Three Rivers Festival, once again, brings Food Alley to Headwaters Park. To indulge your junk food urges once a year is probably not harmful and can be part of the festival experience. There is even a free trolley ride to Headwaters if you’re downtown at lunchtime. Easy peasy.
I confess to visiting Food Alley several times over the years, and I don’t ever remember seeing nutritional information or calorie counts on a booth menu or promotional sign. And, no wonder. Knowing more about those bad little goodies you’re eating would take away some of the enjoyment. If you are counting calories though, or have dietary restrictions, buyer beware.
According to the website Livestrong.com, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 provides estimated calorie needs for adults based on average height and weight. Based on those estimates, daily calorie needs for men range from 2,000-3,000, and for women, 1,600-2,400 calories. Buying a large Philly Cheesesteak sandwich? At 900 calories, you’re getting about half of your daily requirements in that one sandwich, plus 40 grams (g) of fat. Yes, you’re getting some protein and carbohydrates but also a whopping 1,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium. Cutting the sandwich in half and sharing it might be a wise move. I admit to liking a good lemon shakeup, but at around 200 calories (11 calories from lemons, 190 from a quarter cup of sugar), I don’t indulge too often.
There are wiser choices that can be made when grazing Food Alley, or, at least, less damaging choices. One turkey leg has about 210 calories with the benefits of 29 g of protein and healthful omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Sodium content is relatively low at 77 mg. If you have to end your meal with something sweet, a slice of pumpkin roll at 370 calories with 280 mg of sodium would be a better choice than an elephant ear at 526 calories, without the sugar, and 1,112 mg of sodium.
Deep fried vegetables sounds like a healthy choice because, well, it’s vegetables, right? I frequently opt for the fried veggies myself. Although I couldn’t find exact calorie content, Livestrong.com says that nutritional value of deep fried vegetables varies with the cooking conditions. Be aware that the frying destroys vitamin E content and decreases vitamins A and beta-carotene (orange pigment in carrots and sweet potatoes that is beneficial to skin, eyes, and vision). Also, the repeated use of reheated frying oil can destroy antioxidants in each batch of vegetables. Anyway, the thought of reheated frying oil is not exactly appetizing.
The Livestrong.com website is helpful for comparing nutritional content of food. I also like the Eat This, Not That series of books by David Zinczenko, which show side by side photos of junky food and the wiser alternate choice. So, be smart in Food Alley and forgo that trolley ride so you can walk off some of those calories you just consumed.