Creative popcorn seasonings that won't blow your calorie budget

  • 2 Minutes Read
Donna P Feldman MS RDN is author of Food Wisdom for Women and "Feed Your Vegetarian Teen". She writes about food and nutrition at Radio Nutrition.

Popcorn can be a healthy and filling snack all year round if you choose the right popcorn seasonings. If you are tired of eating the same flavor combinations, then check out these healthy, low-calorie, and creative popcorn toppings for inspiration.

Popcorn seasonings

Adding popcorn seasonings makes a difference in calories and fat grams

Microwave popcorn

The shorter the ingredient list, the better when it comes to packaged foods, and microwave popcorn is no exception. Read the nutrition facts label and choose the brand with the least amount of fat and sodium. Also, be mindful when opening the bag of freshly popped corn. The coatings used in the microwave popcorn bags have been linked to health issues.

Air-popped popcorn

At roughly 30 calories per cup, you could treat yourself to 3 cups of air-popped popcorn for a 100-calorie whole-grain snack. If you don't have an air-popper, perhaps a silicone microwave popcorn maker is right for you? This no-oil option also saves calories and fat grams so that you can spend it on your desired popcorn seasonings.

Stove-top popcorn

Back-in-the-day this was the go-to method for making popcorn. Still popular now, stove-top popping allows you to control the amount of oil and seasonings and produces a fresh and tasty snack. A 3-cup serving of popcorn popped in oil has 165 calories and 3 grams of fiber. All you need is a pot or pan with a lid, some oil that withstands high heat, and popcorn kernels. Try this recipe and refresher from MyNetDiary on how to make stove-top popcorn.

My favorite, healthy popcorn seasonings

Sprinkle these on top of freshly popped kernels while they are still hot. If you find your seasonings aren't sticking, simply mist the popped kernels with water or cooking spray and then coat with your favorite flavor combination. These seasonings are low in calories and fat and provide a lot of flavor.

Creative popcorn toppings that work well together

What about salt?

If you are going to add salt, just a shake or two of salt on one serving (3 cups of popped corn) should be sufficient. The USDA sodium listing for salted popcorn is only 100 mg per cup of popcorn. That's 1/24th of a teaspoon of salt. Another option is lite salt. With 50% less sodium than regular salt, it adds flavor while helping you stay within your sodium budget.

What about butter and oils?

Fats add calories and aren't essential to flavorful popcorn. When adding fats to popcorn, be very strict about portions. Most popcorn recipes use just 1-2 teaspoons of fat per serving. Unfortunately, popped corn's shape makes it easy for added fats to pool up and hide inside them, tempting you to pour on more.

Butter is traditional, but you can have fun experimenting with other fats for different flavors. For example, you can also use such nut oils as walnut, sesame, or almond. Olive oil blends nicely with grated parmesan cheese and garlic powder.

What to look for in ready-to-eat popcorn

If you are on-the-go and don't have time to pop your own kernels, there are plenty of healthy, ready-to-eat popcorn products on the market. Read the nutrition facts label and pay attention to serving size, calories, sodium, and fat grams. Basically, the shorter the ingredient, list the better. Save on calories and sugar by staying away from the caramel or kettle corn varieties.

While popcorn is a healthy snack that fits into most eating plans, it may be hard to control portions. To avoid eating more than you intend, check out these tips from MyNetDiary on mindful eating.

This blog was reviewed and updated by: Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist on October 28, 2020.

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Foods & Recipes->Popcorn Meal Planning & Diets->Snacks
Nov 2, 2020

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