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Bulletin: Watch the Movie, Skip the Popcorn

Popcorn HealthYou know the smell.

That warm, incredibly distinct smell that makes you weak at the knees every time you walk into a movie theatre.

It’s irresistible – you’re instantly drawn to it. You can feel your taste buds going a little crazy. And, as a side note, it’s always expensive as f*ck!

Popcorn.

It is to movies what Vodka is to Russians – they go hand in hand.

The enormous lineups at concession stands slightly hint at the obsession most movie-goers have with the small, fluffy white stuff (no, not that white stuff).

But hold on…

Have you ever tried looking for the nutritional information of movie-theatre popcorn? Even if you have, you’ve undoubtedly wasted your time.

That’s because no nutritional info is printed on concession stand boards or popcorn bags. It’s not even published on the theatre’s website. What gives?

Although it’s been years since I’ve purchased popcorn at the theatre, I kind of suspected there was something up, so I decided to do some scooping around. And I just happened to find a little study that’s so crazy it might slap you in the face.

An independent lab, Gelda Scientific, was asked by the Globe and Mail to analyze a few samples of large popcorn from three concession stands at the biggest movie theatre chains (both with and without toppings). Hold on tight – the results might blow your head off.

Here were there findings:

Theatre: Cineplex Odeon

Without Butter With Butter
Calories 1,141 calories 1,420 calories
Fat 67 g 100 g
Sodium 1,128 mg 1,095 mg

Theatre: Empire Theatres

Without Butter With Butter
Calories 1,116 calories 1,225 calories
Fat 51 g 67 g
Sodium 1,695 mg 2,114 mg

Theatre: AMC

Without Butter With Butter
Calories 1,060 calories 1,138 calories
Fat 62 g 69 g
Sodium 883 mg 694 mg

These are staggering numbers!

Let me put things in perspective for you…

An average adult should consume roughly 2,000 calories per day (unless you’re eating for size), 50 to 60 grams of fat per day, and no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day (here’s what’s so BAD about sodium).

This means that even if you’re not topping up your popcorn with butter (and I know that you are), you’re still getting over half of your daily caloric requirements in a single sitting. And these aren’t good calories. Not even close. There is practically zero nutritional value in popcorn – only a beautiful little addition to your waistline for the sake of stuffing your face during a showing of Final Destination 55.

But it gets worse.

Majority of movie-goers never opt for the popcorn alone. Oh no. God forbid. There has to be something to wash down all the garbage with.

Introduce the soda – the silent killer. Or perhaps a diet coke to keep things healthy?

The healthy combo 🙂

I’m not going to get into the harmful effects of coke (again, not that coke), but you might want to check out the dark side of diet coke.

Hopefully you can see how quickly these things can add up. What you thought was going to be a relaxing two hour romantic comedy has just turned into a gruesome horror flick for you and your midsection.

If you want to be a fitness bloomer, these are the kinds of things you have to avoid. These are the things you have to eliminate from your diet.

Now I’m not saying you have to completely skip out on eating at the movies. It’s not like that. I understand that sometimes you want to have (or share) a snack when sitting down at the theatre. I get it.

All I want for you to understand is that there is a reason movie theatres don’t make nutritional information accessible to the public.

Are you a popcorn fiend? Do these findings surprise you? Are there any alternatives to popcorn you can recommend? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

Josh @ Last Stop Fat Loss - September 8, 2011

Being both a popcorn fanatic and fitness freak, this post breaks my heart a little. I knew somewhere deep down that popcorn was horrible for you, but I never mustered the courage to look up the stats myself. After reading your article, I know to avoid popcorn – even on cheat day. Nice post, btw!

Josh

    Srdjan Popovic - September 9, 2011

    Hey Josh, I’m sorry to break your heart. But I guess it’s better that I break it than the popcorn 🙂

    Thanks for the comment!

Alykhan - Fitness Breakout - September 9, 2011

Srdjan,

Those are some pretty outrageous numbers. Actually, I think it’s outrageous that going to the movies these days even without buying stuff from the concession stand has become so expensive. I’d much rather invest in a big screen tv, stay in, watch a Redbox DVD for $1, and get my own popcorn from the supermarket (I imagine there must be way lower calorie options available).

Alykhan

    Srdjan Popovic - September 9, 2011

    It’s funny because I don’t go to the movies very often but every time I do the admission prices have somehow increased. Then there’s the food prices – I think popcorn itself is one of the most marked up food items in the world – it costs them cents to make yet they have the willingness to sell it for $6-$10. A little crazy if you ask me.

    But there definitely are lower calorie, fat, and sodium options. My question is when are the theatres going to start changing to these healthier options??

Tomika Planck - September 9, 2011

OMG. I had NO idea. I generally don’t buy movie popcorn just because the whole movie experience is so dang expensive. This is unreal. I’m SO glad to know this.

    Srdjan Popovic - September 11, 2011

    Hey Tomika, I think a lot of people would be surprised to see just how BAD this stuff is. It’s kind of surreal. Glad you found the post useful 🙂

Troy - September 9, 2011

Those are crazy numbers. Popcorn itself isn’t that bad (see below). What are they popping the stuff in? No, I don’t want to know.

