Does Movie Night Equal Diet Disaster?

( — You can’t wait to see the newest release at the movie theatre this weekend! You get your tickets, then you head to the concession stand and order two double cheeseburgers slathered in butter — with a side of increased risk for heart disease. Well, not exactly. But according to a new report, when you order a large tub of popcorn at the movie theater, that’s about what you are getting in fat and calories. Because African Americans have the highest rates of high blood pressure than any other race, you cannot ignore the ridiculously high saturated fat and sodium levels in movie theater snacks.

Popping the lid on saturated fat

Researchers analyzed samples of popcorn and toppings from top movie theater chains and compared the nutrition content. The results revealed an unbelievably high amount of calories and saturated fat in each.

Regal’s medium and large popcorns proved to be packed with the highest amount of calories. The CSPI found that the medium bag and the large tub both hold the same 20 cups of popcorn each. With a whopping 1,200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat, this popcorn has the calories of two 6-inch thick crust pepperoni pizzas and the saturated fat of six double cheeseburgers.

Coming in at a close second, AMC’s slightly smaller 16-cup large tub of popcorn is loaded with 1,030 calories and 57 grams of saturated fat.

Cinemark fares much better with 910 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat in the large bucket. Cinemark’s comparably low amount of saturated fat can be contributed to the non-hydrogenated canola oil the popcorn is popped in. AMC and Regal popcorn is popped in coconut oil which is 90 percent saturated fat.

The saturated fat doesn’t end there, however. Once you add the real butter topping offered by some Cinemark theaters, you’re adding about 9 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. All three chains offer butter-like non-hydrogenated soybean oil topping that adds about 130 calories per tablespoon.

Let’s not forget the blood-pressure busting 1,500 milligrams of sodium in Cinemark’s large popcorn. That’s an entire day’s worth of sodium even without the buttery topping. 

Can I get that in a combo?

Popcorn makes you thirsty, right? And we know you want to wash all that fat and salt down with some sugar? Try a combo. You’ll save about a dollar and double your calories!

Adding a move theater soda to your popcorn adds about 400 calories and brings your grand caloric total to 1,610 – almost as many calories as any adult should have in an entire day plus about 33 grams of sugar.

Those huge boxes of candy offered in many combos certainly aren’t innocent either. An 8-ounce bag of Reese’s Pieces comes with 1,160 calories and 35 grams of saturated fat.

Snack Healthy at the Movies

Your best bet is to eat dinner before heading to the movies, but if you just can’t resist snacking while you watch, you do have some options.

• Get the kid sized popcorn and ask for a batch with no salt. Researchers said all three chains are willing to pop a fresh batch and serve you before it’s salted. Don’t reach for a refill and especially don’t reach for that butter topping.

• Tote some sliced apples and a light caramel dip to satisfy your sweet teeth while the movie rolls.

• Multi-grain wheat crackers are a good alternative to popcorn. With a salty flavor and a nice crunch, the wheat crackers will make you forget about that heart-harmful tub of saturated fat.

• As a last candy resort, choose the lesser evil – gummy bears. Gummy bears are low in saturated fat and calories, but still hit you with plenty of sugar

• Drink flavored water instead of soda. If you absolutely must have a soda, reach for a kid-sized serving. 

Whatever you do, don’t make it a habit to order a medium or large tub of buttered popcorn and a soda every time you go to the movies. It may seem like a treat, but there’s nothing rewarding about high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease.