The Great Minnesota Get-Together (aka the Minnesota State Fair) starts Thursday and runs through Labor Day. Summer is winding down and that brings the last of the outdoor festivals and fairs. One of the highlights of many of our favorite outdoor events is the food and I'm always curious as to what "new foods" will be featured at the State Fair each year.
The Minnesota State Fair website has posted the "new foods" being featured at the fair the past several years, and it's interesting to look at the list and wonder if those foods would even be something I would be interested in paying money to taste. This year there are more than 30 new foods being featured at the State Fair. Some of the new foods featured this year include Bacon Ice Cream, Camel Burger Sliders, Cheeseburger Sticks and numerous other fast food, deep-fat fried items. The menu items that most caught my eye, though, were the Gluten-Free Chicago-Style or State Fair-Style Hot Dog and Gluten-Free Risotto Poppers. For those people who have a sensitivity to gluten, this is a nice addition to the fair food line-up.
If you have a sensitivity to gluten, you need to avoid the proteins that are found in wheat, barley, rye and oats (unless they are gluten-free). That sounds fairly straightforward, however a quick look at most labels reveals that wheat is a component in many foods. Wheat starch and flour are used in many products and are also used as thickeners or binders. At an outdoor event like the State Fair or the Renaissance Festival, it could be difficult to find the traditional foods typically sold on buns or sticks that use a product other than wheat.
There is a wide assortment of grains and flours that a person who is restricting wheat flour can use. However, these grains aren't usually interchangeable on an ounce for ounce basis with wheat flour and so it gets more difficult to substitute them in recipes and get the same finished product. Some of the more common alternate grain products that you can use are: arrowroot, corn, flax, millet, potato, quinoa, rice, soy and tapioca.
With the rise in interest in ethnic foods in the United States and the number of people looking for gluten-free products, there are getting to be more and more gluten-free products available. Breads, cereals, chips and crackers can now more easily be found in the grocery store. And now we can even find a hot dog on a gluten-free bun at the State Fair! I wonder how many people will seek this out and if it will make a return appearance at next year's State Fair.
Wherever your plans take you the rest of the summer - be it the ballgame, the fair or local festivals, enjoy, eat healthy and be safe!
Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.
In addition to her column, you can also find nutrition tips and ideas on the blog she writes at www.averastorycenter.org.