10 Worst Theme Park Snacks

There aren't many healthy snack options at a theme park.
There aren't many healthy snack options at a theme park.

Summertime. When the kids are out of school and the air is thick with heat, many of us like to spend the day at an amusement park or fair. We ride the rollercoasters and Ferris wheels, play some games, and then -- our favorite part -- we visit the food stand for snacks.

Now, we all know that a theme park isn't the best place to find the healthy things to eat. Frankly, it can be downright impossible to find a snack that isn't terribly bad for you. Seriously, though, do we really go to these places to grab a healthy meal? Not really. Nevertheless, there's bad food and then there's really bad food. We've checked out amusement parks and state fairs all over the country and we've come up with a list of the worst offenders. Some are bad for your health, some are completely bizarre, and some are just plain unappetizing. Read on...


10: Krispy Kreme Burger

This creation would make even Homer Simpson blush. A donut -- specifically, the legendary Krispy Kreme donut -- cut in half and used as a bun for a bacon cheeseburger. Some call it an instant heart attack; some call it repulsive; and, some call it delicious.

You'll pay about five bucks for one of these and ingest more than a thousand calories. And the donut alone has about 10 grams of sugar. Is it worth it? The Krispy Kreme burger certainly has lots of fans -- from Paula Deen (who, incredibly, adds an egg fried in butter to the mix), to the Google employee cafeteria, to late singer Luther Vandross (who some say invented the dish).


If you simply must try one of these, we suggest splitting one with a few friends. A healthier alternative is grilled chicken, or a pulled pork sandwich.

9: Deep-fried Soda

Or, you could just drink a soda.
Or, you could just drink a soda.

Do you like fried food? Do you like soft drinks? Then it's your lucky day! Somebody actually thought to marry the two and make deep-fried soda. You're probably wondering how you can even deep-fry soda. Abel Gonzles, a fair food vendor, figured out how. He created this monstrosity -- we mean dessert -- with Coca-Cola. First he made a Coca-Cola-flavored batter. Then he deep-fried the batter, the same way funnel cake is made. To serve it, he fills up a cup with the fried soda and tops it with Coca-Cola syrup, whipped cream and cinnamon sugar.

Wow. We've also heard of people topping it with ice cream. Without ice cream, this treat comes in at more than 800 calories per serving. If you're looking for a healthier alternative, how about a nice large diet soda with ice?


8: Spaghetti and Meatballs on a Stick

Everyone loves food on a stick. Spaghetti and meatballs on a stick is surely a remarkable achievement in deep-frying. Here's how it happens. Vendors take meatball mix (before it's rolled into balls) and some cooked spaghetti. Those two ingredients are mashed together into big balls, dunked into garlic batter and deep-fried. Then the ball is popped on a stick and served with a side of marinara.

There's not too much wrong with spaghetti and meatballs per se. But sticking them in batter and deep-frying them is another story altogether. This meal will probably run you more than 400 calories, which isn't that bad in terms of park and fair foods. But it does your body no favors.


7: Corn Dog Pizza

A few of the unhealthy snacks you'll find at an amusement park
A few of the unhealthy snacks you'll find at an amusement park

This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Take a corn dog (on a stick), take a pizza (not on a stick), combine, and enjoy. The combination of hot dogs and pizza is rather bizarre, but perhaps that's why it's taken off.

Brian Enlo says he came up with the idea after noticing a friend owned two concession trailers -- one for pizza and one for corn dogs. He slices four corn dogs in half and places each half on a slice of pizza. It's as easy as that. Adding together the calorie counts for a slice of pizza and a half of a corn dog, the total for this piece of work is about 500 calories.


If you're on a diet, stick with one slice of regular pizza.

6: Chicken Fried Bacon

Elvis Presley might rise from the dead just to get a taste of this snack -- chicken fried bacon. There's really no chicken involved here, by the way. In some circles, "chicken fried" is just another way of saying "deep-fried." So chicken fried bacon is bacon dipped in a batter and then fried in oil. It's usually served with gravy or something similar on the side.

Bacon is hugely popular right now, so it only makes sense that someone would have the idea to deep-fry it. We're not exactly sure how many calories are in this deep-fried, salty delight, as it depends on how many slices you eat and how much gravy you use. But you can bet it's at least 400. Again, if this is something you're really craving, split it with someone.


