I decided this would be the year I tackled the Big E in all its junk food glory to find food items our members could eat without ruining their hard work. I can’t say this was an easy task, but I did come out with a few gems for you. The main criteria for my search was that these items would not encourage a blood sugar spike causing more junk food cravings after the food is digested, ultimately leading you to a dark place where deep fried Oreos live. Stay away from simple carbs and sugars if you’re trying to keep yourself under control!
1) Smoked Salmon (Maine Building)
A great source of protein and healthy fat, I would agree with their claim that this is the healthiest food at the Big E. Wicked convenient, too, since you can carry around your salmon on a stick.
2) A Cup of Chili (Massachusetts Building)
A plain cup of chili (not chili cheese dogs) should keep you satisfied and provide a good source of protein if you get turkey, beef, or emu (what?) Kielbasa here shouldn’t be too bad either depending on the marinade.
3) Shrimp Cocktail (Rhode Island Building)
There are lots of other seafood items at this stand that I found questionable, but plain shrimp cocktail is a safe bet. It’s a great source of protein; and keep the cocktail sauce to a moderate dose!
4) Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Salad (Connecticut Building)
This looked very fresh and easy to eat! Cheese is not high on my list of “healthy” things to eat, but it is portioned out for you in this dish.
5) Chop Chop Salad (Delaney House Tent)
There are several tents where you can sit and have a salad if you have time; this is not the only one. Just make sure the toppings are not saturated in sauces or marinades and that you ask for a dressing on the side. Ceasar, Greek, Blue Cheese, or Olive Oil-based dressings are higher in fat but are more satisfying than dressings higher in sugar.
6) Greek Salad (Everywhere!)
There are a lot of tents and stands serving Greek food. While I might stay away from the white bread gyro (or just eat the guts and throw away the bread), Tzatziki sauce and other Greek dressings have a yogurt and/or olive oil base which isn’t bad for you like a lot of the dressings and sauces on American food. I might opt for a place that looks somewhat authentic, though, than a random food truck that’s also serving donuts.
7) Beef Jerky (Better Living Center)
Jerky is usually a safe bet as long as you make sure it wasn’t heavily marinated. It can be high in sodium, but unless your doctor has placed you on a low sodium diet for medical reasons, it’s not going to hurt you.
8) Dill Pickles (Craft Marketplace)
There isn’t much to dill pickles, except a little bit of sodium. It may not be completely satisfying, but it will take you a while to munch on it, so it will keep you occupied while your friends/family are eating ice cream!
9) Roasted Nuts (Rhode Island Building)
Nuts are a healthy fat source that will keep you satisfied and provide energy during your trek across the junk food jungle. Just make sure you count out a serving and don’t eat the entire bag because the calories add up quickly! Some other stands also have nuts, but they’re coated in sugar. Opt for plain, salted, or roasted!
After hustling through the Exposition and finding myself parched, I also thought it would be helpful to list some drinks in addition to water:
Sugar-Free Lemonade (Outside the Better Living Center)
I was disappointed to find that most of the lemonade stands (even in the state buildings) were pouring syrup and sugar into their drinks. I asked a few if I could get fresh squeezed lemon in water and this was the only stand that would do it. It was very refreshing! Del’s in the Rhode Island building has a sugar-free lemonade option, but there is some kind of artificial sweetener in it that I wasn’t too sure about.
When all else fails… coffee! As long as you don’t fill it with sugar or order a mochalatte coffee-flavored sugar bomb, a plain iced coffee will provide some hydration and also serve as a mild appetite suppressant!
Vodka/Seltzer: no cranberry (V1 tent, Delaney House tent)
I get it, some of you go to the Big E to drink alcohol. Your best bet is to stop by the V1 tent (not for the deep fried martinis) and get a vodka/seltzer (you don’t really need a sugar splash of cranberry). The Delaney House tent also has Spiked Seltzer if you want something more convenient in a can. Just keep in mind that alcohol consumption can lead to poor choices, and poor choices can include mini donuts.
Lastly, you may decide to use your visit to the Big E as your cheat meal for the week, and there is nothing wrong with that. Just make sure to eat in moderation and not drag the junk food out over the course of a day. Cheat meals are fine, cheat days can easily erase a whole week of hard work!