How Healthy Is State Fair Food?

By Martin Brown

A local Raleigh, North Carolina food critic wrote in her blog  on The News & Observer, the region’s major daily newspaper, the following piece on the special treats available at this year’s local State Fair.

From chocolate covered bacon to deep-fried Ho Hos, or if you prefer something more nutritious, deep-fried macaroni and cheese, it’s a health crisis in the making.

In fact if I were a heart by-pass surgeon with the expenses of a big wedding coming up for my daughter, I’d have my business card distributed at the ticket booth.

So here, word-for-word, is what ran in the paper’s website As you read it you might want to have a heart defibrillator standing by:

“I just got to taste the new treats at the fair: deep-fried Ho Hos and chocolate-covered bacon. Here’s my verdict:

Of course, I liked the chocolate-covered bacon because chocolate and bacon are two of my favorite things to eat. They cook the bacon, freeze it, sprinkle each strip with sea salt and dip them in semi-sweet chocolate. While not as satisfying as a Vosges chocolate-bacon bar or the chocolate-covered bacon by our own local chocolatier, Luca Chocolate, it is worth a taste if you like the combination of sweet and salt.

Now to the Ho Hos: I think it all comes down to whether you are a Ho Ho fan or not. I grew up with a box of Ho Hos in the freezer at all times. I was one of those children who would meticulously eat every shard of chocolate off the outside of the Ho Ho before eating the chocolate cake and cream roll. (It’s amazing that I didn’t have childhood obesity. But those were the days when children played outside unsupervised and so I worked off the Ho Hos while climbing lilac trees in our backyard.) As you can imagine, I prefer the deep-fried Ho Ho to the Twinkie. But I think I prefer a regular Ho Ho, fresh from the freezer, to anything deep fried at the State Fair.  I know that’s sacrilege to deep-fried fanatics but that’s my stand.

Don’t forget that Chef Vincent Thomas of the Chef D’lites also will have three new offerings: chicken-fried bacon, which is deep-fried bacon, no breading, with dipping sauces like honey mustard or ranch; deep-fried banana split, which is a deep-fried banana served over ice cream and toppings; and deep-fried sampler, which has the deep-fried bacon and deep-fried macaroni and cheese.”

The next time we bemoan the poor health outcomes in America as opposed to Japan or a dozen other advanced nations around the world, we may want to stop and consider that deep-fried cuisine has yet to catch on there. Somehow though, I can’t see the Japanese washing down a bowl of miso soup, a serving of edamame, and a salmon roll, with a deep-fried Ho Ho.

Somehow, I think, that when it comes to our health and the great American diet, the “ho ho,” is on us.


Martin Brown is the Heath Channel Editor for, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Finding Mr. Right.

His most recent book, Fit in 50 Days, is available now.


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