American state fairs have gotten competitive about wowing fair-goers (and the media) with their ever more outrageous concessions.
Among the immoderate new dishes of 2014? The cheeseburger stuffed with macaroni and cheese on a Krispy Kreme bun at the California State Fair, and the deep-fried breakfast on-a-stick at the Minnesota State Fair.
Turns out, concoctions that seemingly aim to break caloric records are a central part of the rodeo food experience, too. At the Rodeo Houston, one of the world's largest such events, running through March 22, the innovations for 2015 include strawberry waffle balls and deep-fried biscuits and gravy.
Sure, a trip to the rodeo is about getting entertained; it may even be a vacation. For many, that involves indulging in food far more enticing than what's for dinner at home.
But too many rodeo-goers don't realize just how dramatically they're overdoing it when they partake in the meaty, oily, sweet and alcoholic treats on offer at rodeo. That's at least how one dietician at Baylor College of Medicine — who's unafraid of raining on the rodeo food parade in the name of public health — sees it.
Roberta Anding, who's also director of sports nutrition for Texas Children's Hospital, piped up on a Baylor blog this month, supplying specific calorie and saturated fat information for popular Houston rodeo fare. Posting calorie counts on menus or menu boards, as we've reported, is now required for chain restaurants with 20 or more locations. But you won't find it at the carnival, the state fair or the rodeo.
"We don't want to know what's in our rodeo food," Anding tells The Salt, but we need to.
Anding concedes that few rodeo goers will be shocked to learn that deep-fried cookie dough or bacon wrapped sausage-on-a-stick will gobble up much of the 2,000-3,000 calorie-a-day diet recommended for most adults. (She notes her colleagues laughed out loud at her when she told them she was also calculating how many miles you'd have to walk to burn each item off.)
But the pervasive "don't ask, don't tell" attitude about rodeo food may lead people to consume far more than they actually want to – as much as 5,000 calories a day, if you're talking about two or more meals, snacks, beer and margaritas, says Anding. And that could mean disappointing weight gain afterward not unlike what a lot of us contend with after the holidays.
What rodeo goers might consider instead of chowing down on every tempting item in sight, Anding argues, is approaching rodeo noshing more strategically.
"I recommend pre-shopping," says Anding. "Walk around and scope out what you might want to eat, and then pick one thing and split it with someone." Another way to keep the calories in check is to alternate beer and water, and choose items that come in small portions.
"The fried brownie ball would be my pick," she says. "But just one. I don't need 10 of them."
And as for "Gold Buckle Foodie Award," which will go to attendees who eat all eight of the rodeo's "best food items"? Don't go there, says Anding, unless you want to be popping your buckle later.