Best and Worst Movie Theater Foods to Eat (And Easy Snacks to Sneak In)

Sure, heading to the movies is a laid-back way to spend the afternoon, but that blockbuster can expand your belly if you’re hitting the theater concession booth. Less-than-healthy convenience foods and massive portion sizes can mean a single theater “snack” can contain your entire day’s budget for calories — or more, if you’re not careful!

Movie theater popcorn
(Image: Getty Images)

Theater food doesn’t have to pile on the pounds, though. Try one of the healthier alternatives at the concession stand (or sneak in your own slimming snacks!)

Snack to Skip: Buttery Popcorn

Good news — popcorn is actually a whole grain, which means it’s healthier than you probably think. Bad news — that sodium- and fat-laden butter popcorn at the movies is definitely not healthy.

An order of buttery popcorn packs in hundreds or even thousands of calories, comes loaded with saturated fat and often contains trans fats as part of the buttery topping. While saturated fats aren’t generally heart-healthy, trans fats are much worse, since they boost unhealthy cholesterol and actually lower healthy blood cholesterol. Translation: any amount of trans fat in your diet is bad for your cardiovascular health.

Pass on the buttery topping -- homemade 'corn is much better.
(Image: Getty Images)

Snack to Skip: Super-Sized Soft Drinks

Movie theaters don’t hold back when it comes to soda sizes, either. With “small” drinks often starting at 20 ounces or more, you can easily drink the equivalent of several cans of soda in one sitting, taking in hundreds of calories of liquid sugar.

Not only is that processed sugar bad for you (sugar-sweetened beverages are a leading cause of obesity, and also up the risk of type 2 diabetes) but liquid calories don’t fill you up, so you’ll still feel hungry when you’re done. Going for diet soda isn’t a solution either — those artificial sweeteners may “trick” your brain into craving more carbs later.

hand holding soda can pouring a crazy amount of sugar in metaphor of sugar content of a refresh drink isolated on blue background in healthy nutrition, diet and sweet addiction concept
Hit the concession stand, and you could take in several cans' worth of soda. (Image: OcusFocus/iStock/Getty Images)

Snack to Skip: Hot Dogs and Nachos

Theater hot dogs or nachos make it easy to turn your movie snack into a meal, but you’ll also get refined carbs, unhealthy fats and tons of sodium. The cheese sauce added to most nachos is loaded with saturated fat and may even contain trans fats, while the hot dogs probably contain nitrates, which can trigger migraines (that’ll make it hard to follow the plot!)

A hot dog with relish and mustard
Movie theater hot dogs have refined carbs, unhealthy fat and tons of sodium -- you should pass. (Image: MSPhotographic/iStock/Getty Images)

Snack to Skip: “Single Serve” Candy and Chocolate

Most movie theater concessions come stocked with massive packs of candy and chocolate that actually include several servings. And even if you have the best intentions to make the candy last two to three sittings, it’s way too easy to finish it off as you watch your flick.

The result: a massive sugar rush that’ll leave you hungry and tired as the credits roll. And if you opt for a chocolate-based candy, you’ll also get a hefty amount of saturated fat. No thanks!

Candy, sweets and chocolates closeup..
Pass on the bags of candy at the concession stand -- they often have 4 or more servings per bag! (Image: SerAlexVi/iStock/Getty Images)
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