Live Free Then Diet

If you think about food while driving the state's highways, there's a reason

Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick

So what's it going to be this new year? Resolve to quit smoking? Or lose 10 pounds? Or both? Have you decided how to dispose of that post-holiday muffin top built on a gelatinous foundation of eggnog, pumpkin pie and duck à l'orange? Well, Mr. Michelin man, New Hampshire was rated the 17th slimmest state in the country last fall, and I think I know why.

I'll give you my theory shortly, but honestly, there is no good reason why 16 states should have a lower overweight percentage of residents than New Hampshire. We have the nation's best outdoor health club here. After all, a summer hike through Flume Gorge is good for several hundred calories of lost poundage, although the word gorge doesn't exactly engender smaller food portions, now does it?

Whatever happened to "Live free or die(t)"? Honestly, I think it's all in what we've named things around the state. How can one expect to lose weight spending time soaking up carbs on Rye Beach? A two minute walk south gets you to Hampton Beach, which has no food reference in its name. Of course it's up to you not to cross Ocean Boulevard for a funnel cake and a tub of Mountain Dew.

And that's just the tip of the pound-packing Bermuda Triangle in our state. Just pull out a decent map and follow along. Apparently our founding fathers loved to name places after food.

"Apparently our founding fathers loved to name places after food."

Our tour begins in Breakfast Hill, NH, not too far from West Rye (of course). Another food berg is Cornish, a few thousand walking calories from Claremont. For the record, half a Cornish game hen adds a mere 340 calories, which you can burn off with a brisk walk to Cornish Flat just a bit north. Or Cornish Mills to the southwest.

Doesn't seem right that there aren't many restaurants in Eaton. (There is no Eating, NH, so that's as close as I could get.) But just a short drive away is a lunch lover's dream: Sandwich, North Sandwich, East Sandwich and Center Sandwich. Take your pick.

Our Tour d'food takes us west again to Fish Market not too far from Lebanon. Speaking of the sea, the town of Pike is an hour north near Haverhill.

To keep our beef-eating friends happy, we'll steer you (steer, get it?) to Cowbell Corners. And there's Great Boar's Head on the Seacoast. Wouldn't it have made more sense to locate a lunch meat brand a bit closer to the Sandwich towns?

We've got the fruit group covered in the state. There's Lyme, Orange and Fig Newton, where the state's diminishing settlement of Keebler elves contribute to the local economies of Rowes Corner and Newton Junction.

Who knew New Hampshire was such a deliciously diverse destination? Before we finish our gastronomic geography lesson, dessert is in order. After all, as the 17th slimmest state, we have a few extra belt notches to work with.

Everybody knows Sugar Hill in the White Mountains and Maplewood is a must-see dessert spot every spring, just a few minutes away from Sugar Mountain.

It's up to you New Hampshire. Will 2013 be the year you nosh aimlessly through the Sandwich belt, or lose a few pounds in Swetts Mills, New Hampshire?

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