By Yumi Sakugawa, Intent.com
Recent studies have shown that eating a medium-sized bag of buttered popcorn with soda at the movies is pretty bad for you. Just how bad exactly? According to an article published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “You MAY be eating three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with 12 pats of butter while watching a movie–that food is nutritionally comparable to what you’d find in a medium popcorn and soda combo at Regal, the country’s biggest movie theater chain: 1,610 calories and three days’ worth–60 grams–of saturated fat.”
What about microwavable popcorn? Not the best alternative. According to this Care2 article, the chemical coating found in microwavable popcorn bags breaks down into a substance called perfluorooctanoic (PFOA), which has been labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency as a “likely carcinogen.”
What should we do when we want to watch a movie and get our munchie fix without setting ourselves up for future obesity or heart failures? We’re not saying you should give up popcorn and movies forever–but we do suggest considering these five healthier alternatives to popcorn the next time you are vegging in front of the big screen.
1. Cauliflower “popcorn.”
We wish we thought up this brilliant popcorn alternative ourselves, but we didn’t. You can find a raw cauliflower popcorn recipe here on LovingRaw.com, where you essentially shake up cauliflower pieces with salt, pepper, spirulina, and nutritional yeast in a ziploc bag and either dehydrate over night or eat as is. You can also bake cauliflower pieces in the oven with the following instructions:
1. Get a whole head of Cauliflower and rub down with olive oil.
2. Sprinkle with herbs and seasonings of your choice.
3. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 420 degrees.
4. Break off the florets and eat as finger food. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor. Optional: eat with bowls of healthy dipping sauces such as hummus, homemade guacamole or homemade salsa.
Related: Cauliflower: The Cancer-Fighting Crucifer
2. Apple and carrot slices with almond butter.
Apples and carrots will give you something to crunch on, and almond butter (a healthy alternative to peanut butter) will add a smooth, mildly salty-sweet flavor to your healthy snack. Almond butter is extremely low in saturated fat and high in monosaturated fat, making it an ideal snack supplement for your heart health.
Related: Which Nut Butter is Best for You?
3. Pita bread with hummus.
This combo is a great way to satisfy your salty food craving without clogging your arteries. One cup of chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus, “provides nearly all the recommended daily folate and magnesium necessary to support heart health,” according to Cary Neff from an Experience Life article. “Chickpeas also are high in fiber. Soluble fiber helps stabilize blood-sugar levels and whisks the cholesterol trapped in bile out of the digestive system. Insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation and conditions like diverticulosis.” The other key ingredients of hummus, olive oil and garlic, add essential fatty acids and infection protection.
4. Your own personal trail mix of unsalted goodness.
Get creative with your own personal bowl of trail mix that is way cheaper than anything you’ll buy at the store: unsalted peanuts, unsalted sunflower seeds, craisins, dried fruit, raisins, some unsweetened chocolate chips–whatever floats your trail mix boat so long as you are eating them in moderation.
Related: 5 Best Snacks to Boost Your Mood
5. Grapes or cherry tomatoes.
Yes, we know–grapes or cherry tomatoes just seem so boring compared to a piping hot bag of buttery, salty goodness. But once the movie starts rolling and you start popping these suckers into your mouth, you might get so engrossed in the movie you forget that you are actually eating something healthy. Sometimes what we crave is the motion of eating something, and what we are actually putting into our mouths becomes almost besides the point. If that is the case, then we might as well go for something completely healthy and chemical-free.
6. Do something else productive with your hands that doesn’t involve eating.
The blasphemy! Maybe you can go through a movie without eating something, which is ultimately the healthiest option to go. Knit something. Bead a homemade bracelet. Give yourself a DIY manicure / pedicure. Sew something. Or do a menial food-related labor that will result in eating healthy delicious goodness for after the movie–such as folding wonton skins for healthy vegetarian wontons or sealing rice paper full of veggie goodness to make vegetarian spring rolls.
Do you have other healthy alternatives to popcorn you’d like to share with the community? Share your healthy popcorn alternatives in the comments below!