Are you headed to the movies this weekend? If you’re convinced it’s going to cause diet downfall, you’re wrong. There are healthy movie snacks that won’t ruin your diet.
Knowing why we overeat at the movies can help us to make better choices when we’re there, too. We usually eat too much at the movies for three reasons:
- We are eating in the dark and it’s hard to see the amount of food that we’re consuming.
- We are distracted by the movie and we fall into a pattern of mindless (over) munching.
- Everyone else is eating, so we eat along with everyone else out of habit.
We can come up with sneaky ways to eat more healthy movie snacks by heading off these bad habits. It’s true that going to the movies is a diet danger zone, but you can get through it if you’re prepared with healthy treats and crunchy munchies.
Healthy Movie Snacks
Ready for some staggering statistics? According to The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a large tub of movie theater popcorn provides up to 1,200 calories. That’s the equivalent of six full-size Snickers bars or nearly four McDonald’s cheeseburgers.
And you won’t believe the amount of fat and calories you add when you slather butter on. Most butter-flavored toppings added 120 calories or more per tablespoon! When is that last time you measured your butter topping before drizzling it over popcorn? You might add a meal’s worth of calories with just a pump or two of the flavored oil.
Size matters. If you must buy popcorn at the theater, get the smallest size (which is often a kid’s size) and skip the butter topping.
Don’t convince yourself to buy the largest size available just because it doesn’t cost that much more. CSPI warns that “moving from a small to a medium bag of movie theater popcorn costs about 71 cents and 500 calories. A 23 percent increase in price provides 125 percent more calories and two days worth of saturated fat.”
If you absolutely love movie theater popcorn, don’t despair. You can eat popcorn and keep your diet on track. You just have to be smart about your choices. So, how do you keep the popcorn calories in check? Pop it at home and carry a large bag.
Air popped corn is low in calories and easy to make. If you don’t have a popper, simply use your microwave and pop kernels in a covered glass bowl. Then add spices or seasonings for a burst of flavor. Sprinkle parmesan, garlic salt, paprika, or your favorite seasoning on top. If you like healthy sweet treats, you can even splurge and add mini chocolate chips and marshmallows and still keep the calories low.
If you have no time to pack a snack before you go and you can’t make popcorn at home, all is not lost. You can still satisfy your sweet tooth with items from the theater snack bar. You just have to force yourself to ignore any and all candy bars.
Instead, choose candy with fewer calories like Pepper Mint Patties, Gummy Bears, Jelly Beans, and Tootsie Rolls.
Split the candy with a friend. You’ll consume just half the calories and make your movie buddy happy.
While none of the following treats are necessarily “healthy,” they can be healthier choices for a variety of reasons.
- Twizzlers: A 45-gram serving of Twizzlers will set you back 160 calories. Not bad, right? Of course, that’s 160 calories of pure sugar, but because you have to chew this licorice treat, it may take you the whole movie to get through the pack.
- Milk Duds: The entire 85-gram box contains 370 calories. So is this a less healthy choice? It depends. Milk Duds are not low in calories, but it’s a harder treat to eat because it’s chewy and takes longer to consume. When you chew more, you might eat less.
- Starbursts: These fruits chews are high in calories. A large box provides 480 calories. But who can eat a whole box of Starbursts? You’re likely to eat less of this tart treat because they need to be individually unwrapped (in the dark) and they take longer to chew.
It’s also important to recognize which candy you’re more likely to eat quickly or overeat at the movies, too.
- M&Ms: A large 5.3-ounce bag of M&M candies provides 210 calories. But this addicting movie treat is easy to eat and you’re likely to go through the bag quickly. Unless you know that you can eat this treat in moderation, skip it and choose a more healthy option.
- Junior Mints: Some dieters choose this movie snack because the cool treat seems like it would be lower in calories. But the big box that is usually stocked in the theater provides a whopping 340 calories. And since this candy is easy to eat, you may gobble the whole box quickly and go back for more.
- Sno-Caps: These tiny chocolate treats seem harmless, right? But a big three ounce box contains 360 calories. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, think about the way that you eat them. They are too tiny to consume one-by-one, so we usually eat then by the handful. You could easily end up eating the whole box before the movie starts.
- Raisinets: The movie-size box of this sweet treat provides 380 calories. Yes, technically it contains a fruit product, but that doesn’t make it a healthy movie snack choice. Most of us eat Raisinets faster than we eat Sno-Caps. Ditch them for a chewier or lower calorie snack.
It is also important to make diet-friendly drink choices. A large soda contains hundreds of empty calories. And some experts even believe that drinking diet soda can make you crave salty snacks. So, your best bet is water.
Most movie theaters sell bottled water—the smartest choice if you want to eat and drink healthy at the movies.
Healthy Movie Snacks: Alternatives
It’s best to make a preemptive strike before you head to the cinema. That’s right—you should eat before you go. It’s easier to avoid over-indulging at the theater if you eat a diet-friendly meal beforehand.
Then, plan ahead and pack a few satisfying, low-calorie snacks to eat during the movie. The key is to find treats that are both crunchy and creamy so you don’t feel denied while everyone else is munching on popcorn or noshing on chocolate. Try the following suggestions:
- Apple slices with the skin with some peanut butter spread on each slice. The fiber in the apple and the protein in the peanut butter make it more filling.
- Raw veggies and some low-fat cheese cubes. Again, fiber helps you feel fuller and cheese is satisfying.
- Reduced-fat cheese on whole grain crackers will keep your blood sugar on an even keel and hunger at bay.
- Yogurt has enough protein for staying power, too. Sprinkle some low-fat granola or chia seeds on top to up the satisfaction factor.
- Kale chips are salty, crunchy, and packed with nutrition. You can make them at home to keep the calorie count low.
- Calorie-controlled snack packs of cookies, pretzels, or chips. Make your own 100-calorie snacks at home or purchase them at the store.
- Nuts like almonds or walnuts are packed with nutrition and easy to carry. Just be sure to measure your serving size so you don’t overdo it.
Tips & Tricks to Stay Healthy at the Movies
So, still wondering how can you enjoy your favorite flick and still fight fat? You know that the movies aren’t nearly as fun without snacks, especially when everyone else is chomping away around you. So here are a few ideas for creative ways to keep your weight loss plan on track.
- Work for your food: Find snacks that you have to unwrap. Why? Because it will take you longer to consume the food if you have to unwrap each item in the dark. You’ll end up eating less with individually wrapped treats.
- Pack a protein bar: If you love candy bars, chocolate, and crunchy nuts or crispies, skip the snack bar and pack a protein bar instead. There are low-calorie protein bars that taste just as good as anything you’ll find in the snack case, and they are better for your body.
- Sucking saves calories: If sugary sweets are your favorite movie treats, then bring a lollipop or hard candy to suck on. They are generally lower in calories and take longer to consume.
- Choose chewy sweets: Some movie snacks won’t ruin your diet if you eat them in moderation. So, how do you enforce portion control when you’re distracted by a good flick? Choose foods you have to chew.