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Movie Popcorn – A Good Snack Gone Bad


Who doesn’t love an evening out at the movies? And there are so many really good movies out now – isn’t it funny how good movies seem to be released in waves? Before you go to the movies and order your customary bag of popcorn, let’s think about what you are really ordering. Popcorn on its own is an okay snack, provided it is air-popped or popped with a healthful oil.

Movie popcorn is even worse than you may have thought! The real reason it is so bad for you has to do with the oil used for popping. Most theater chains use coconut oil, which is 90% saturated fat. In fact, coconut oil contains more saturated fat than lard! (Cinemark is the exception; this theater chain uses the healthier and polyunsaturated, canola oil.) As you probably know, saturated fat is the kind of fat that clogs arteries; it is recommended that saturated fat be kept to 10% of total calories. For the average man and woman this means no more than 28grams/day and 20 grams/day, respectively. Recently, the Center for Science in the Public Interest analyzed samples of popcorn from the three largest movie chains in the US and came up with shocking results, from a nutrition point of view. Medium sized movie popcorn contains more saturated fat and calories than a Big Mac! 


Regal (pops with coconut oil)

AMC (pops with coconut oil)

Cinemark (pops with canola oil)


Size=11 cups

670 calories

34 grams Sat. fat

Size=6 cups

370 calories

20 grams sat. fat

Size=8 cups

420 calories

2 grams sat. fat


Size=20 cups

1,200 calories

60 grams sat. fat

Size=9 cups

590 calories

33 grams sat. fat

Size=14 cups

760 calories

3 grams sat. fat


Size=20 cups

1,200 calories

60 grams sat. fat

Size=16 cups

1,030 calories

57 grams sat. fat

Size=17 cups

910 calories

4 grams sat. fat

If you are wondering why the medium and large sizes are the same at Regal, the large comes in a sturdy tub (rather than a bag) and includes a free refill. I would like to point out that the calories and saturated fat values given above do not include the extra “buttery” topping available. Add at least 150-200 calories for each squirt of topping!

If you chose to eat popcorn while at the movies, the best choice you can make is to share a small at Cinemark: 200calories and 1 gram of saturated fat.

Why are snacks sold at theaters? Snack sales provide the primary source of profit for the movie theater since most of the ticket revenue goes to the film distributer. Snacks are good for theater profits, but not at all good for your health (and waistline). But why not just enjoy the movies sans snacks? You can plan a terrific dinner afterwards and discuss the film.

See you at the movies!



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