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Health and Wellness

What’s wrong with a popcorn snack?

Popcorn is a whole grain food,  low in calories and low in fat, which makes it one of the healthiest snacks around–at least, potentially.

Here’s the rub: many of us eat our popcorn at the movies–and those pricey products that taste and smell so good are a far cry from a healthy snack.

Big buckets of popcorn sold in theaters contain up to 1,200 calories, 980 milligrams of sodium, and a whopping 60 grams of saturated fat. And because popcorn tends to make you thirsty, you’re likely to pick up a soda to wash it down. Lots of theaters will even offer a coupon for a discount on a combo (one large popcorn and two medium sodas) when you buy your tickets.

Many supermarket products are not a lot better. In other words, we have to try a little harder to make popcorn a healthy snack food. Here’s what suggests:

Don’t be fooled by pre-popped products labeled ”air-popped.” It may be sprayed with fat after popping, which bumps a three-cup serving to about 170 calories and more than 10 grams of fat.

Choose microwave products carefully. Brands like Healthy Choice and Orville Redenbacher’s “Smart Pop” or “Light Natural” have just 45 to 60 calories and one to two grams of fat in a three-cup serving. Steer clear of the sugar-coated or caramel corn. Those toppings can add 200-300 calories.

Read the labels. If you check the nutritional information on boxes of microwave popcorn, you’ll see that it’s listed by the cup or based on a standard three-cup serving. If you eat an entire bag, equal to 3–5 standard servings, even the light popcorns provide 145–300 calories. A whole bag of a high-fat version can double those numbers.

Limit your portions. It’s easy to overeat a crunchy bite-size snack. If you like microwave products, try a few and find which one you like best. Pour an appropriate amount in a bowl and seal the rest if you’re not sharing. Or look for the smaller packages. If you can’t resist munching on popcorn at the movies, get the smallest, lightest order–and share it.

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