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Salty, sweet, and savory: Take a bite out of the rodeo, while staying healthy

Written By: Shelley Vanker, UT Physicians | Updated: March 8, 2024
A variety of carnival food and treats

Don’t let a day eating at the rodeo fill you up with sodium, sugar, carbs, and fat. Ann E. Redwine, RD, shares tips to stay healthy.

The rodeo may be world-famous for its size, but around these parts, it’s also famous for the food.

It is a fantasy world of food fusion, a sizzling lineup of snacks on a stick, and a gluttonous buffet of new concoctions. Besides making your mouth water, these out-of-this-world eats are vying for immortality in the Gold Buckle Foodie Awards.

Ann E. Redwine, CDE, RD
Ann E. Redwine, CDE, RD

This year’s winners include names like Big, Fat Bacon on a Stick, The Barbalicious Float, Chili Mac Attack Potato, and Bacon Bourbon Caramel Cheesecake on a Stick. 

“Why would you want bacon on your cheesecake?” asked Ann E. Redwine, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with UT Physicians. Because you can, we assume is the answer.

It’s an anything goes, no-holds-barred, deep-fried-everything sort of menu. This kind of food selection has Redwine doling out all the tips.


A quick look at the offerings tells her there is a lot of sodium being served up.

“Sodium is the part of salt that causes problems,” she explained. “It causes the blood pressure to go up if people have that sensitivity. So the more sodium a person takes in through food and beverage, the higher their blood pressure will rise.”

Items high in sodium include sauces, marinades, bacon, and processed foods.

“Any restaurant food like that tends to have an amazing amount of sodium, usually in the form of preservatives,” said Redwine.


Carnival food by nature is carbohydrate-central. Anything with that deep-fried golden hue – the Oreos, corndogs, Twinkies, funnel cakes, and this year even a fried lemon cake bar – is full of carbs.

The simple carbs from these types of foods, she says, will truly go straight to your hips.

“For most people eating too many carbohydrates is going to result in weight gain, the excess calories will be stored as fat,” Redwine explained.

“If you happen to have diabetes, heart disease, or high triglycerides, excess carbohydrates can make all of that worse,” she said.  “Carbohydrates turn into blood sugar, so it will raise blood sugar levels.”


Beware of the fatty meat, says Redwine. Items like hot dogs, sausage, and bacon get their flavor from high-fat values and that’s the problem, she says.

“All those foods are linked to saturated fat, which can cause clogged arteries,” Redwine explained.

Sugary drinks

Drinks are also something to consider. One option is a bubble gum flavored soda topped with whipped cream, cotton candy, sprinkles, and adorned with pink lollipops – sugar in almost every form.

Redwine says sweet beverages like this should be consumed with caution.

“Liquid sugar gets into your system so fast,” she explains. “It goes straight through the stomach and is immediately absorbed.”

The absorption is so fast, that she likens it to being hooked up to IV therapy.

“For people who have diabetes, we worry about that big, sudden spike in blood sugar,” said Redwine. “When blood sugar is over 240, the blood becomes thicker and syrupy, and it’s more likely to clot. That puts people at risk for heart attack and stroke.”

Enjoy in moderation

There is still plenty of fun to be had in this fever-dream of flavor while sticking to a healthy regimen.

“The best approach is to pick two things you’d really like to try. If you’re going to the rodeo multiple days, then choose one thing per day,” she advised.

Don’t forget to share, she says. Reduce your portion size and cost by dividing the treats.

“You get to participate in the fun of trying it, but you don’t get the calories of eating the whole thing by yourself,” said Redwine.

Everything else you consume should come with health in mind, items like a small baked potato, chili, or lean brisket will keep your sodium, carbs, fat, and sugar intake to a minimum.

“I would never say to somebody, ‘You go to the rodeo, but you can’t eat anything’,” said Redwine.

Giddy up, have fun, and indulge with discretion.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.