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Meals at the Movies

Many movie theaters now offer meal-like snacks including chicken tenders, hot dogs, and nachos laden with cheese. But you'll do far better to eat dinner at home or in a restaurant, says Molly Kimball, RD, a nutritionist at Oschner Clinic's Elmwood Cardiovascular Health and Fitness Center in New Orleans.

"If you are going to eat dinner in the movies, you get lots of what you don't need -- namely calories, saturated fat, and sodium -- and not anything of what you do need, such as fruits and veggies and whole grains," Hurley says.

Speaking of things you don't need, consider this revolutionary idea: You don't have to eat anything at all during a movie. Eat a healthy meal or snack beforehand, and you may be able to break the movie-snacking habit that's costing you money and calories.

"Eating at the movies is totally a cultural thing," Kimball says. "My clients from other countries say that people here eat everywhere they go. I always try to emphasize what the point of the event is: It's going to the movies, it's about entertainment, not necessarily food."

Hurley agrees. "It's a two-hour time frame, and you don't have to be eating for the whole two hours that you are watching the film," she says. "We are facing an obesity epidemic, and part of the problem is that we eat for every occasion."

Worse, Hurley says, is that it's mindless eating because we are so awed by the special effects of James Cameron’s Avatar or so moved by actress Gabourey Sidibe's portrayal of an illiterate and pregnant teenager in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. "We get to the bottom of whatever we are eating, whether a tub of popcorn or a bag of chips, even if our intention is not to do that, because we are not paying attention when we are watching a movie," Hurley says.

If you're watching a movie at home, eating healthy gets a lot easier. A few good options include the air-popped or light microwave popcorn, fresh fruit, and whole-wheat crackers with low-fat cheese, Kimball says.

But remember that even when you're eating healthy snacks, portion size counts. So measure out those portions before you turn on the DVD player.

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