Healthy Hankerings at the Iowa State Fair

By Mickayla McGill, Iowa Soybean Association

The Iowa State Fair is known for its delicious and unique food options, from giant turkey legs and pickle dogs to funnel cakes and corndogs. But maintaining a diet that’s low in calories, sodium and fat at the fair can be difficult. Luckily, several Iowa State Fair favorites have been designated light and healthy based on the USDA’s healthy school lunch standards. Whether you prefer sweet, salty or savory, you can find the perfect food to match your food craving and dietary needs while walking down the Grand Concourse. So, where should you look for healthier, more nutritious options?

Iowa Turkey Federation  

Want to enjoy grilled or fried fair food without feeling weighed down? Give turkey a try. Visit the Iowa Turkey Federation, located on the west side of the Bill Riley Stage, near the Varied Industries Building, for low-fat, protein-packed sandwiches that are less than 600 calories. After trying the grilled turkey sandwich or turkey tenderloin, you’re sure to leave feeling satisfied but not overly full.

Turkey is a nutritional powerhouse that offers 26 grams of protein in every 3-ounce serving. With less than 25 milligrams of sodium per ounce, you can enjoy turkey without worrying about high sodium levels. Turkey is also full of essential amino acids and nutrients that contribute to a healthy lifestyle by regulating blood sugar and strengthening the immune system.

Iowa Pork Producers Association

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the Iowa Pork Producers Pork Tent at the Iowa State Fair: pork chop on a stick! This crowd favorite is high in protein and low in fat and sodium, making it a designated healthy fair food choice. 

Pork chop on a stick can be found at multiple locations, including northeast of the Ag Building on Grand Avenue at the Iowa Pork Producers Pork Tent, the neighboring Iowa Pork Producers Grab Stand and the Chop Shop Stand across from the Livestock Pavilion. 

Pork is packed with protein and loaded with nutrients. A three-ounce serving of pork contains 6% of your needed daily value of iron and magnesium and 46% of your needed daily value of protein. This health-forward and balanced meat provides essential nutrients without weighing you down at the fair, allowing you to indulge in a fair food favorite!


Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters

The Iowa Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters, located on the southeast side of the fairgrounds on Walnut Street, is known for its hot beef sundaes and ribeye sandwiches. Whether you’re looking for a hamburger or a larger meal, you can find everything beef-related at this one-stop shop, which also offers shaded seating for customers. Beef is another meat loaded with nutrients and protein to help maintain a healthy diet. With a whopping 25 grams of protein and 10 essential nutrients, a 3-ounce serving of beef can help you create a balanced meal.

Beyond their sandwich options, the Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters offers lighter options for those looking for something hearty but low in fat. The best part is that salads and baked potatoes pair perfectly with any cut of beef and can be customized to meet the needs of all fairgoers, making them an excellent option for a main course or side dish!

Fresh Veggie Options

What about a salad on a stick? Like all other foods, vegetables are served in various ways across the fair. From carrots and smoothies to sandwich wraps and a salad on a stick, there are vegetable options for everyone! Located on the west balcony of the Agriculture Building, The Salad Bowl offers several health-conscious food options, including the Caprese salad on a stick, for those looking for healthy fair food. Other designated healthy choice options include carrots, salads and sandwich wraps.

Fresh Fruit Options

The Salad Bowl also offers several delicious fruit options for those looking for something sweeter. Snack on fruit to get your sweet fix while keeping calories, fat and sodium low. Fruit also provides a natural and tasty energy boost to help get you through your action-packed day at the Iowa State Fair. Enjoy classic fair food by indulging in fresh fruit on a stick dipped in yogurt. Other fruit options are at Beattie’s Melon Patch, Big Acai and Applishus.


For all things apple, Applishus is the place to go! They have various healthy but sweet options that will help satisfy your sugar craving without feeling guilty. Whether it’s a slushy or apple nachos, they turn classic fair foods into apple creations. Applishus’ caramel apple slices meet the healthy lunch requirements laid out by the USDA, making it a healthy and light choice for any fairgoers searching for a sweet treat.

Applishus can be found on the south side of the Triangle, the west side of the Bill Riley Stage, under the Varied Industry’s East canopy and in the Agriculture Building.

Exercising at the Fair

Covering over 445 acres, the Iowa State Fairgrounds offers a large walking area for anyone seeking extra steps. Whether looking through exhibits, finding new fair foods or heading to a Grandstand concert, there are plenty of opportunities for you to reach your daily exercise goal with no problem.

Are you looking for something other than walking? The Iowa State Fair is partnering with Iowa Healthiest State Initiative to host Barnyard Yoga and Sunset Yoga in the Garden at the fairgrounds. Fairgoers can enjoy yoga with furry farm friends, including baby goats, horses and rabbits, for three days during the fair. Unwind after a long day at the fair by participating in Sunset Yoga in the Garden on Thursday, August 17, at 8:30 p.m. Barnyard Yoga is offered on three different dates in various locations around the fairgrounds. Sunset Yoga and Barnyard Yoga require tickets, which can be purchased for $25 at

Finding a place to rest 

Looking for a place to rest and grab a bite to eat? There are 35 vendors spread across the fairgrounds that offer seating. The Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters offers shaded seating with fans to help keep you cool during the hottest days of the fair. Be sure to visit the new Iowa Pork Producers Pork Tent on Grand Avenue just northeast of the Ag Building. The new facility contains indoor and outdoor seating to accommodate more fairgoers, and fans to keep cool air moving. Other vendors with seating include Iowa Turkey Federation, Steer N’ Stein, Stockmann’s Inn, The Salad Bowl and Leimon’s Pizza. For a complete list of vendors with available seating and health-conscious fair food options, visit