Could Popcorn be the Perfect Snack?
Lately I’ve rediscovered popcorn and have been asking myself, “Could this be the perfect snack?”
The type I’m particularly fond of at the moment is ‘lightly salted, slightly sweet’, according to the product description on the packaging. And I think I like it so much because of the sweetness. It’s not very sweet, like caramel coated popcorn, but just sweet enough to ease my after-dinner cravings for chocolate, ice cream and other sweet treats.
My answer to that question might surprise you.
But before we get to that, let’s take a closer look at popcorn and what a perfect snack might mean from a dietitians perspective.
Popcorn is low in calories, heart-healthy and quite nutritious. In fact, researchers have suggested that popcorn has more polyphenols (antioxidants) than fruits and vegetables. If that weren’t enough, it’s 100% whole grain and is a good source of fibre. Because of the high levels of fibre, popcorn is filling and helps keep you feeling fuller for longer.
But like many things in life, all popcorn isn’t created equally.
The healthiest popcorn is air-popped and doesn’t have any additives like oil, butter and flavourings. Popcorn prepared and served this way has around 100 calories per 30g serve. This may not sound like a big serve, but because popcorn is light, fluffy and filling, it actually is.
Even oil-popped popcorn is only around 150 calories for a 30g serve.
Air-popped popcorn is also low in saturated fat and sodium and is a good source of fibre.
Making your own Popcorn
Making popcorn is so simple, anyone with a microwave at home can make it in just a few minutes.
- Pour 3 to 4 tablespoons of plain kernels into a brown paper bag
- Fold over the top of the bag twice to seal it
- Microwave for about 2 minutes or until the popping slows to a few seconds between pops
If you’re looking to add some flavour to your popcorn, experiment with ideas like these:
- Lightly mist popcorn with olive oil & sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese & black pepper
- Sprinkle popcorn with chilli powder and a dash of sea salt
- Sprinkling parmesan cheese, garlic powder & Italian herb seasoning blend over popcorn
- Sprinkle dry packaged ranch, Italian, Caesar or Asian salad dressing mix over popcorn
- Mix one cup of popcorn with dark chocolate shavings and a dusting of cinnamon
* Note: to get flavourings to stick to popcorn, you may need to use a little cooking spray.
Dietitians' Perfect Snack
Just like all things not being created equally, no two dietitians think exactly the same way and so have varying opinions. So deciding on one perfect snack on behalf of all dietitians is impossible. Having said that, most dietitians would agree on the traits that a good snack would have.
Here’s what Dietitian Melissa Goodwin from Nutted Out Nutrition says some of those traits might be:
- Between 100 – 150 calories per serve
- Low in saturated fat (less than 1.5g per 100g)
- No Added Sugar or low sugar (less than 5g of sugar per 100g)
- High in fibre
- Good source of protein
- Low sodium (less than 120mg per 100g)
- Source of vitamins and minerals
As well as classifying obvious things like fruit and low fat dairy as good snacks, many dietitians would agree that air-popped popcorn is a very good snack too. After all, it ticks many of the boxes above.
My Perfect Snack
There’s no doubt that air-popped popcorn with no added butter, salt or sugar is a healthy nutritious snack, but that’s not the type of popcorn I’ve been eating lately.
So, getting back to my original question, “Knowing what I know about nutrition, how could I even consider something that I know to be sweetened with sugar, popped in sunflower oil and sprinkled with sea salt be the perfect snack?”
And the answer is, "easy".
It may very well be a perfect snack for me. I don’t mind air-popped popcorn, but I prefer the taste of corn popped in sunflower oil. Unsweetened popcorn doesn’t taste bad, but it doesn’t satisfy my cravings for sweet treats after dinner or mid-afternoon. Lightly salted, slightly sweet ticks all of my boxes. It satisfies my cravings, is very filling, has fibre, protein and vitamins and mineral, and is a healthier option than chocolate, ice cream, lollies or biscuits, which is probably what I’d eat instead.
What’s your perfect snack?
Good luck with your weight loss and thanks for visiting weightloss.com.au.
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This article was written by Scott Haywood.
Scott is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.
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