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Healthy Popcorn For Your Next Movie Night

- Written by on May 16th 2016

There are plenty of reasons to have a movie night at home instead of going to the cinema. You won't drop $20 (or more) on two tickets just to sit in front of someone who insists on putting their shoes on the back of your seat (we can feel that!) and talking to their neighbor throughout the film (we can hear you!) Plus, if you're feeling snacky, you won't have to give in to ridiculously overpriced Milk Duds or super-salty, super-greasy movie popcorn that leaves you with as much guilt as it does oily napkins. Instead, you can save money and calories by making your own snacks and enjoying the home theatre experience.

We wouldn't dream of suggesting you bypass popcorn altogether. Instead, we've found five healthy popcorn options to complete your next movie night.

Healthy Stove-Top Popcorn

Popcorn kernels for making homemade popcorn on the stove seem more or less the same. The ingredient list almost always just says "popcorn." However, if you are concerned about GMOs in your food, you might look for a brand of organic or at least non-GMO verified popcorn kernels.

Black Jewell is one non-GMO verified brand, and their colorful black and crimson popcorn is available on Amazon if you can't find it in stores near you.

Black Jewell Popcorn

  • non GMO, gluten free
  • only ingredient is popcorn
  • have to pop and season it yourself!

Of course, what you put on your popcorn is going to make a difference too. Use measuring spoons to ensure you're sticking to a reasonable amount of salt and butter if you're going the classic route, or browse these low-sodium popcorn recipes for inspiration how to use spices, herbs, and even citrus to flavor your popcorn without so much salt.

Healthy Popcorn in the Microwave

Even though it isn't really that hard to make popcorn on the stove, convenience tends to come out on top. Unfortunately, some brands of microwave popcorn use TBHQ, a preservative the Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends avoiding due to research suggesting it may cause cancer. Other microwave popcorn brands still contain heart-disease-causing trans fats, even though food manufacturers will be forced to phase them out by 2018. It is also not uncommon to see artificial flavors and even food coloring on the ingredient list. These ingredients aren't necessarily harmful, but I'll take actual butter and whatever color my popcorn actually is, thank you very much.

Most concerning, however, is that microwave popcorn bags may be coated with toxic chemicals that have only recently been banned by the FDA, with some groups showing concern that the ban will just result in a different, similarly toxic chemical being used instead.

As you can see, there are several reasons to consider going homemade. You can, however, find microwave popcorn poppers to combine the health benefits of homemade with the convenience of microwave popcorn.

All that said, if you really want to buy store bought microwave popcorn, we'd go with Newman's Own line of organic microwave popcorn. They state on their website that their microwave popcorn is packaged in PFOA free bags (but it remains unclear if they use another substance.)

Newman's Own Organics Pop's Corn

  • certified organic
  • no TBHQ or other preservatives, no trans fat, no artificial ingredients, no PFOA
  • may be hard to find in stores, but available on Amazon

When it comes to healthy popcorn, unsalted is obviously the best choice (the only ingredient is popcorn - no preservatives, trans fat, or artificial ingredients!), but the light butter and butter varieties are okay too. Check out the butter popcorn's ingredient list:

organic popcorn, organic palm oil, natural butter flavor (contains milk), salt, vitamin e (to preserve freshness)

We'd personally just buy the unsalted version and add our own freshly melted butter and salt, but if you're looking for a shortcut, this one's pretty decent.

Healthy Ready to Eat Popcorn

For the most convenient popcorn experience, there are numerous brands selling popped, seasoned popcorn just waiting to be poured into a bowl (or eaten straight from the bag...) before plopping down to a good movie. They often come in fun flavors, but if you're still looking for healthy popcorn, you'll want to stick with the plain salted varieties. Be sure to read labels and watch your serving size if sodium intake is a concern, as some brands are more generous with the salt than others.

G.H. Cretors Organic Popped Corn

  • certified organic, non GMO verified
  • some flavors high in sodium

G.H. Cretors offers cheese corn, caramel corn, and Chicago mix (the two combined), as well as limited edition apple caramel and pumpkin spice flavors, but our choice would be the simple yet delicious extra virgin olive oil popcorn:

organic popcorn, organic extra virgin olive oil, sea salt

At 140 calories and just 5% of your daily sodium allowance per each 3.5 cup serving, this is definitely a healthy popcorn choice.

Angie's BOOMCHICKAPOP Popcorn

  • certified gluten free, no artificial colors and flavors, non GMO corn
  • special and seasonal flavors
  • not sold in all supermarkets, but available on Amazon

Angie's BOOMCHICKAPOP Popcorn has more than just a fun name: their popcorn comes in flavors like salted caramel, white cheddar, sweet & spicy, sea salt & vinegar, not to mention seasonal "Holidrizzle" popcorn in flavors like pumpkin spice, candy corn, iced gingerbread, and white chocolate peppermint.

Of course, their sea salt popcorn isn't nearly so naughty at 35 calories and 1% of your daily sodium allowance per cup (122.5 calories/3.5% per 3.5 cups).

Popcorn, Indiana All Natural Movie Theater Popcorn

  • gluten free, fairly "clean" ingredient lists
  • FIT line has some lighter options (non GMO verified too!)
  • special flavored popcorns are a bit too high in calories and sodium, but a nice treat

Popcorn, Indiana is a national popcorn brand with admittedly little connection to Indiana. Still, as a born-and-raised Hoosier, I thought I'd be out of line not to include this brand that at least pays homage to Indiana's corn-growing ways. Plus, their popcorn comes in a wide variety of flavors, such as sriracha, jalapeno, aged white cheddar, kettle corn, chocolately "drizzlecorn" (the peanut butter one sounds amazing), and their buttery movie theater popcorn with a surprisingly harmless ingredient list:

popcorn, canola oil, clarified butter (milk), salt.

The movie theater popcorn will set you back 160 calories and 7% of your daily sodium allowance for every 2 cup serving though (that's 280 calories/12.25% per 3.5 cups). Popcorn, Indiana's FIT line, however, includes a butter popcorn with just 140 calories and 9% your daily sodium allowance for 3.5 cups, making it a healthier option if you're willing to give up a bit of that classic movie theater taste.

Now that picking the popcorn will be easy, you just have to decide on a movie! Oh, and if anyone is feeling more like ice cream, we've got healthy ice cream options for you too.

Author

Crystal Schlegelmilch

Written by on May 16th 2016

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