Is Microwave Popcorn Bad for You?

Think twice before reaching for the go-to at-home movie night snack.

September 14, 2022

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Photo by: Valeriy Lushchikov/Getty Images

Valeriy Lushchikov/Getty Images

Curling up on the couch for movie night? Before you pop your next bag of microwave popcorn, find out if this classic snack is healthy or not.

How Did Microwave Popcorn Come To Be?

This microwaveable treat burst on to the food scene in the early 1980s. According to an article published in The New York Times, by the late 1980s all the major food manufacturers were fighting to corner the market on popped corn made with the push of a button. Fast forward forty years and market research supports that Americans are still crushing on this crunchy snack, with sales topping $880 million in 2021.

What’s in a Bag of Microwave Popcorn?

Kernels of popped corn are low in calories, fat and offer up an appreciable amount of tummy-pleasing fiber but there’s more to microwave popcorn than just corn.

An entire bag of Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter Popcorn contains 455 calories, 28 grams of fat, including 14 grams of saturated fat, 7 grams of fiber and 945 milligrams of sodium. Most microwave popcorn is packaged with palm oil and contains milk powder to help provide that buttery flavoring. Some brands used an additive called diacetyl to produce that buttery flavor, but after use of diacetyl received some bad publicity in the early 2000s, most brands reformulated their products without it.

There are also a few smaller portioned, lower fat and lower salt brands on the market. If microwave popcorn is part of your regular snack rotation consider trying Newman’s Own Organics Microwave Popcorn, Touch of Butter, Angie’s Sea Salt Microwave Popcorn or SkinnyPop Microwave Sea Salt Popcorn.

Try Making Your Own Microwaveable Popcorn

For a more affordable (and probably healthier) option you can make your own microwave popcorn. Place 1/4-cup of unpopped kernels in a brown paper lunch bag. Fold the top of the bag closed and microwave on high for approximately two minutes; remove from the microwave and season as desired.

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Photo by: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Bottom Line: Microwave popcorn can be a convenient option for a fun snack, but beware that the added flavorings can cause fat, calories and sodium to stack up quickly. Most companies use simple ingredients but the check labels of your favorite brands. When all else fails – make your own!

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