A healthy snack alternative: popcorn

By Eli Hartman-Seeskin

According to a 2015 report by market research firm, Mintel, 94 percent of Americans snack daily, and half of adults snack multiple times a day. One snack that is growing in popularity is popcorn, which, at its best, is a whole-grain, fiber-rich food low in calories and fat, and packed with antioxidants. Unfortunately, it is easily and often made very unhealthy with cooking oils and toppings.

The best way to buy, prepare and consume popcorn is to buy un-popped kernels and air pop them at home. Popular microwavable options contain many harmful chemicals, and are much higher in calories, salt and fat. Movie theater popcorn, covered in oil, artificial butter, and left under heat lamps for hours is also not a good option.

If you want to buy pre-popped popcorn, make sure to check the nutrition label! Even brands advertising themselves as healthier options may in fact be higher in calories and fat. Also, buying packaged flavored popcorn often has more calories, salt, sugar and fat than plain alternatives.

When you make popcorn at home, it can be easy, cheap, healthy and delicious! High-quality popcorn kernels are far cheaper per serving than any pre-popped or flavored options. Making popcorn can be easy too. Air-popped popcorn is the healthiest option. Countertop air poppers are easy to use, but popcorn can be easily made in a microwave without any oil in a large glass container or even a paper bag!

There are many healthy flavoring options to use when you make popcorn at home too. Of course, simple lightly salted popcorn is easy and delicious, but there are unique sweet and savory alternatives. Using fresh or dried herbs or nutritional yeast (which adds a cheese-like nutty flavor) can create a unique snack. For a sweeter option, try cinnamon, no-sugar-added dried fruit, or even a shaved dark chocolate.

Popcorn does not have to be unhealthy. And being healthy doesn’t have to make it boring.

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