Is Popcorn a Healthy Snack?

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Popcorn can be a healthy snack when it is prepared correctly, such as in an air popper with only a small amount of butter and salt. Find out how to prepare healthy popcorn with information from a registered and licensed dietitian in this free video on healthy eating.

Part of the Video Series: Health & Nutrition
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Video Transcript

My name is Christine Marquette, and I'm a registered and licensed dietitian with Marquette Nutrition and Fitness. And we're going to answer the question, is popcorn a healthy snack? Well, the answer is it depends. Popcorn can be a healthy snack, if it's plain popcorn. Or even if it has a little bit, just a small amount of butter or if you pop it yourself with a small amount of a plant based oil like a canola oil, so that it has a very small amount of fat. A healthier option would be to use an air popper. In that case, that popcorn has a lot of fiber, has very little fat to it, if you don't add a lot of salt, it's low sodium as well. So in that case it can be a very healthy snack. A serving size of popcorn, is actually three whole cups. That counts for somebody, for example who is diabetic, those three whole cups of plain popcorn, that counts as one carbohydrate choice. Or one carbohydrate serving. So in that case, it can be a good snack. However, if you go to the movies, you go to the movie theater, and you get the movie theater popcorn that's already buttered, that is not such a healthy option. That type of butter that they use has a lot of the bad saturated fat in it. Sometimes it will also actually have trans fat if they're not using real butter. Very frequently movie theaters don't use real butter, they use an artificial butter that has trans fat in it. So in that case, that's not a healthy choice, and it's even more unhealthy if you ask them to put extra butter on it. In that case that's a very poor choice of snack. That's a very unhealthy snack. In addition, even if you just buy popcorn, microwave popcorn to pop at home, if you buy the buttery flavored popcorn that's not the light, it's just the regular full blown buttery flavored popcorn, that also is not very healthy. Again, it's not always real butter. A lot of times it's an artificial butter that has a lot of trans fat in it. So in that case, that popcorn would not be a very healthy snack. So the key is what is put on the popcorn. If it's a plain popcorn, or if you control the butter, because you made it and you put a small amount, than it's a very healthy snack. Just avoid the type where you have no control over how much butter it was made with, or whether that's an artificial butter. That would be an unhealthy choice of popcorn.

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