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Popcorn - Healthy Snacking Tips

Popcorn can be a healthy snack, but you need to mind the added ingredients.

Let's start with the basics. A single cup of air-popped corn has only 30 calories. A one ounce serving - 3 full cups - is still less than 100 calories. And, it has 3 grams of fiber to boot.

Most people, however, do not eat their popcorn this way. In fact, the most common format is movie-theater popcorn. Beyond the gigantic portion size, the popcorn is soaked in unhealthy fats and sodium. A large tub can easily reach 1000 calories, with over 50 grams of saturated fats - 250 percent of the daily recommended maximum! If you do purchase popcorn at the movie theater, opt for the smallest size possible.

Supermarket popcorn is divided into ready-made and pop-at-home. Ready-made popcorn can be further divided into sweet and savory varieties. Ready-made sweetened popcorn should have an ingredient list as follows:

Popcorn, Oil, Sugar, Salt.

An ideal savory popcorn ingredient list:

Popcorn, Oil, Salt.

Shoot for popcorn with less than 100 mg of sodium per serving and less than 10 grams of sugars per serving.

When it comes to pop-at-home popcorn:

  • avoid preservatives such as TBHQ (may cause nausea, delirium, and ringing of the ears)

  • in microwavable popcorn, a common ingredient used to create a buttery flavor is diacetyl. Avoid it, as it may lead to respiratory illnesses.

  • avoid artificial sweeteners, which are sometimes used instead of sugar.

Note: If you have children under the age of 4, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NOT serving them popcorn due to the risk of choking.

Bottom Line

Popcorn can be a very healthy snack!

Preparation Tips

It's easy to make your own air-popped corn. You can buy popcorn kernels for a pittance at any supermarket.

  • Place 4 tablespoons in a brown paper lunch bag and fold the top 2 or 3 times to seal it

  • Place in the microwave on high heat for three minutes or until the popping noise stops

  • Top with salt or paprika or grated Parmesan cheese

  • Enjoy!

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