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Diane Miller
Popcorn whats the best choice?
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    It’s Friday night and your plans for the evening are to relax at home watching a good movie with a little popcorn. Choosing popcorn as your movie-viewing snack is a much healthier choice than eating half a bag of chips, right? … Or is it? The answer is “it depends!”
    Popcorn can be a healthy, low-calorie snack, but finding a healthy popcorn can be a little tricky. If you’re not careful, you can easily choose a microwave popcorn packed with over 400 calories and half a day’s worth of fat and saturated fat, and a third of a day’s worth of sodium, and that’s not even as high as movie theater popcorn!
    The type of oil that is used to pop popcorn is one of the biggest factors to look at when deciding whether a popcorn is a good choice. Movie theater popcorn can often be loaded with the most fat and saturated fat of all popcorn types. This is because some movie theaters use highly saturated coconut oil to pop their popcorn, then often add butter to the bag before serving. Other theaters use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is also loaded with unhealthy saturated and trans fats.
    When it comes to microwave popcorn, there is a little more opportunity to make a healthy selection, but you have to be careful. Most companies use partially hydrogenated oils that contain (hidden) trans fats in addition to saturated fat. If you’re not careful in the type of popcorn you choose and the amount you eat, you can easily get more artery-clogging fats than you think. Now food labels are required to list the amount of trans fat in the food, which makes it easier to tell just how much trans fat you’re actually getting.
    Pre-popped popcorn is not made with as much partially hydrogenated oil as movie theater or microwave popcorn. Some pre-popped popcorn makes an appealing claim that it is “air popped.” But, be careful. Oil and cheese are often added to make it just as high in fat as some of the others. It is also important to keep in mind that some pre-popped popcorn is sugar-coated, which is often lower in fat, but still high in calories.
    Here are three tips to keep in mind when choosing a popcorn:
    Tip #1: Look for “light” or “94 percent fat-free”.
    Tip #2: Look at the label to see how much “popped” popcorn is in one serving. Measure out that much, then share the rest.
    Tip #3: Check the sodium content.
    Aim for no more than 200 mg/sodium/serving. (Note: “Made with butter” popcorn often has more sodium than other types).
    If you really crave a bag of popcorn at the movie theater, the best choice would be the smallest size with no added butter. Even that is about 300 calories, one-third of a day’s worth of fat, and half a day’s worth of saturated fat.
    Making your own air-popped popcorn at home would be the healthiest option. Air-popped popcorn by itself is fat-free, and you can control what is added to the popcorn. Add a little flavor by sprinkling a small amount of salt, chili powder or Parmesan cheese on top.
    The next time you’re searching for popcorn, follow these tips and smile because you have chosen a healthy, low-calorie snack!
    For more information on food and nutrition contact Diane at (912) 871-0504 or dianem@uga. edu.
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