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You Ask, I Answer: Movie Popcorn

popcorn bucketsCOB[In light of your post about calorie values in movie nachos], I have a related question — what about movie pocorn?

– Purnima Anand
Via the blog

The figures certainly raise a red flag.

First, some context.  Three cups of popped popcorn represent one serving, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture.

That said, a small movie theater popcorn provides 9 cups.  A medium?  Anywhere from 12 to 14 cups, depending on the theater.  A large, meanwhile, packs in 18 – 21 cups.

From a calorie perspective, this is what you’re looking at (before any fake butter is slathered on):

  • Small: 500 – 650 calories
  • Medium: 750 – 950 calories
  • Large: 1,000 – 1,250 calories

Each pump of liquid “butter” adds anywhere from 130 – 150 extra calories.

Remember, Brian Wansink’s most popular study on large portions and consumption was centered around popcorn!  Individuals who ate popcorn from large buckets ate more than those presented with “medium” buckets even though they didn’t report being more hungry (and the popcorn was a week old!).

Here are my “I didn’t bring a healthy snack from home” movie-theater-survival tips:

  1. The absolute worst thing you can do is arrive to the movie theater hungry.  Make it a “dinner and a movie” night, rather than “a movie and dinner.”
  2. If movie popcorn is your thing, buy a children’s size (approximately 350 calories) for yourself or share a small with someone else.
  3. Skip the liquid butter.  Movie popcorn is already cooked in oil.
  4. If you go to the movies sparingly (no more than once a month), I don’t see a problem with getting a small order for yourself.  Plan the rest of the day accordingly, though (i.e.: leave the huge Chipotle burrito for another day’s lunch)

One Comment

  1. Sarah said on September 10th, 2009

    Great tips – and I think it’s great that you throw in that if you don’t go often, treating yourself is OK . . . all about moderation!

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