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Making Healthier Popcorn

It seems to me when it comes to making healthier popcorn at home, you have three options:

1. You can air-pop it, then add a little bit of butter or good-tasting margarine on top afterward. You can sprinkle some cheddar cheese powder or grated Parmesan over it as well.

2. You can choose one of the light microwave options, which have less fat, fewer calories, and often, less sodium than the regular microwave types.

3. You can pop it the old-fashioned way, over the stove, with some canola oil in a heavy-bottom pan with a lid (left slightly ajar to allow steam to escape). If you use 1/2 cup popcorn in 1 tablespoon of canola oil, here's how one serving (about 4 cups popped) adds up to:

Fat: 6 grams of fat
Saturated fat: 0.3 grams saturated fat
AND HERE'S THE GOOD NEWS! A serving also gives you 0.4 grams of plant omega-3 fatty acids.

Thinking Outside the Box

OK, the truth is that most of us aren't ready to give up our quick-and-easy microwave popcorn. But let's expand our options a little.

Instead of eating it straight from the microwave bag, how about a trail mix made with popcorn, dried cranberries, and roasted almonds -- maybe even dusted with white chocolate powder? And what would you say to an Italian take on the usual bowl o' buttered popcorn? If you think you don't like light microwave popcorn, maybe one of these easy recipes can change your mind.

Mediterranean Magic Popcorn

Journal as: 1/2 cup "starchy foods with fat"

1 bag of light microwave popcorn, popped (about 9 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Put popcorn in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil evenly over the top, followed by the Italian herbs and grated Parmesan. Toss to blend well. Keep in a sealable plastic bag and eat within 2 days.

Yield: 3 servings

Per serving: 121 calories, 3 g protein, 12.5 g carbohydrate, 6.5 g fat, 1.2 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 2.5 g fiber, 125 mg sodium (if using lower-sodium microwave popcorn). Calories from fat: 49%.

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