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Mango-On-A-Stick And Vegan Corn Dogs: A Dietary Guide Through The State Fair

When people think the State Fair of Texas, they don’t exactly think health, they think anything and everything, deep fried.

But believe it or not, there’s a dietician-approved different route to fair food frenzy

Forget the fried mac ‘n cheese. If you’re vegan, lactose intolerant or gluten sensitive, there is a fair road less traveled.

Credit Courtney Collins / KERA News
Meridan Zerner checks sauce labels at the Caribbean Jerk Shack.

Meridan Zerner from the Cooper Clinic shows us the way.

“Greek salad, corn on the cob with no butter, baked fries and a candy apple. Allergy friendly and pretty healthy, Zerner says.

Every one of those things is for sale at the State Fair… And that’s just for starters.

The Caribbean Jerk Shack features entrees you might not expect to find in the shadow of Big Tex.

“You’ve got a vegan burger, you’ve got jerk tofu and for those who really want to enjoy the Texas State Fair and its association with the corn dog, if you’re vegan you can come along and get your fix,” says Zerner.

A vegan corn dog? It’s real, and available. And the jerk shack’s just getting started. Next year, they want to add vegan cakes and a raw juice bar.

Credit Courtney Collins / KERA News
A mango-on-a-stick means one happy kiddo.

If you’re craving fruit this year, duck into the Tower Building for the FruteriaCano.

“We have cantaloupe, pineapple, coconut and jicama,” says Marco Ortega.

Marco Ortega will happily let you build your own fruit cup, and staffers also make drinks from scratch, nothing but fruit, a little sugar and water.

“You cannot go wrong with a make-your-own fruit cup and a mango stick that looks like a flower! It’s beautiful and healthy!,” says Zerner.

And there’s more where that came from. Alongside milkshakes and beer, you can order up a smoothie. And you can chow down on chocolate covered banana instead of a funnel cake.

But if you have serious food allergies or precise aversions, be careful, because wheat, nuts, dairy and meat can hide in some unlikely places.

“Where you want to ask questions often are some surprising food choices, for example maybe red beans and rice. Often the beans might have been cooked with some pork fat or something like that, so you just want to check,” warns Zerner. “There might be a black eyed pea soup and you want to look at what the base is there, so was there a dairy base, or a chicken broth base?”

But as long as you do your homework, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a trip to the fair and a complete meal. Just instead of sausage-on-a-stick, think mango-on-a-stick.

Here are five places where you can find diet-friendly options at the fair:

Caribbean Jerk Shack- (includes vegan options)

Fruteria Cano- (fruit cups, fruit water)

Maui Wowi (smoothies)

Thanasi’s ‘It’s All Greek’ (Greek salad, Greek yogurt, baked French fries)

La-Kam (roasted corn, grilled chicken)

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.