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A Snack That Pops: Popcorn

'The Recipe Doctor' offers healthier options for a favorite snack.

Making Healthier Popcorn continued...

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:

Calories:160
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%.

Popcorn Trail Blaze Mix

Journal as: 1/2 cup "muesli"
OR 1 tablespoon nuts + 1/2 cup "starchy foods without added fat"

1 bag of light microwave popcorn, popped (about 9 cups)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (like cherry-flavored Craisins)
1/2 cup roasted unsalted almonds

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and toss together. Or add half of the ingredients to each of 2 gallon-size sealable plastic bags and toss to mix.

Yield: 4 servings

Per serving: 200 calories, 5 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4.1 g fiber, 68 mg sodium (if using lower-sodium microwave popcorn and almonds with no salt added). Calories from fat: 43%.

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Reviewed on February 23, 2006

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