Q: I’m confused: popcorn is always recommended as a low-calorie snack, so why do people make such a big deal about calories in movie theater popcorn?
A: Popcorn can be a low-calorie, high-fiber snack. Three cups of air-popped popcorn (a portion the size of three typical adult fists) contain just 90 calories (along with practically zero sodium and nearly 4 grams of dietary fiber). However, movie theater popcorn is quite different: portions tend to be huge, it’s popped in oil and often served with extra buttery topping. According to information from major movie theater chains, a “large” portion (often 17 to 20 cups) may contain 900 to 1000 calories, and when the buttery topping is added, that can zoom up to about 1500 calories. For many women trying to lose weight, that’s almost the calorie recommendation for a whole day. Cutting portion size helps, but even a theater “small” unbuttered portion contains 450-485 calories – which is like a whole extra meal. I know that for many people getting popcorn seems an essential part of going to the movies, but it’s primarily “mindless” eating, which is a habit that whether at home or out is worth breaking. If you feel totally deprived going to a movie without getting popcorn, get one in the smallest size available, skip the extra butter, and share it with others. Or your theater may have some lower calorie snack options like granola bars. But ideally, break the connection and focus on enjoying the movie. Some people may find sugarless gum helps ease this transition by providing something to chew – and it keeps you from saying “yes” if companions offer you some of their popcorn!