published Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Healthy eating at theme parks

Remember the first time you rode the Scream Machine at Six Flags?

Remember how every click-click-click of that car ratcheting up the incline built anticipation until your heart was thumping so hard you thought it would burst; then, when the car crested the hill, it looked like you were going into a freefall because you couldn't see the track beneath. I remember feeling like my stomach and the roller-coaster car both launched into space as the car careened down the slope.

Well, if you thought that was scary, get a load of what's in the funnel cake you ate: 277 calories and 14 fat grams in one 6-inch fried-dough confection.

Now park guests are finding there is more to theme-park food than hot dogs, hamburgers, cotton candy, pizza, sodas and funnel cakes. Amusement parks are adding healthier choices to their menus in a nod to consumers' growing knowledge of good nutrition.

Talley Green, spokeswoman for Lake Winnepesaukah, said management started offering fresh, healthy options on that amusement park's menu about 10 years ago, adding a new choice each year.

"We gradually added more healthy foods as people wanted to eat healthier," she said. "Of course we still have traditional hamburgers and hot dogs, but we also offer four types of salads as well as freshly made wraps. We offer fresh fruit cups along with freshly made sub sandwiches, baked chips and fresh-squeezed lemonade," she said.

Green said park vendors have seen a big increase in water consumption as opposed to sales of carbonated drinks.

She also pointed out it doesn't cost any more to eat healthy than it does to chow down on chili dogs.

"A fresh fruit cup is $3.50, a fresh sub is $5," she said, adding wraps are $5 to $6 each.

Visitors to Six Flags can find salads at Big Mo's and subs and garden salads at Crazy Horse Deli.

If you're planning one, big, last-hurrah day-trip to a theme park before school starts on Wednesday, consider these healthy eating tips from Dave Zinczenko, author of the "Eat This, Not That" series.

  • Instead of cotton candy (220 calories), eat a popsicle (45 calories).

  • Instead of a syrupy snow cone (270 calories) try a half-cup of ice cream (about 125 calories).

  • Instead of a chocolate fudge square with nuts and marshmallows (400 calories for 3 ounces) try kettle corn (195 calories for 3 cups).

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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