When most people think of Chicago summer festivals, they picture sauce-covered ribs, deep-dish pizza and fried chicken wings. But, in recent years, annual fests have incorporated some healthier food options for those who want to participate without damaging their waistlines.
At Andersonville’s Midsommarfest this year, festival-goers were treated to local, guilt-free Mediterranean fare from Andies and Reza’s, such as chicken shish kabobs and falafel with hummus. Other festivals are following in suit.
“While we were at the Taste we realized that there are a lot of random healthy options, and we saw an opportunity to highlight those healthier options with Humana Healthier Choices,” said Humana spokeswoman Lindsey Minella.
She said that many people may venture to the Taste with “tunnel-vision” for deep-dish pizza, but there has been a very positive response to Humana’s guide.
“We’ve found that when people see the Healthier Choices guide, they are very surprised by what is out there,” Minella said, adding that a lot of restaurants are eager to participate and promote their healthier menu items, which are indicated on the guide and at booths by a green apple icon.
The guide breaks down 20 food options from 17 restaurants into appetizers and snacks/desserts, all with less than 320 calories, and main dishes that have 500 calories or less.
At the Chicago Folk and Roots Festival in Lincoln Square’s Welles Park on July 9 and 10, attendees will enjoy the music and a healthier mid-set meal.
“Over the past few years we tried to have more variety especially when it comes to healthier food and vegetarian options, and we’ve gotten very positive feedback,” said Tim Harkins, vendor coordinator for the festival.
Galter LifeCenter dietitian Erica Battin said there are other ways for Chicagoans to make sure a trip to a summer festival won’t put a damper on their health goals.
“Make sure you’re not starving when you arrive, bring your own snacks, or come at less busy times when you don’t normally eat and stay hydrated,” she said.
Those who do choose to eat at festivals can still make smart choices.
“Look for things that are produce-based such as fruits and vegetables,” Battin said, adding that lean, grilled proteins such as chicken and fish are also good options.
If you do decide to indulge in less-healthy options, Battin said portion control is key. Split a meal with a friend, or order a smaller portion size. She also recommends sitting down to enjoy your meal, which allows you to focus on what you are eating.
Battin said it’s easy to forget what a festival is really about when you’re there. Whether it’s music, art or just hanging out with friends, there are many things to enjoy that don’t involve funnel cake.
“Focus on why you’re there and plan accordingly,” she said.
Earn your festival feasts
Want to get fit on your way to the Taste? Humana is also sponsoring a Race to the Taste 5K Run/2-Mile Walk. Kids can get involved in the action at the Fleet Feet Kids’ Dash. Both races are on the morning of Sunday, June 26, and start at Columbus and Balbo, at the southwest corner of Buckingham Fountain.