Bottom line: What to eat at a carnival or fair
Briana recommends grilled veggies as a sandwich. If veggies are too hard to find, try a BBQ plate, no bread, and for dessert, a snow cone and maybe some cotton candy, if you really want a treat.
Macaroni salad and potato salad
Grade: C (macaroni), B (potato)
B: Potatoes will always beat macaroni. At least potato salad has some potassium.
DN: What about coleslaw?
B: You know I’m all about raw foods. Raw cabbage is an antioxidant! With apple cider vinegar, some oil, or even stoneground mustard, instead of mayonnaise? I’d give that version an A.
Corn on the cob
DN: I assume you mean without butter?
B: Try some coconut oil or some sea salt instead, that’s really good.
DN: Agreed, with vodka!
B: Even better.
Grade: B- (hormone-free)
B: I’m always going to choose a veggie burger over a meat product, even if it’s frozen and most of the nutritional properties are gone.
DN: Over fresh meat? Why?
B: Because of the hormones you’re ingesting, if it’s not hormone-free. But also, grilling meat fat at high temperatures makes smoke. That smoke is full of chemicals that are carcinogenic.
DN: I thought grilling is bad?
B: Grilled vegetables don’t create the chemical-filled smoke that meat does.
Bottom line: What to eat at a BBQ
Briana suggests going with grilled veggies, a vinegar-based cole slaw, corn on the cob with sea salt, and any kind of salad. If you must have a burger, make it hormone-free, preferably grass-fed beef, and skip the bun.
Boardwalk and beach
B: All that mayonnaise!
DN: I know. I kind of can’t even.
B: Also, ditch the bread.
B: No fried! Peel-and-eat shrimp are much, much healthier. I would give them an A.
DN: But they’re more work …
B: That’s the fun part!
B: Stop asking me about fried food!
Grade: F (fried), C (grilled), B (broiled)
DN: Why is broiling better than grilling? Aren’t they the same?
B: Broiling has the flame above the food. In theory, there’s less chance of the fat drippings smoking and becoming carcinogenic.
DN: Onions are vegetables …
Fish and chips
DN: Two fried things. Your favorite!
B: F and F.
B: Raw food is best.
B: That’s a whole lot of cream. And don’t eat the bread bowl.
Bottom line: What to eat at the beach
Not surprisingly, Briana would choose items from the raw bar (lemon, yes; butter, no.) She would also order or build a ceviche, if possible, for the fresh tomato, lime juice, etc.
If you want ice cream, have a small cup without the cone. Go for broiled dishes over anything fried. Look for grilled veggies and fresh salads. Split some cotton candy with a friend —
you’ll eat less of it, and it’s more fun to share anyway! Basically, eat smart without completely depriving yourself. It’s summer! Enjoy it! But if you see fried Oreos, run.
Dara Nai is an LA-based humor writer whose credits include scripted television, entertainment, and pop culture journalism, celebrity interviews, and cultural commentary. She has also appeared in her own show for LOGO TV, written two independent sitcoms, and inexplicably, served as a judge at an international film festival.