5: Spam Curds

Enjoy Spam curds after you enjoy the Ferris wheel.
Enjoy Spam curds after you enjoy the Ferris wheel.

Since this is another one of those unholy combinations, we're guessing Spam curds are something you either love or hate. If you're unfamiliar with Spam, it's a meat that comes in a tin. It's made of pork shoulder and ham, pre-cooked, and packed in gelatin. For many people, it's an acquired taste.

Spam curds are a takeoff of another popular theme park snack -- cheese curds. Except instead of actual cheese, vendors use cheese-flavored Spam. The meat is cut up into chunks, battered, deep fried and served with ranch dressing on the side.


Spam itself isn't super-high in calories, but once you batter it and fry it in oil, as well as top with ranch dressing, you're looking at a lot of fat and calories. Again, if it's meat you're looking for, we advise grilled chicken, a pulled pork sandwich or a turkey burger.

4: Giant Turkey Legs

Perhaps you look around at all the deep-fried foods and sweets and think, "I can't possibly eat something so unhealthy." So, you search for something that seems reasonably nutritious and settle on one of those big turkey legs. It's lean protein, right? And it's not battered, right? How bad can it be?

You might be surprised. Those turkey legs are, indeed, deep-fried. Plus, they're served with the skin on. Plus, they're huge! Get this: One turkey leg has more than 1,100 calories. That's nearly an entire day's allowance. Let's put that another way -- one big turkey leg has the same amount of calories as five corn dogs. Need we say more? You'd be better off with almost anything else!


3: Fried Pigs' Ears

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It makes sense that someone who owns five franchises of Famous Dave's BBQ would know his way around a pig. Charlie Torgerson has made a name for himself not only as a franchise owner, but as a vendor at the Minnesota State Fair -- the mother of all state fairs. First he started off with chocolate-covered bacon, which was a big success. Then he offered up peach-glazed pig cheeks. Now he's serving up deep-fried pigs' ears with a chipotle glaze. He cuts the ears to look like curly fries -- so don't be fooled!

We know dogs love to chew on pigs' ears. But what do humans think of them? Brave taste testers report that they're similar to fries until you hit the chewy strip of cartilage.


2: The Kool-Aid Pickle

The Kool-Aid pickle is exactly what it sounds like: a big dill pickle marinated with a combination of Kool-Aid and sugar. You'll recognize the Kool-Aid pickle because it's not really green anymore, but pink/red. Food purists would be appalled.

Honestly, though, you could actually do much worse than a pickle soaked in what basically amounts to sugar water and artificial flavoring. Pickles aren't that high in calories, and neither is Kool-Aid. The sugar content is what these pickle fans like the best.They say that soaking the sour pickles in the sweet juice gives you a crunchy, sweet, and sour mix. The sugar and vinegar cancel each other out, leaving behind a sweet and tangy cucumber. And the pickles are served cold, unlike most of the hot fried food served at parks and fairs.


1: Deep-fried Butter

Kathrin Ziegler/Getty Images

We all probably can agree that deep-frying is bad for you. We also probably can agree that butter isn't good for your health, either. So leave it to the summer food vendors to put them together! If you think about it, deep-fried butter is fat, dipped in batter, fried in fat. Wow.

You can't just drop butter in hot oil, of course. It will melt in the fryer. So first, food vendors whip the butter until it's light and fluffy, then freeze it, and next dip it in batter or dough. Sometimes they'll use butter flavored with garlic or fruit. The butter balls then take a dip in the deep-fryer. People say the finished product tastes more like a hot buttered biscuit than an actual pat of butter. Nutritional estimates put deep-fried butter at around 30 grams of fat per serving. That's as much as a quarter-pound cheeseburger.

Hungry yet? For more on food and nutrition, check out the links on the next page.

Lots More Information

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  • Edwards, Martha. "State Fair Food Hall of Shame." That's Fit. July 28, 2010. (March 24, 2011) http://www.thatsfit.com/2010/07/28/fair-food-hall-of-shame-the-worst-thing-you-can-eat-at-a-carni/
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  • Maldonado, Jose Ralat. "Cool Aid Pickles a Refreshing Alternative To Fried Food at State Fair." Dallas Observer. Sept. 16, 2010. (March 24, 2011) http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/cityofate/2010/09/cool_aid_pickles_a_refreshing.php
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