Popcorn—it’s one of those foods that tastes great, and is good for you. This whole-grain snack is a great alternative to low-nutrient, fatty, salty snacks, such as chips and cheese puffs. Plain popcorn is naturally low in sodium and fat, and high in fiber. But before you visit your grocery store on a popcorn binge, consider that many popcorn products have considerable amounts of salt, oil, sugar, and artificial ingredients that reduce their nutritional quality. And, while most are free of artery-clogging trans fats, a few still contain a substantial amount. But there are many delicious popcorns in a variety of flavors that can fit within healthy eating guidelines.
Before your next home movie night, check out the following tips so you can munch through your film guilt-free.
- Keep it simple. Check the ingredients list and choose popcorn with the fewest ingredients. Ideally, these will be just popcorn, oil, and salt. Steer clear of brands with partially hydrogenated oils so you can keep your trans fats at zero.
- Check serving size. Depending on your popcorn, the suggested serving size can be anywhere from one-half cup to four cups. Read the label to make sure you’re not doubling or tripling up on calories, fat and sodium.
- Make your own. This is the best option, because it allows you to control the type and amount of ingredients you add. Air poppers add no extra fat, while the old-fashioned method of popping over the stove can increase the fat content, depending on how much oil you use. If making your own, choose a small amount of healthy oil, such as canola or olive, and add a sprinkle of salt, if desired, for a healthy treat.
How to make easy-peasy popcorn!
Try D-I-Y microwave popcorn. Place one-half cup unpopped popcorn, 1 teaspoon oil, and 1⁄4 teaspoon of salt (if desired) into a brown paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over twice and microwave on high for 21⁄2 to 3 minutes, or until the popping slows and there’s about two seconds between pops. To boost the flavor sprinkle with cinnamon, cayenne, grated parmesan or your favorite spice-herb mixture.
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