In between the rides and attractions, you can easily spend your time eating from one end of the Erie County Fair to the other. But can you do it in a healthy way? This year’s fair offers some good options.
Thoughts of the Erie County Fair often drift towards the sounds and smells of fresh kettle corn popping and deep-fried just-about-anything bubbling in hot oil.
But most of those summer-time delicacies don’t exactly fall into the healthy category. It’s why the fair is once again teaming up with the Independent Health Foundation to offer a “Healthy Options” menu.
“What they’re trying to teach us is that you can eat healthy and still have taste,” said Erie County Fair Marketing Manager Marty Biniasz. “You can still have variety, and you can still be satisfied with those healthy options.”
Out of 125 vendors, more than a dozen will offer items like smoothies, salads, kebabs, and even deserts that can be tagged with orange “healthy options” stickers on menus.
“That means that we looked at the items, ran it through our nutrition analysis system, and they meet our criteria. So they’re lower in calories, fat, sodium, and saturated fat,” explained Brianna Bartholomew, a nutritionist with Independent Health Foundation.
Bartholomew said the options are getting more popular and, in past years, vendors even told her that they sold out. The program also looks at what ingredients are being used.
“We want to make sure they’re fresh ingredients,” said Bartholomew. “Nothing’s going to be fried. All natural.”
That’s essential to people like Sal Butera. His family has been cooking at the fair for decades.
“My mom and dad started Salvatore’s Pizzeria in 1955. In 1956 they came to the Erie County Fair, and we’re still here to this day,” Butera said.
He still uses recipes that his parents brought from their Blasdell restaurant, and everything is made from scratch, including a balsamic bruschetta on flatbread that was a runner up last year for best new food.
“It’s light, yet filling, and it leaves you a lot more room to enjoy the rest of the day,” said Butera. “Tou’re not worried about clogging your veins with the bad stuff, and it’s not deep-fried.”
Butera believes offering a “quality product,” including this healthy one, pushes other food vendors to do the same. And he might be right.
Even foods that aren’t on the official list are being touted as healthier options. Tony Ocasio from Mineo and Sapio – the nearly century-old Italian sausage makers on Buffalo’s West Side – points out that their “Dirty Bird” sandwich uses a low fat chicken sausage.
“It’s three and a half grams of fat per link,” explained Ocasio. “What we do is mix it with caramelized onions, barbecue sauce, some melted cheddar, and then we put our Asian slaw in it. And then we put a creolaise [sauce] onto the ciabatta roll, and then grill it, and then build a sandwich from there.”
It might not meet the criteria – especially with all the extras – but maybe it’s a step in a better direction. Even Ocasio admits that some of the healthy options are among his favorites.
“I do like Sal’s bruschetta over there,” said Ocasio during the fair’s food preview in July. “I had it last year and it was pretty good.”
Maybe this year more folks will form memories like Ocasio’s – filled with the sounds and smells of healthy foods.
The Erie County Fair runs August 8 to 19.
Check out the list of Healthy Options below:
Let us know what healthy foods you look for on the WBFO Facebook page.