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13 Best Places for Food and Fitness in America

Washington, D.C.

A recent study of all 50 states and the District of Columbia finds that the healthiest locations for food and fitness are:

  • Washington, D.C.
  • Vermont
  • California
  • Rhode Island
  • Massachusetts
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • West Virginia
  • Washington state
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • Delaware
  • Connecticut


The personal-finance Web site WalletHub recently ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia on the healthiness of their approaches to food and fitness.  Researchers looked at metrics ranging from “Fitness Centers per Capita” to “Share of Adults Eating Less than 1 Serving of Fruits/Vegetables per Day”.

The findings are part of a larger study of overweight and obesity in America.  Healthy eating and physical activity are the twin pillars of maintaining normal weight.

The report also named the most popular “comfort food” in each state.

The 13 healthiest locations for food and fitness are:

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Washington, D.C.

I’ve lived in the Washington area off and on since college.

The nation’s capital boasts the lowest percentages of overweight, obese, or physically inactive adults.

So it seems a tad incongruous that the District’s favorite food is the chili half-smoke.  This is a kind of sausage, typically made of half-beef and half-pork, served on a hot-dog roll with onions and mustard, topped with — you guessed it! — chili.

The classic place to find it is Ben’s Chili Bowl, an iconic restaurant founded in 1958.  Its original location is on U Street in the Shaw neighborhood, named for Robert Gould Shaw, the Union colonel immortalized by Matthew Broderick in the excellent film Glory.  Over the years, Ben’s has opened several other locations in:





Having grown up in New England, I’ve travelled through the Green Mountain State many times — to ski, to leaf-peep, to just get away.

Vermont has the lowest percentages of adults with Type 2 diabetes or who eat less than one serving of fruits or vegetables daily.

Perhaps they’re getting those fruits via Cherry Garcia ice cream.  Vermont’s favorite food is Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, founded in Burlington in 1978.  You can take a tour — with samples — of its factory in Waterbury.


I lived in Newport Beach for a year and a half, and have visited the Golden State many times before and since.

California’s favorite food is fish tacos — a fast-food fusion for which I have never been able to develop a taste, even though I love fish and tacos separately.

Rhode Island

I’ve road tripped across the Ocean State many times — and once enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at the Chanler at Cliff Walk, a Gilded Age cottage-turned-hotel in Newport.

Rhode Island’s favorite food is clam cakes — deep-fried balls of battered clams, for which I’ve also never developed a taste, despite my love for fried clams.


I was born in Salem and grew up in the Bay State until I left for college.

The favorite food in Massachusetts is clam chowder — a simple yet hearty cream-based soup made with clams, potatoes, salt pork, and onion.  Good spots to find the tasty blend are:


I drove across the Centennial State on my return to the East Coast from California, and have spent time in Denver, Vail, and Aspen as well.

Colorado boasts the lowest percentage of adults with high blood pressure, which isn’t surprising given how beautiful the state is.

Colorado’s favorite food is chile verde — a stew made with beef or pork or both and slow-roasted with hot peppers.  Unfortunately, the peppers rule me and my low heat tolerance out from developing a taste for the dish.

New Mexico

I’ve driven across the Land of Enchantment three times, most recently on my five-week cross-country solo road trip.

New Mexico’s favorite food is green chile, which is the same thing as Colorado’s chile verde, though not surprisingly there’s a bitter rivalry between the two bordering states over whose is better.

West Virginia

I have visited the Mountain State many times — hiked Harpers Ferry National Park, played at the casino in Charles Town, seen George Washington’s bath tub in Berkeley Springs.

West Virginia’s favorite food is the pepperoni roll.  That’s a yeast roll baked with pepperoni in the middle.  During baking, the oils in the pepperoni liquify and suffuse the bread with moist spiciness.  Since pepperoni rolls don’t need refrigeration, they became the lunch option of choice for coal miners.


I enjoyed several fun days in Seattle during a conference a few years ago.

The Evergreen State’s favorite food is cedar-plank salmon, one of the few seemingly healthy choices on the list.


I’ve visited the North Star State many times, and drove across it during my most recent cross-country road trip.

Minnesota’s favorite food is tater-tot hotdish.  This is a casserole made with a small amount of ground meat, canned vegetables, and condensed soup and topped with — you guessed it! — tater tots.  Its roots are from the Great Depression, when the canned ingredients helped bulk up the meager amounts of available meat.

New Hampshire

I have visited the Granite State many, many times, from family weekends near the Flume Gorge to a Christmas-cookie tour in the White Mountains.

New Hampshire’s favorite food is apple desserts.  More than 50 varieties of apples grow in New Hampshire, and New Englanders love to bake them in dessert pastries — pies, crisps, pandowdies, and so on.  They’re also great for breakfast.


The First State has several beaches, and I’ve visited them for reasons ranging from a Labor Day weekend with two dozen friends to a company retreat at my department vice president’s second home during my misspent youth as a wage worker.

Delaware’s favorite food is scrapple, a waste-not/want-not colonial concoction of pig parts, corn meal, and available herbs for which I cannot develop a taste, even despite my longings for the 18th century.


My paternal grandparents lived in the Nutmeg State, so I’ve visited there many times.

Connecticut’s favorite food is New Haven white clam pizza.  New Haven pizza has a thin, chewy crust and is baked in a very hot coal-fired oven.  White pizza is made without tomato sauce.  Clam pizza is topped with littlenecks, as well as garlic, oregano, Pecorino Romano, and olive oil.  Both the New Haven and the clam parts are credited to Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, a 1925 Connecticut landmark as iconic as Ben’s Chili Bowl.  The original location is in — you guessed it! — New Haven.  Over the decades, the unique pizzeria has expanded to locations in:



Rhode Island

New York




Bon appetit!

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