No trip to the North Carolina State Fair is complete without food. And when we think about fair food, what comes to mind? Greasy, deep-fried everything. But if you're not into deep-fried Oreos, Twinkies, or the latest concoction, deep-fried Jell-O, don't worry! There are plenty of other options that taste delicious but won't leave you with that queasy, overstuffed feeling.
However, the state fair only comes once a year, so if you've just got to have that funnel cake or jumbo turkey leg, remember that you can always share. Splitting deep-fried delicacies is a good way to indulge in moderation at the fair.
Here are the top ten mostly healthy foods that will help you find unique, satisfying options at the state fair that won't leave you in a food coma.
The Neomonde stand near the Dorton arena offers a ton of healthy options to choose from. They've got two kinds of hummus you can order with pita: original, and for the more adventurous, cilantro jalapeño.
The quinoa tabouli is excellent, and the chickpea fries with spiced harissa sauce is an aromatic, healthier alternative to French fries. Other options include meat kabobs, salads, and gluten-free pumpkin-spiced cupcakes.
#SpoonTip: Check out the Neomonde Baking Demonstration Tent near the Flower and Garden Show. You can find out exactly how Neomonde makes their bread so delicious, and purchase made-to-order oven-baked savory pies (I recommend the Spinach and Feta Carré), fresh pastries, and coffee.
2. Greek food
Similar to the foods served at Neomonde, Greek food stands at the fair offer a wide selection of gyros and pitas filled with meat or portobello mushroom for vegetarians. Grape leaves, spinach pies, kabobs, and Greek salad are other healthy options.
John the Greek is the major food stand for Greek food, with multiple locations throughout the fair, but Midway Cafe and Strates Fine Food also makes some mean Mediterranean dishes.
3. Frozen Bananas
Frozen bananas are a great way to add some healthy fruit into your diet. Even dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with nuts, it's still one of the healthiest desserts at the NC State Fair.
You can find frozen bananas at the Fun Food stand, Willard Greg, and S2 concessions.
4. Mixed Nuts/Peanuts
Roasted mixed nuts and boiled peanuts are two of the healthiest snacks you can get at the NC State Fair (unless you're allergic to them like me). They're nutritious, packed with plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals like copper and manganese.
Get your nut fill at stands like the Blanchard, Peanut Man, and Captain Jack.
5. Corn on the Cob
There's nothing better than a fresh, roasted ear of corn. It's delicious plain, with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, or dipped in a light coating of butter. If you're getting an ear, go to Hills Corn on the Cob. I think it's the sweetest, juiciest corn at the fair.
6. Baked sweet potatoes
Choosing to eat a baked sweet potato at the fair is not only satisfying, but also gives you the chance to support local agriculture. In fact, North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the country.
The "Got To Be North Carolina" initiative features an entire exhibit with local vendors dedicated to using the agricultural bounty in our state. You can find baked sweet potatoes at multiple vendors including Weidright and Train Station Concessions.
7. Baked potatoes
If you still want to satisfy your potato craving but don't want the grease and fat of French fries, a baked potato is the way to go. With or without a swath of butter, it's a satisfying snack. For more protein, you could sprinkle some cheese on top or fill the potato with a scoop of sour cream and a dash of chives on top.
They're offered at a variety of different food stands, including Weidright and Train Station Concessions.
You can get apples in a variety of forms at the fair, from candy and caramel apples to apple cider and apple dumplings (shown above). Although these treats contain considerably more sugar than a plain old apple, they are still healthier than most other fair foods.
The Heritage Series offers some of the best freshly-pressed apple cider. Infused with cinnamon and cloves, it evokes all the fall memories.
While pretzels may not be the healthiest choice at the fair, they're relatively healthy compared to the Bloomin' Onion and other fried doughs. That satisfyingly crispy outside combined with the chewy inside of a salted pretzel will fulfill all of your carb cravings.
You can find warm, hand-rolled pretzels at The Pretzel Lady near Gate 9.
10. Fried Veggies
While this may not be the healthiest choice on the list, at least you're getting a serving of vegetables! My personal favorite is fried okra (which you can find at the State Farmer's Market stand), but the Veggie Patch stand also offers tempura-fried mushrooms, broccoli, and zucchini.
If you like veggies minus the grease and breading, you can find vegetable soup, stir-fried veggies, and veggie sides like collards and green beans at various spots throughout the fair.
These foods only scratch the surface of what is offered at the North Carolina State Fair, so be sure to go exploring! For more information on what food vendors are serving at the fair and where they're located, check out the list here.