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Movie Snacks: The Ugly Diet Truth

What you need to know about movie popcorn and other movie snacks.

Movie Popcorn continued...

Some movie houses now offer flavoring packets to sprinkle on your popcorn, but popcorn connoisseurs should beware, Hurley says.

“The big problem with these packets is that they look innocent, but they are really just salt, and some flavors may have trans fat in them, she says. Trans fats are created when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Trans fats are known to increase levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels and lower levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol levels.

“These add insult to injury in terms of sodium because they already salt the popcorn when they pop it,” Hurley says.

Coming Soon to a Theater Near You?

A marquis that lists calories -- instead of show times -- may really give moviegoers An Education in healthy movie snacks, says Scott Kahan, MD, co-director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program in Washington, D.C

“Now that would be eye-catching,” Kahan says. Unlike chain restaurants in certain areas of the country, movie theaters are not required to post calories. “If this were ever to be mandated, then they would have to reformulate their menus to include healthy options and avoid sticker shock," Kahan says.

But until that happens, Kahan says your best bet is to bring your own treats to the movies. “You can pop a 100-calorie popcorn bag that is almost fat free and much lower in calories than what you can get in the theater,” Kahan says.

Keep in mind that many movie theaters discourage bringing your own snacks, so check with the manager.

If you don’t bring your own, avoid heaping on the free fixings. “It doesn’t take a whole lot to make popcorn taste pretty good,” Kahan says. “Get popcorn without butter, and while salt is good, a little less salt is also good."

But what if you crave a little something sweet with your flicks?

"Share M & M’s or another candy instead of getting your own and right off the bat you are consuming less calories,” Kahan says. Thirsty? "Get a diet soda or a water instead or regular soda."

And never arrive hungry. “If you arrive at the movies on an empty stomach, it will be much harder to satisfy yourself, and you will eat a lot more,” Kahan says. “Having a meal or a healthy snack before can be helpful.”

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