Last updated: February 16. 2013 11:45PM - 113 Views

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The "County Fair Diet" has come to be the norm for many Americans rather than the exception.

Take the corn dog. I have one once every 365 days when I go to the county fair. Why not more often? Hot dogs are in the "processed meat" category of foods . . . those that are smoked, cured, or salted for flavor and other qualities. (Note: Any meat that keeps without spoiling in your refrigerator for more than a few days is probably a processed meat.) According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, there is good evidence that eating processed meat increases our risk for colorectal cancer. On the other hand, a diet high in plant-based foods (fruit, vegetables, whole grains and other foods that were in short supply at the county fair) provides substance that can prevent certain types of cancer.

Funnel cake? Let's see...This tasty plate of fried bread dough dusted with cinnamon and sugar is an example of SoFAS (an acronym that stands for Solid Fats and Added Sugars). Health experts blame much of our growing national waistline on these extra calories from fat, sugar and refined grains. (Does it help if we split one between four of us?)

To be fair, the county fair offers some whole foods. I saw corn on the cob. And stir fried vegetables. And the Agriculture Building was selling Brussels sprouts and other fresh vegetables for bargain prices. Still, there is something in county fair food that calls to a lower instinct . . . our natural desire for foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Health experts call these "empty calorie foods" — those that pack on extra pounds yet provide no beneficial nutrients to speak of.

The good news is this: Even if I eat a perfect diet every day with the exact amount of nutrients my body needs for optimal performance, there is still a bit of room (perhaps 100 or 200 calories a day) for some "fun food" in my diet.

So the county fair is over for another year. And the fun of fall begins ... with holidays around the corner.

— MCT Information Services

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