Movie Goers Should Consider Skipping the Popcorn and Drink


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  264 comments   :  24,414 Views

In the December 2009 issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter, the Center for Science in the Public Interest takes on movie popcorn and drinks and wow what a revelation it is, not only for those looking to lose weight, but for those looking to embrace healthy habits.

I was shocked to read that a medium popcorn with a medium soda packs well over 1600 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat. And if you upsize to a large popcorn and 2 medium drinks this brings your calorie content to well over 2000 calories.

While some chains, such as Cinemark, have switched to using non-hydrogenated canola oil for popping, other theaters such as AMC and Regal use coconut oil. And when you add the so-called buttery topping that many of us like to put on our popcorn, this raises our calorie content and saturated fat even more so.

If you think sticking to a small popcorn is a safer option, you may want to think again. A small popcorn without the buttery topping at Regal Theaters will set you back 670 calories, at Cinemark 420 calories and at AMC only 370 calories, drinks not included. Add buttery topping to any of these options and you can easily add an additional 120 calories per bag. Add a small drink and you can add another 150 calories.

While I am all for moderation, I would have to think twice before eating the majority of my calories for one day on a snack. This is probably why I have not had movie popcorn in a very long time. I cannot justify eating a snack that has more calories and saturated fat than a steak dinner or Big Mac with fries. So I eat before I go and skip the concession stand altogether. Not only do I save money, but I save my arteries and my health by doing so.

As a movie goer, do you indulge in the popcorn and drink deals the theaters promote? After reading the calorie and saturated fat content, not to mention the sodium content in the popcorn, would this cause you to reconsider the next time you visit the movie theater?

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  • 264
    The boyfriend and I loooooove going to the movies, especially the cheap-o dollar matinees, but we rarely if ever get anything at the concession stand. Forget the calorie/nutrition content; have you seen those prices?! We hang on to our food money and go grab a bite after the show instead. If we do want to snack, we bring our own in my ginormous purse. When we do the drive-in I'll air-pop my own 'corn and share it with buddies. :) - 9/17/2014   2:28:58 PM
    Wow no wonder I get up with puffy fingers the morning after movie popcorn. No more for me! - 8/17/2013   4:10:37 PM
    I was shocked recently to find out how bad the popcorn at the movie was, I too can barely watch the movie without popcorn and a coke. We usually have just a salad before going but still... I eat a lot of the 100 calories microwave bags and had no idea the movie was so far over the top! I will have to spend some time thinking this over - 1/29/2011   2:58:05 PM
  • 261
    OUCH!!! I had not idea it was that bad. Guess I' ll be skipping the popcorn too. We usually share the tub as a family but it isa loaded with the buttery stuff. I also just have a bottle of water that I smuggle in my purse. - 5/27/2010   1:37:50 AM
    Since I have some digestive issues, popcorn became a no-no for me about two years ago (and I'm glad because of all of the things in this article!). I've found that "quiet" snacks (as opposed to carrots that crunch...) like green grapes, sweet cherries, cherry tomatoes in the tiny snack bags are easy to sneak into the theater and make me forget about not having popcorn. - 5/21/2010   11:30:36 AM
    now that i have little kids, i go to the movies two or three times a year. yes, i get popcorn. i also get a box of candy. the salty sweet, you know. yes, i know how nasty it is. yes, i will keep getting it. - 5/20/2010   9:49:56 PM
    Popcorn...especially at the my weakness. Since I have started really paying attention to what i eat, I share a small the few times I go to the movies, but mostly I get my popcorn fix at home using less oil and not as much butter. - 4/5/2010   7:45:40 PM
  • 257
    For me, Popcorn is essential to the movie experience,maybe I will go small, or just call popcorn at the movies dinner :) - 3/21/2010   9:48:27 PM
  • 256
    I love movie popcorn but I had no idea it was that bad!! Guess I will be skipping the popcorn next time I don't drink soda anyways so that is an easy one! - 3/19/2010   9:38:31 PM
  • IN102WIN
    The point of going to the movies is to eat...... and yes I'm working on changing this mindset, but seriously - it would be difficult for me not to eat there. I'm working on it!!!!! - 3/11/2010   3:42:48 PM
  • 254
    I don't go to the movies because the smell of the popcorn makes me ill! No worries about me eating it! - 12/15/2009   2:45:33 PM
  • 253
    I go to the movies FOR the popcorn. It's why I only go once a year. If I'm ever on death row my last meal will be movie theater popcorn and a big 2Liter of ice cold Pepsi. (Yes, I've given this some thought) - 12/11/2009   9:55:58 AM
  • 252
    I try to eat before I go to the movies so I'm not tempted to eat the popcorn. I never knew it could be that many calories, though! I always steered clear because it was so expensive!

