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The Secret to Healthy Popcorn

healthy popcorn

Whether at home or in the theater, we all like to settle into a movie with a bowl of freshly-popped popcorn. Plain popcorn is a healthy snack, high in beneficial dietary fiber and very low in calories — unless you pop it in oil, smother it in butter, sprinkle it with cheese or overdo the salt.

Without those things, it can also seem pretty dang boring, but here’s some info that might tempt your mind and your taste buds.

Healthy Popcorn Facts

The average American eats about 59 quarts of popcorn each year. Who knew we were so popping mad?

Air-popped popcorn is healthy popcorn, with no fat, and under 100 calories per serving. If you want to kick it up, sprinkle good Parmesan cheese, fresh-cracked pepper, or drizzle peanut butter on it (messy but yummy!) for a delicious kick. Or if you have a sweet tooth, try some cinnamon mixed with a bit of sugar. If you’re dairy-free, try sprinkling your popcorn with nutritional yeast instead of cheese.

If you don’t air-pop, be careful selecting the oil you use. Only use monounsaturated fats, such as canola oil or extra virgin olive oil, when you prepare popcorn. Saturated fats, like coconut oil or palm oil, margarine and butter are the least healthy, and you risk raising your cholesterol levels by cooking with them.

If you choose to microwave your popcorn or buy it already popped, read labels carefully. Fat content, calories, and the amount of added salt vary widely among different brands. Look for no more than 2 grams of total fat, one gram of saturated fat and less than 200 milligrams of salt per serving — and be wary of all those preservatives that sometimes hide in a bag. Better yet, take the time to pop it yourself. We think it tastes better, and you control everything that goes into the bowl.

To their credit, some movie theaters have switched to healthier oils in their popcorn poppers. Ask before you buy, and take it easy on the butter (or butter-flavored oil) and salt!

Got some tricks of your own? Let us know!