Eating Healthy at the Amusement Park

My friends and I are planning to spend the day at an amusement park. Do you have any tips on how to avoid the sugar and calorie overload and eat as healthy as possible while there?

Amusement parks can still be a fun, wonderful way to enjoy a summer day without overindulging in the sugary, deep-fried, calorie-laden foods that the parks are traditionally known for.

Eating healthy at the amusement park is possible.

Despite the temptation to feast on mounds of cotton candy, deep-fried candy bars, funnel cakes, snow cones, chili cheese fries and, of course, those infamous giant turkey legs, you can have nutritious foods and drinks at the park that taste good and are better for your health.

One of the best ways to eat healthy at the park is to pack some nutritious meals to bring with you. While many amusement parks won’t let you bring in outside food, you can pack a cooler with ice in your car and fill it with nutritious, portable foods that you can eat throughout the day. Some ideas for the cooler include fruit, nuts, yogurt, sandwiches, and veggies such as carrots and celery sticks, among others.

If you’d prefer to eat at the park, below are some suggestions for healthy food choices from and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  • Instead of hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries, opt for something like a grilled chicken breast with a side salad or fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid super-sized sodas, lemonades and other sugary drinks. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk or chocolate milk instead or a nice cold glass of water.
  • If you are looking for something sweet, try a candy apple. While they do pack about 300 calories each, the fiber in the apple will help keep you full.
  • Meat and vegetable kabobs allow you to indulge in the food-on-a-stick tradition of amusement park foods without the extra sugar and calories.
  • Corn on the cob is also a good option, preferably without the mounds of butter.

Another thing to remember about spending the day at an amusement park – you need to stay hydrated. It’s important that you drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. One tip is to bring a water bottle with you and drink it frequently throughout the day. If you don’t want to carry it around with you, another option is to request a cup of ice water from any food vendor at the park and drink it in between rides.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, state specialist in food security for Ohio State University Extension.

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