Love It, Like It, Hate It: Microwave Popcorn

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Old-fashioned popcorn can really be an incredibly nutritious snack – and who doesn’t love the smell of freshly-popped popcorn? The reality, however, is that some types of microwave popcorn can be linked to an increase in cholesterol, certain types of cancer, and even lung disease, so today we’re Getting the Skinny with Molly on what to look for – and what to avoid – when it comes to this snack-time favorite.

The benefits: popcorn is low in calories, whole grain, antioxidant-rich, good source of fiber

The drawbacks:

PFOA: Some bag liners have a slippery nonstick surface coated with a chemical called PFOA, which can be linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Diacetyl: Some are flavored with diacetyl, an artificial butter flavor that can cause lung disease. Fortunately, many brands of popcorn now state “No diacetyl” on the label.

Trans fats – Because they don’t go rancid like fresh oils, microwave popcorn can be loaded with as much as 15 grams of trans fat per bag – and the recommend upper at limit is as close to zero as possible.

The good news: Most brands of popcorn have eliminated PFOAs & diacetyl from their products.



DIY microwave popcorn:

  • Pop in brown paper bag: ¼ cup kernels in plain brown paper bag, pop 1 to 1 ½ minutes
  • No oil needed; can season to taste after popping
  • Per serving (approx 10 cups, popped): 160 calories, 0 trans fats, 0 sodium, 8 grams fiber – no added sugar



Quinn Popcorn (in flavors like Parmesan & Rosemary and Olive Oil & Herbs)

  • Ingredients: popcorn kernels, oil, seasonings
  • Popcorn is popped in bag not lined with PFOA, then oil + seasonings added separately
  • 510 calories, 0 trans fats, 510 mg sodium, 9 grams fiber per bag – no added sugar

Jolly Time 100 Calorie Healthy PopButter Mini Bags

  • Ingredients: Popcorn, partially hydrogenated oil (< 0 grams trans fats per bag), salt, natural flavors
  • 110 calories, 0 trans fats, 210 mg sodium, 5 grams fiber per bag – no added sugar


Pop-Secret Butter: Loaded with trans fats & sodium

  • Ingredients include: Popcorn, partially hydrogenated oil, salt, natural & artificial flavor, color added.
  • 540 calories, 15 grams trans fat, 930 mg sodium per bag


Jolly Time The Big Cheez: Loaded with trans fats & sodium

  • Ingredients include popcorn, partially hydrogenated oil, salt, spices & coloring, and MSG
  • 480 calories, 12 grams trans fats & 1020 mg sodium per bag


Orville Redenbacher’s Caramel: Loaded with trans fats & more than 2 day’s worth of added sugar

  • Ingredients include Popcorn, brown sugar, margarine, salt, soy lecithin… corn syrup…
  • 765 calories, 6.75 grams trans fats, 158 mg sodium, 9 grams fiber, and 54 grams of sugar per bag