Pop Goes the Popcorn Aisle

Photo by: Levi Brown

Levi Brown

Have you noticed all the popcorn snacks popping up on supermarket shelves? Some might even merit a spot in your shopping cart. This whole-grain snack (yes, corn qualifies) is naturally gluten-free and filled with fiber, protein, iron and antioxidants. One ounce of kernels will pop into more than 3.5 cups of popcorn and total only about 100 calories.

Plain Bagged Popcorn

The packaged variety has come a long way from popcorn dusted with processed-cheese powder. You can now find an array of popcorn snacks that are more natural and less salty. Brands like Angie's Boom Chicka Pop and Lesser Evil's Buddha Bowl offer the popped kernels produced with nothing but oil and salt. Servings come in at about 35 to 40 calories per cup.

Bagged Kettle Corn

This classic sweet-and-savory take on popcorn, a carnival staple, is now available everywhere from farmers markets to warehouse grocery stores. Seasoned with salt and sugar, kettle corn does have a higher calorie count. One better-for-you choice is Popcorn Indiana's version, with 65 calories and 3 grams of sugar per cup.

Popcorn Chips

Corn is also taking on new shapes. Popped corn chips like PopCorners and Chip'ins are flattened triangles, handy for snacking and dipping.  They're available in dozens of flavors and most are gluten-free. A 1-ounce serving (about 20 chips) has 120 to 140 calories, depending on the flavor.

Home-Popped Kernels

Photo by: Levi Brown

Levi Brown

Going old-school for popcorn might be the best way to snack. Popping whole kernels in a large pot on the stove or in a brown paper bag, microwave-style, is the best way to ensure a simple ingredient list. One cup of air-popped popcorn has about 30 calories per cup. Flavor it up as you choose (with combinations like the Frito and chili powder iteration, top of page, or curry, above) from  Food Network Magazine.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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