    I will usually try to sneak in a granola bar or serving of small pretzels to enjoy if I get a snack attack at the movie theater. - 12/7/2009   5:09:53 PM
  • 251
    I love going to the movies and of course I always get popcorn. To help save calories I have started ordering the Kiddie meal. It's a much smaller portion of popcorn and still allows me to have my beloved movie theater popcorn! - 12/7/2009   11:46:35 AM
    Wow...I don't go to the movies very once a year (if that). From now on I'll remember this article before I order any popcorn. Prehaps pack in my own snacks in my purse. - 12/7/2009   9:59:50 AM
  • 249
    With a small popcorn costing $4.00 a box, I skip the popcorn all together. Going to the movie is expensive enough, so I just skip all the snacks and just enjoy watching the movie. - 12/6/2009   11:30:53 PM
  • 248
    I'm not into sodas, I like water. I typically will bring a bag of nuts to munch on if/when I go to the movies, and if I go w/a friend, I bring a bag of the same for him/her. If he/she gets popcorn, I might have a few bites. - 12/6/2009   12:32:08 AM
    I adore movie theater popcorn! After reading this though, I think I will skip it from now on! - 12/5/2009   3:34:47 PM
  • 246
    Yes, movie popcorn is SO bad as is soda - regular and diet. - 12/5/2009   12:27:43 PM
  • 4SCOTT
    love popcorn, i have been taking my own prezels you can have 48 sticks for 100 calories and a diet coke( my only fetish) - 12/5/2009   3:25:03 AM
  • 244
    This just made me sad. :( I am a popcorn freak! We make it at home too, popped in a pan on the stove. We use coconut oil too because it is so much healthier. Sigh. I will switch back to canola, but I'm not giving up the popcorn. I don't drink anything but Diet or water so that's not a big deal. - 12/4/2009   2:17:09 PM
  • 243
    I am not surprised. I feel awful when I have eaten the "large" (man o man, I can't believe I ate it all) popcorn, but never never never do I drink regular pop. I chew my calories not drink them. Thanks for the info, next time I think I will try the licorice instead. - 12/4/2009   8:47:26 AM
  • 242
    I don't get popcorn unless I am actually hungry. I hardly ever am. But my car repair shop has free popcorn and I always get a little bag (the only size they have) there. - 12/4/2009   7:50:01 AM
  • 241
    I love movie popcorn! I have switched to diet soda, (because the water sometimes tastes "wierd" from the tap). I don't go to the movies very often and consider it a treat. - 12/3/2009   3:38:19 PM
  • 240
    It is for this reason that I like to sneak in some trail mix or dried cereal and a water bottle, but when the rest of my family gets popcorn, I'll usually eat a few handfuls. I never eat a whole bag though, no matter what size it is. - 12/3/2009   3:24:25 PM
    Next time I'll try Diet soda and not add butter and salt. - 12/3/2009   2:21:39 PM
  • 238
    When I heard that I wanted to just die. Eating popcorn at the movies is half the fun of going. I'm still going to the movies. I just won't be eating any popcorn.....I wonder if the Nachos are any better. (LOL) - 12/3/2009   1:47:56 PM
  • 237
    Well that was a great way to ruin my movie popcorn fun. - 12/3/2009   10:31:21 AM
  • HEALTHY541
    Not that this is a surprise. But what is a movie at the movie theatre without the popcorn and pop? That is part of the treat of going out to a movie. But being in the weight loss mode will definitely mean a change of habit when going to a movie. The notation of a large purse with healthier choices in it sounds like a plan to me. - 12/3/2009   10:07:39 AM
  • 235
    This is so sad to hear. It's so tasty and a tradition of movie goers. I will definitely re-think my food choices next time I visit the theater. - 12/3/2009   8:29:15 AM
    Oh no, not the pop corn!!!! - 12/3/2009   1:39:57 AM
    Oh no, not the pop corn!!!! - 12/3/2009   1:39:26 AM
  • 232
    Dang. I love movie popcorn with jalapenos. I don't go often, but when I go I always have popcorn.
    I might have to rethink this and just carry a large purse with my own fat-free popped treats. - 12/2/2009   3:32:24 PM
  • 231
    I can't remember the last time I ate movie theater popcorn. Another good reason to go vegan: not many bad snacks available at the movie theater concession stand for vegans! In fact, the last time I went to the movies, I brought my own snack: apple slices tossed with cinnamon and brown sugar, and I shared them with my friends. - 12/2/2009   3:27:41 PM
  • 230
    I just love movie popcorn but after reading this I will save money and calories. The sodium in movie popcorn is also ridiculous! For those of us with high blood pressure, we need to steer clear. Movie theaters need to offer a healthy alternative popcorn. - 12/2/2009   11:25:50 AM
  • 229