Orville Redenbacher’s Original – 1 cup popped
Calories 15
Fat. 1.5g
Sodium 0

Now I know that a large would be several cups but still 10x doesn’t get it close to the theater numbers. That must be some “special sauce”.

    Srdjan Popovic - September 11, 2011

    You know Troy, I had the same thought – what in the world are they putting in that stuff. Popcorn that most people make at home isn’t nearly as bad so it really must be some ‘special sauce’.

    I’ll have to do some investigating!

Michael- The Underwear Body - September 10, 2011

Popcorn; a food that seems to leave you more hungry when you finished than when you started! Interesting how no attempt is made to supply the nutritional info (and I know most people probably don’t care but they could humour us).

If I see a film I will probably have some, just because it’s a pretty rare thing, but I know a lot of folks nowadays who like to eat popcorn at home. All the time. It’s amazing/ a bit scary how many edible food like products are part of so many people’s daily lives nowadays.

Michael

    Srdjan Popovic - September 11, 2011

    You bring up an interesting point Michael (one that I will be discussing in detail in a future post). It’s all about how habit plays a HUGE factor in what we eat during movies and other leisure activities. Stay tuned 😀

Raymond- ZenMyFitness - September 10, 2011

Wow didn’t know popcorn is that bad.
I’m glad for a long time now I take my own food into the cinemas and I do make my own popcorn (air popped) and I sort of still get my movie cravings taken care of.

I know it’s not too cool if you are on a date but being married I get away with it although my wife hates it when I take apples in (the munching sound is just way too much).
Raymond

    Srdjan Popovic - September 11, 2011

    Hahaha Raymond that’s hilarious. I’ll have to admit that I usually bring my own snacks in with me too (I’m not married but my gf doesn’t seem to mind…I think). The act is usually frowned upon but it’s better than buying the garbage that they sell.

    Bob @ HealthyMeansYou - October 4, 2011

    I’m sure your wife hates the munching sound of other popcorn eaters too. It’s even worse. It’s like a herd of swine just swarmed the theater. It can be really annoying and disgusting sometimes.

    I feel bad for the floor cleaners after every show.

сборник кодексов - September 12, 2011

Great info dude!!

Kevin McMillian - September 12, 2011

YIKES! No idea … that’s sad when you could grab a candy bar and it’d be way better for you. Thanks for the heads-up, except movies aren’t going to be as cool anymore.

D - September 12, 2011

I know it is true but still hard to believe popcorn can pack that many calories.

Jason - Fitness Workouts - September 13, 2011

Wow, I didn’t realize how bad popcorn was. When I go to the theater I generally eat two or three tubs of popcorn. I don’t put butter on it, but apparently that doesn’t make much of a difference.

The calories, I’m not too worried about. But that is a lot of sodium I definitely don’t need.

Thanks for the research.

    Srdjan Popovic - September 13, 2011

    Two to three tubs??? That’s crazy man!

    I think a lot of people get caught up on the calories and I’m glad you pointed out the excess sodium. These are all things you have to watch out for.

    Glad you enjoyed it!

Ray - Six Pack Abs Diet - September 14, 2011

Srdjan,

I knew the calories from movie theater popcorn was high, but I didn’t know it was THAT high! Makes me glad I avoid the popcorn (and the other delicious junk) sold at theaters. The buttered popcorn doesn’t “go down well” and it’s priced way too high.

I’m like Raymond, I bring my own snacks with me (hide them in my wife’s or my daughter’s purse) :).

Thanks for sharing this info.

Ray

    Srdjan Popovic - September 15, 2011

    Thanks for the comment, Ray! I’ve developed some ninja skills myself over the years when it comes to sneaking in snacks to the cinema!!

    Glad you found the post useful!

Beth Lockhart - April 5, 2012

Hi Srdjan!
Thanks for the info on popcorn. I had braces on my teeth as an adult and popcorn was absolutely forbidden as was anything else that was difficult to clean out of the works. I developed a lot of great habits in those days of being neurotic about my teeth…..to this very day I still brush after every meal….

My husband eats popcorn, so I got the box out of the pantry and this is what the nutrition label says about Orville Redenbacher’s Light Butter microwaveable popcorn:
2 tbsp unpopped: 120 calories with 45 calories from fat I cup popped: 15 calories with 5 calories from fat……..total fat 5 g…sat fat 2.5 g….sodium 190 mg…..potassium 200 mg…..fiber 4 g………protein 3 g…..iron 2%. This popcorn is made with palm oil. So everybody needs to keep sneaking their own popcorn. Oh, yes! I totally agree with your reader’s disgust having to listen to someone chowing down…..I hate sitting next to a giant rodent who is rooting around in a little box while somebody behind me kicks my chair.

Another comment about a different subject….inspirational movies. During my chemo days, if I wished for something it miraculously appeared….books, movies, long lost friends you name it. Rocky was one of the older movies I wished for and it appeared on tv almost constantly during that time and my favorite part is at the end where all of the people show their fight stuff on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art…..there were many others as well. Other movies took on new meaning. Dream Girls became about how to allow yourself to be managed….Wall-E was a love story, but it was also about healing.

It’s stuff like this make makes me love your site so much. You are all about allowing yourself to be managed, being open to change, healing , learning and growth. AND YOU SHARE!!

Thanks for all that you do.
Best wishes,
Beth

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