Nutrition Articles

Movie Theater Snack Attack!

Two Thumbs Up or Blockbuster Diet Disaster?


If movie theater popcorn is a must-have, stick with a kid-sized serving and forgo the added butter or margarine. Avoid the larger sizes completely, even if it seems like a steal. Moving up to the medium serving from the small size costs only pennies more, but adds about 500 more calories and two days worth of saturated fat. Ouch!

Think you can get away with buying large and sharing? Think again. One study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that people who were given a large bucket of popcorn ate 50 percent more than those who were given a medium-sized bag. When asked to estimate how much they had eaten, participants thought they only ate as much as those with a smaller bag. This is one of many studies proving that if there’s food in front of us, we’ll eat it without thinking.

Those giant chocolate bars and boxes of candy at the counter are also bad news. While you might kid yourself into thinking that you won’t eat the whole thing, chances are that once you're munching away in the dark, you’ll mindlessly consume the entire box without blinking. If you absolutely have to have a treat from the candy counter, choose the smallest sizes. They offer built in portion control and fewer overall calories.

Check out the following chart to see how your movie favorites compare. Pay particular attention to the sizes, which vary from two to over nine ounces.

Theater Food Size Calories Fat
Sno Caps 3.1 oz box 300 15 g
Hot dog Medium (2 oz) 305 5 g
Mike & Ike 3 oz box 320 0 g
Junior Mints 3 oz box 360 7 g
Milk Duds 3 oz box 370 12 g
Gummi Bears 3.5 oz bag 390 0 g
Raisinets 3.5 oz bag 400 16 g
Soft pretzel Large (5 oz) 480 5 g
Starburst 4.4 oz 480 11 g
Goobers 3.5 oz box 500 35 g
Twizzlers 6 oz bag 570 4 g
M&M's 5.3 oz bag 750 32 g
Skittles 6.5 oz bag 765 9 g
Peanut M&M's 5.3 oz bag 790 40 g
Dots 9.2 oz box 850 0 g
Cheese nachos Large (4 oz) 1,100 60 g
Reese's Pieces 8 oz bag 1,160 60 g

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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • I have some other alternatives. At the movies, you can get a bottle water instead of a soda. Also, if you buy a large popcorn you can ask if they can give you a small popcorn bag and you can put your share of the popcorn into the bag. Better yet, bring yourself a small bowl or zip lock bag and put the measure amount into that small bowl or zip lock bag. I have done this as of recently and find this works. I get myself a large bottle of water at the concession stand and then a large popcorn and ask if they hand me a small or kid size popcorn bag so I can put my portion of the large into the bag. Works out great for me. - 10/21/2015 12:58:33 PM
  • While I do agree with most all of the article for myself I think for the amount of times I go to the cinema (less than once a year) I almost think I can get away with having the large popcorn and pop. - 1/13/2015 9:01:53 PM
  • Ouch! It's been a while since I have been to the movies but I sure never thought that even the plain movie popcorn was to be such a problem. - 9/13/2014 11:06:35 AM
  • I do take dry cereal and don't feel bad about it. If they actually offered healthy choices, I'd gladly support that. I used to work at a movie theater as a teenager - honestly, workers understand, just be discreet. Once, a family tried to walk in with several buckets of fried chicken and got angry with us when we couldn't allow them in. They weren't looking to be healthier, they wanted greasy food for cheaper. - 12/13/2013 2:57:52 PM
  • I love my popcorn. I have a small bag of popcorn almost every night for my snack. I don't care what snack I have in there the popcorn is on top of the list. - 12/9/2013 9:50:17 AM
  • If I want to avoid popcorn, I just bring some sugar free gum, usually in a minty flavour. Hard to smell the popcorn over the mint. I bring a baggie and/or a kleenex to get rid of the gum when I'm done so I don't have to interrupt the movie. - 8/29/2013 4:46:18 PM
  • I just did a search for this article, because I remembered reading it a while back and I am planning to go to the movies this afternoon with my kids. I wanted a review of which items had the fewest calories. I usually get a small popcorn so I can much continuously through the movie, but I knew from reading this that it was a bad idea. I was pleasantly suprised to find my childhood favorite, snow caps, was the lowest calorie item listed. Eaten slowly it will satisfy my need to nibble through the movie and help me avoid the cotton candy my kids tend to get (once a year treat). - 6/28/2013 1:56:22 PM
  • I hate how every post about how to eat healthier at a location provides rediculous suggestions. Bring your own isn't an option at ANY theater, you will be kicked out and you will not get your money back. Also, the whole just skip it argument kinda defeats the whole point of the article since, well OBVIOUSLY if we're reading an article on how to do better it's cause we HAVEN'T been able to "Just skip it" bah.
    Lastly I to am getting frusterated with the bad rap fats get around here.... fats can be good, and are crutial to your brain functioning right. It's a matter of good ones and MODERATION. That is the key word. If you only go once in a blue moon, and lets be real, who can afford to go regularly? Then what the issue?
    However, I have a great tip for how to avoid eating it and lower the cost. Cash in some air miles, VISA points, iCoke rewards or what have you for a free ticket. When you go, take just your ID and no money, no debit and no credit cards. Guess what? If you can't PAY for the food, you certainly won't be eating it! LOL my husband and I have been doing that for awhile now and it's really helped. We get a date night for free and don't kill the waistline! - 3/7/2013 2:15:48 PM
    I find that I really enjoy sunflower seeds at the movies. As a matter of fact, I like them better. They are crunchy and salty and easy to sneak in. - 3/7/2013 11:34:52 AM
    Honestly, when I go to a movie theatre or watch a movie at home, I don't expect to eat healthy and I look at it as a treat. - 3/7/2013 11:19:35 AM
  • LOPEZB2012
    I'm sorry but I go to the theatre so infrequently (maybe once a year) and nothing, I mean nothing is coming between me and my butter ridden popcorn and large soda! That's just part of the awesome experience. I have found that I usually eat nothing else that day because it keeps me full. - 3/7/2013 9:22:55 AM
  • I have yet to find a movie theater that will allow anyone to legally gring in snacks from home. If you do not want what they are selling, skip the snacks and don't bring something from home. - 3/7/2013 8:58:41 AM
  • I cook homemade popcorn cooked in organic, virgin coconut oil with a sprinkling of sea salt. It is unbelievably good and definitely doesn't need any extra butter or seasoning in it. The stuff they sell at the theatre can't hold a candle to it.

    Coconut oil is a staple at my house and I believe we're healthier for it! - 3/7/2013 8:12:33 AM
    Enough! Bottled water, bottled water, bottled horrible for you and the planet. Plasticizers leach from the plastic into your water and into your body releasing free radicals and then the bottle hangs around the planet for thousands and thousands of years. I haven't bought bottled water for almost 5 years. What I do is refill a washed glass bottle (an old Snapple bottle usually) with tap water and refrigerate. It's just as portable as a plastic bottle. - 3/7/2013 3:03:10 AM
  • Without trying to sound negative most cinemas I have been at do NO allow outside food. - 11/26/2012 10:07:43 PM

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