Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Movie Popcorn

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The Center for Science in the Public Interest came out this past week with some pretty shocking stats on popcorn at the movie theatres. I knew the popcorn wasn't good...but even I was surprised to see how bad it was!

They compared three major chains, Regal, AMC, and Cinemark. Regal was by far the worst because their sizes are huge and they use coconut oil to pop in. AMC wasn't much better: they use coconut oil, too, but the popcorn sizes are smaller. Cinemark uses canola oil so the type of fat isn't as bad, but the sodium was worst than the other two and the calories were similar.

Here is how they broke down:
Small popcorn
Regal: 11 cups has 670 calories, 34 grams saturated fat, 550 mg sodium
AMC: 6 cups has 370 calories, 20 grams saturated fat, 210 mg sodium
Cinemark: 8 cups has 420 calories, 2 grams saturated fat, 690 mg sodium

Medium popcorn
Regal: 20 cups has 1,200 calories, 60 g saturated fat, 980 mg sodium
AMC: 9 cups has 590 calories, 33 g saturated fat, 330 mg sodium
Cinemark: 14 cups has 760 calories, 3 g saturated fat, 1,240 mg sodium

Large popcorn
Regal: 20 cups (same size as medium, but different tub that looks bigger) see above for same numbers. You can get free refills with the large, though. Great! Unlimited quantities of artery clogging saturated fat!!!
AMC: 16 cups has 1,030 calories, 57 g saturated fat, 580 mg sodium
Cinemark: 17 cups has 910 calories, 4 g saturated fat, 1,500 mg sodium

If you are thinking, "I don't add that butter to my popcorn," guess what? These numbers are just for the popcorn that is already popped in the oil. If you add MORE of the "buttery" topping, that adds another 120-130 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat at each chain.

This is really unfortunate for so many reasons. The amount of saturated fat is appalling and is 4 times more than what we should be getting in a day (I tell people to stay below 15-20 grams per day). The other is that it gives popcorn a bad name. Popcorn is actually a whole grain and has fiber and only 30 calories per cup! It is healthy...as long as it is air popped without all of this added oil and salt.
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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