By Chris Stone
No one goes to the San Diego County Fair with the sole aim of eating healthfully. But some vow they will be “good” for at least part of their munching.
However, if you depend on the red-heart designations on a fair-provided food map, you might be surprised.
Or maybe you wouldn’t. After all, who expects healthy food at Tasti Chips or Mom’s Chocolate Chip cookies?
At some of the 40 red-heart booths, the offerings are merely lower calorie versions of fair food. Example: plain Tasti Chips as opposed to those with toppings. Or a veggie hot dog at Pink’s. At other booths, nonsugary drinks are the only healthier option.
The heart icons don’t guarantee “healthy” food, but rather “healthier options available.”
When Times of San Diego asked what their healthier choice was, some workers looked at each other and laughed or said they didn’t know.
A fair spokeswoman Saturday provided a draft press release that said: “A variety of healthy options are offered throughout the Fair, along with learning about nature’s fruits and veggies.”
Most food vendors were aware of the red hearts and were prepared to single out their healthier options, including gluten-free items.
On Sunday, fair spokeswoman Annie Pierce said vendors with a heart on the map “have specified to us that they offer a ‘healthier’ alternative to the foods they typically serve at the Fair, which could include cooking methods (grilled vs. fried), caloric (smaller portions), gluten-free, sugar-free, vegetarian, etc.”
Pierce also revealed that the fair plans a web platform in 2020 that will denote foods and specifics for each food vendor, including the healthier items at each food booth.
Story continues below
There is indeed healthy fare at the fair. The standouts: Roxy’s Restaurant and The Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean has a Greek salad, falafel waffle, and veggie combo dinner. Roxy’s has a falafel burger, veggie combo plate and a salad with shrimp.
The Market by Vons/Albertsons, across from Chicken Charley’s near the grandstands, has packaged fruit bowls, salads and deli sandwiches.
The fair’s popular roasted corn-on-the-cob is healthier if it’s sans butter or mayo.
While some may think turkey legs are healthy, they are packed with more than 1,100 calories and 54 grams of fat, according to CalorieKing.com.
Here are “healthier” or lower-calorie menu items sold at many of the booths with red-heart designations:
- Chicken Charlie’s: grilled chicken with white rice and pineapple and “naked shrimp.”
- Tasti Chips: plain potato chips
- Grinder’s: veggie sandwich
- Pink’s Hot Dog: Ellen D. Veggie Dog
- Timbo’s Beef Jerky: pickle
- Pignotti’s Pasta: Antipasto salad
- Sunset Grill: Philly Cheesesteak
- Chuckwagon: Shredded chicken sandwich
- Dee’s Pan Fred Chicken: grilled asparagus and roasted corn
- Mamacita’s Mexican Food: veggie taco
- Palapa Taco: veggie wrap
- Crutchees Cream: pineapple whip (water rather than milk based)
- Kokopelli Indian Fry Bread: Navajo Taco
- Original Fish & Chips: Ceviche
Other popular purveyors – County Fair Cinnamon Rolls, Corn Dogs, Fresh Cream Puffs, Texas Donuts, Spiral Fries, Australian Battered Potatoes — don’t suggest they have healthy food. People who belly up to the booth know they are enjoying annual indulgences.
New food items at the fair include:
- Deep-Fried Crème Brulèe and Buffalo Chicken Chimichanga – Chicken Charlie’s
- Wicked Witch’s Sriracha Ceviche – S.D.’s Original Fish and Chips
- Flying Monkey Caramel Corn – Kettle Corn
- Wizard of Oz Waffle Pizza – Pignotti’s
- Auntie Em’s Brownie – Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Hot Cheetos Potato – Spud Shack
- Ruby Red Lemonade – Hot Dog on a Stick
- Candy Funnel Cake – Funnel Cake Express
- Yellow Brick Smoothie and Ruby Red Smoothie – Rainbow Treat
- Fried Bacon Plantains – Bacon a Fair
- Blizzard of Oz Frozen Hot Chocolate – Crutchees
- Emerald City Pizza Balls – Linda’s Pizza
- Scarecrow Dog – Pink’s Hot Dogs
“Taste of the Fair” on Thursdays through June offers smaller portions for $3.
The fair’s draft press release also says the fair has partnered with the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative and UCSD’s Center for Community Health to promote the “5210 Every Day!” campaign (with 5 standing for the minimum daily servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 for the maximum daily hours of recreational screen time (and none for children under 2), 1 for at least an hour of physical activity each day and 0 for drinking more water and skipping sugar-sweetened beverages.
The fair also plans a scavenger hunt for kids in partnership with the county’s Health and Human Services Agency — offering various prizes.
Updated at 10:55 a.m. June 2, 2019.
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: