Ask Dave: Movie Popcorn

Posted on September 4, 2011 by


Dear Dave,

David, what’s wrong with eating movie theatre popcorn?  It’s just popcorn right?  And it is known as a ‘diet’ food….

Lauren,  Utah

Hello Lauren,

First of all, corn in any form is a grain – NOT a vegetable.  If you have any grain sensitivities you should avoid it entirely as it WILL induce inflammation in your body.  Corn is also a highly genetically modified substance – the air-popped popcorn you enjoyed as a healthy food 10 years ago is no longer the same food.

As for movie popcorn, first understand that it is cooked in oil.  Not good oil like you use at home, okay?  If you eat it ‘buttered’ then the calories in it are usually from a ‘buttery’ non-hydrogenated soybean oil.  In most theaters this is a very low quality ingredient. The movie chain Cinemark reports using canola oil instead (read about canola here) – their small popcorn has 420 calories and the large has 910 – and these are the ‘low-fat’ options. Regal theaters offer a large popcorn that has 1610 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat, or you could just eat 3 McDonalds quarter pounders with cheese – correction; that’s 1647 calories so you’d have to leave a bite.

 Then there is the sodium.  Cinemark reports 1500 mg in their large tub.  AMC offers a 6-cup small tub with 210 mg of sodium –  this ‘small’ popcorn also contains 370 calories – that’s a small (unbalanced) meal in a tub.

While it is possible at some chains to get your popcorn salt free you typically won’t be able to avoid the oil it is popped in.  I have read reports of some theaters offering air-popped corn – but they frequently discontinue the practice due to insufficient demand.

I wouldn’t let this stuff into my mouth.  But that’s just me.  I like to be pain – free.  On movie night, I confess I  illegally smuggle in a baggie of something small and crunchy- like cubed jicama, apple, carrots, or the like chopped up for nibbling.  Then I buy a bottle of water to support the theatre.

 Thanks for the question and sorry to ruin your movie night,

David Cohen

Posted in: Ask Dave