With summer blockbuster season in full swing, many of us will be spending our summer nights holed up in a movie theatre. And really, is there any better place to be than a cool, dark theatre when the heat and humidity is on in full force?
Which brings us to the movie theatre food. While it’s not like anyone is thinking those snacks are healthy, it turns out they are a lot worse than you may have imagined. Movie theatre popcorn contains anywhere from 500 to 1,200 calories. What’s worse, many theatres pop in coconut oil, resulting in a bag of popcorn that contains one to three days worth of saturated fat. Plus, most bags have at least 800 to 1,500 milligrams of sodium inside, or more than half your daily needs. With the calories, fat and salt – a small bag of popcorn can be the equivalent of a personal pan pizza, and a medium or large as two pizzas.
While foods like this are fine to enjoy on occasion, most people are not thinking of that movie theatre popcorn as a full-on meal, which is really what it is. Not to mention, movie theatre eating tends to be mindless eating – we are so enthralled with what’s on the screen that we get to the bottom of our tub of popcorn or candy without even realizing it.
So what’s a movie theatre goer to do? Next time you head out to see a flick, use this guide to pick the smartest snacks at the theatre.
The Best Movie Theatre Snack Picks
Many people are probably saying “But I thought popcorn was a healthy choice?” Well yes, that is true, but only for the air popped varieties, which unfortunately does not include the popcorn you find at your local theatre. Movie theaters pop their popcorn in oil, which adds extra calories and fat. On top of that, the serving sizes are massive – a “small” popcorn contains about 11 cups, while a medium or large contains 20 cups of popcorn.
Your best bet: order a small popcorn, skip the extra buttery toppings or fixings, and share it with a friend.
Candy and Chocolate
The problem with most candy and chocolate at the concession stand: it only comes in one (massive) size. Take my personal favorite, Reese’s Pieces. The 8 ounce bag packs 1,260 calories and 122 grams (or 30 teaspoons) of sugar! Candy tends to be lower in calories than chocolate, since there is less fat, but it still has a lot of sugar.
Your best bet: choose the small package possible. On the candy side, Sour Patch Candy tends to be the best choice, while for chocolate go for Milk Duds or Snow Caps to keep the calories in check. When in doubt, share the box with a friend.
The discount combos may seem like a good deal, but really all you’re getting is extra sugar, fat, salt and calories, with very little nutrition. Avoid the complete meals at the theatre, as most of them clock in at over 1,000 calories each.
Your best bet: a hot dog with ketchup or a soft pretzel over a snack-sized meal. Many theatres are starting to offer “light bites”, including options like trail mix, popchips, pretzels and hummus, and fruit bars. If your local cineplex has these options, go for it!
We know that soda isn’t the best choice, but movie theatre does us one worse with the super-sized cups. A “small” ranges from 16 to 32 ounces while the large clocks in at 44 to 54 ounces or more. In sugar-speak, that is 26 to 33 teaspoons of sugar.
Your best bet: Bottled water is always available. Or, save some money and bring your own bottle from home to fill up at the water fountain. Some theaters are starting to offer coffee now – a regular coffee with a little milk or cream is also a good choice.
One last time: never arrive to the movie theatre on an empty stomach. If you’re really hungry, it’s much easier to go overboard with the snacks and drinks. Have a meal or balanced snack before you leave home or, better yet, BYOP – bring your own popcorn.
Got any tips for healthy movie theatre snacks? Share in the comments section and be sure to download Luvo’s 7-day meal and fitness plan for more nutrition tips and recipes.
Did you enjoy this post? Stay in the know with more nutrition tips, and exclusive promo offers — join our newsletter.