Smart Swap Saturday: Air-Popped Popcorn

When starting a healthier lifestyle, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by all the products and food on the market. I am a firm believer that simple swaps add up and make a difference over time. Each Saturday I will feature a Smart Swap! These Smart Swaps will be healthier choices and recommendations for your favorite not-so-healthy foods. 

Today’s Smart Swap: Air Popped Popcorn

When I was young, every Sunday night my Mom, sisters and I would make popcorn, paint our nails and watch “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.” Did you have any traditions like that when you were younger? 

Making popcorn involved cooking it on the stove in oil and smothering it in butter. To this day, homemade popcorn is one of my favorite treats!

For today’s comparison, we will take a look at movie theater popcorn and air-popped popcorn. 

Let’s break it down! 

The calories and carbohydrates in movie theater popcorn can vary depending on the movie theater you attend and the size of your order. According to AMC Theatres, butter-free popcorn ranges from 300 calories for a small to 1,090 calories for a refillable tub. For carbs, the numbers range from 41 grams for a small butter-free popcorn to 148 grams for a refillable butter-free tub.

Although movie theater popcorn is high in carbs, it also adds a significant amount of fat calories. A small butter-free popcorn has about 13 grams of fat and can contain up to 49 grams of fat for the refillable butter-free tub. Keep in mind, fats are higher in calories than carbohydrates! (LiveStrong)

While butter definitely makes your popcorn taste incredible, it can do quite a bit of damage to your total calorie count. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), butter can increase your popcorn’s calorie count to as much as 1,500 calories.

Additionally, it is important to consider that butter is typically dispensed through a button-operated machine, so it can be easy to add too much. One tablespoon of movie theater butter contains 130 calories and 14 grams of fat, according to Cinemark.

Healthy Swap: Air Popped Popcorn

Air-popped popcorn is a much healthier alternative! You can eat a lot for not many calories. 

Air-popped popcorn comes in at 31 calories per cup! One cup of air-popped popcorn has 0 grams of fat, and 6 grams of carbs. 

You can spice up air-popped popcorn by adding popcorn seasoning! My favorite brand is Kernel Seasons.

According to Healthline, because of its low-calorie content, low energy density, high fiber content and increased satiety, eating popcorn may help you eat fewer calories and lose weight.

Here are a few other fast facts about popcorn:

  • Popcorn is a whole grain, making it a good-for-you food.
  • It provides energy-producing complex carbohydrates
  • It contains fiber, providing roughage the body needs in the daily diet.
  • Popcorn is naturally low in fat and calories.
  • Popcorn has no artificial additives or preservatives and is sugar-free.
  • 3 cups of popcorn equal one serving from the grain group.

Key Takeaways:

  • Air-popped popcorn is low in calories and voluminous! You can eat a lot and keep your calories low. Air-popped popcorn is my go-to snack when I want to munch. 
  • You can switch up air-popped popcorn by adding popcorn seasoning! My favorite brand is Kernel Seasons. They have SO many yummy flavors!! 
  • There are also many healthy packaged popcorn options in stores today. Look for brands like Boom Chicka Pop and Skinny Pop. 

Do you prefer to air pop your own popcorn? Or buy a prepackaged version? What’s your favorite popcorn seasoning?!