On The Table

A collection of knowledge-based articles to inspire overall wellness.

Popcorn: What is it Hiding?

Popcorn is a great snack when on a diet, but learn how it can trick you.

Popcorn: What is it Hiding?

Whether you’re going to watch an epic tale of Hobbits from a mythical land, that one French musical movie everyone is talking about, or another James Bond flick, the chances are good that you will find yourself at the movie theater this winter to escape the blistering cold.

And what is the perfect movie snack? Popcorn!

This buttery and salty treat is a great snack at home, especially when it’s so easy to prepare! However, it’s hard to beat movie theater popcorn. The sweet and buttery smell lingers outside of the theater long before you’ve purchased your ticket or made you way over to the concession stands. It’s tempting to gorge on the jumbo tub of popcorn, and maybe even wash it down with a massive soda the size of your head; but the popcorn served at movie theaters is hiding a deep, dark secret—a dangerous compound known as trans-fat

Trans-fat: the deep, dark secret behind movie theater popcorn

Three of the largest US chains: Regal, AMC and Cinemark serve this up in huge proportions that come packed with a heart stopping amount of fat and calories.

According to a recent study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), researchers found that movie theater popcorn ranges from 400 to 1,200 calories, with one to three days' worth of saturated fat and up to 1,500 milligrams of sodium. Add a soft drink to your order and that’s another 150 to 500 calories!

The worst offender was Regal. Their medium sized bag of popcorn contains 20 cups of popcorn, 1,200 calories, and a whopping 60 grams of saturated, heart stopping fat.

AMC’s popcorn didn’t pass the calorie count inspection either. Their 16-cup large popcorn tub contained 1,030 calories and 57 grams of saturated fat, aka a triple bypass in a bucket. One of the main reasons both Regal and AMC’s popcorn has such high calorie content is because they both pop their kernels in coconut oil. Coconut oil has 90% saturated fat!

Cinemark’s popcorn, on the other hand, contained only a fraction of the amount of saturated fat as Regal and AMC, ranging from 2 grams in their small size to 5 grams in their 910 calorie large portion of popcorn.

All three chains use similar ‘butter’, or non- hydrogenated soybean oil topping that adds about 120-130 calories per tablespoon. And some Cinemark theaters offer a real butter topping that adds 9 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.

Besides the artery clogging amount of fat in the popcorn, researchers also found that movie theater popcorn contains large unhealthy amounts of salt. Sodium levels range from 210 milligrams in the smallest 6-cup offering from AMC to 1,500 milligrams in the large tub from Cinemark. 

Healthy options for you to try

At the movie theater

If you’re planning on enjoying a movie at your local theater, share a small, unbuttered serving of popcorn with a friend and ask the theater to pop you a batch without salt (all three of the chains contacted by the CSPI said this option was available) and wash it down with an ice cold water.

Snack it up with bistroMD

If you’re looking for a good movie theater snack, bistroMD offers EATS—essential and tasty snacks that come with any of our diet meal plans. They are perfect bite sized morsels on-the-go for any occasion.

Every bite you take from any one of our entrees follows this proven approach for healthy weight loss. Our program provides 1,100-1,400 calories daily with 40-50% total caloric intake from lean, adequate protein, 20-25% of calories from healthy fats, and 30-35% from complex carbohydrates.

We have a men and a women’s program with the option to receive five-or-seven-days’ worth of healthy meals delivered to your door. The seven day option comes with the My Night feature, your one night a week to kick back, relax with friends and eat whatever or wherever you want.

The two programs range from $130-$160 and EATS are just $1.50 per snack. Women receive two snacks per day and men receive three snacks per day.

It only takes a few weeks to see results. You can lose weight and still enjoy a delicious snack while watching your favorite new film!