    I guess I'm lucky that I can't stand the stench (ahem, I mean smell) and taste of movie theater popcorn. I feel badly for my sister, though, because she gets strong cravings for it, and it's hard for her to resist. - 12/2/2009   10:10:09 AM
  • 228
    Even If the calories weren't ridiculously high, their prices for these snacks are over the top too. I steer clear of these all together. - 12/1/2009   11:00:52 PM
  • 227
    boy, I really did NOT want to read those numbers! I love popcorn at the movies, and long ago stopped putting butter on top. It's still hard to imagine quite that many calories packed in there, but I'll do my best to stay away from it most of the time. Always did drink diet soda at least so that's ok. - 12/1/2009   11:00:50 PM
    This hurts...I love movie popcorn. I was strong last week and didn't get any.The smell really gets me so I ate a piece of gum before going inside. Was happy I did save a lot of money...cost of movie is enough. Great movie to see by the way is "Blind Side"...makes you feel good:) - 12/1/2009   7:01:35 PM
    I used to eat movie theater popcorn and soda, but that won't happen again now. Thanks for bursting my bubble! (That was half sarcasm, half gratitude by the way) - 12/1/2009   2:11:18 PM
  • 224
    I am not surprised about movie popcorn being bad for you. I'm sure we all knew it was bad for you. I only go to the movies about twice a year so I will probably still get the popcorn. I usually get a kids pack, you get a small serving of popcorn and a small pop and it is way cheaper. You also get a laffy taffy or something that I usually give away. I used to be worried they would say I couldn't get it because of my age but they don't care at all:) - 12/1/2009   12:09:55 PM
  • 223
    Before we head out to the movies, I always make my own snack bags. I will get the lower calorie snack mix and measure out the portion and put in in the snack baggie. in another snack baggie I put in some fresh cut apples / or what fresh fruit I have on hand, then pack 2-3 bottles of water (one with flavoring). I know the theaters frown on this, yet I feel we can justify this because My body can't have any of the food offered at the movies. Right!! Isn't that what ALL of us should be doing and saying?? I guess we could go as far as to say we are allergic, we do have bloating reactions if we were to endulge in movie food...
    ENJOY!!!! - 12/1/2009   11:49:14 AM
  • 222
    Did you know that the Center for Science in the Public Interest is the same group who "outed" the saturated fat in movie popcorn 20 years ago? They have a wonderful newsletter which gives excellent information on healthy and not so good (they call it "food porn") foods. When I got my most recent issue and read that article, it was a shocker. I had sworn off movie theater "food" after I went to a Regal theater and bought a small popcorn and a small diet soda, and realized I was pushing $15 to $20 total for one visit to the movies! I gave in a couple of times a year, but after reading this article, no more. The newsletter is called Nutrition Action, and gives you helpful information about what's out there, and uses brand names. I also recommend it highly. - 12/1/2009   11:08:44 AM
    I must say, I love movie popcorn. Sometimes I'm good and don't get any. When I do get the popcorn, I know it's an indulgence. - 12/1/2009   10:47:24 AM
    Hmm...guess I'll skip the popcorn next time I go to the theater! (or just bring my own) - 12/1/2009   10:39:13 AM
  • 219
    Love the popcorn, but never buy it. Plan the day to either go out afterward for a meal, eat at home afterward, or have my meal before the movie and go out for a treat after the show. - 12/1/2009   9:39:25 AM
  • 218
    Popcorn is a fetish of mine so I would always get it when I go to the movie theaters. Before seeing "This Is It" when I went home for a funeral, I saw "Cadillac Records." That was the last time I went to the movies. After reading this article, it makes me think twice about getting a snack at the concession stand. I would rather have my feet and a better measure of health over 2000 calories in one sitting. - 12/1/2009   8:50:56 AM
  • 217
    not a movie goer the last movie I saw was the passion of the christ. What does that tell you? If it appeals to the family we but our own dvd. My son works and takes his lady friend out to the movies..have you ever tried to tell an 18 year old about health? LOL!they donot believe anything you say. - 12/1/2009   7:17:29 AM
  • 216
    disgusting food - 12/1/2009   4:23:58 AM
  • 215
    WOW!!! My mom was just telling me about this and I had some of this fattening popcorn Saturday Night.. thus the additional FAT! I will not do this again... - 11/30/2009   11:26:59 PM

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