Saturday, March 3, 2012

Healthy Popcorn: Easy And Delicious!

Okay, come on now, who doesn't love a nice big tub of popcorn when watching a good movie, or at the state fair, or even the amusement park?  Those crunchy, buttery kernels just seem to hit the spot, and boy is it fun to dig right in.  Now I hate to say it, but unfortunately that over-buttered heaven in a cardboard container isn't the healthiest option when it comes to eating out, and one small container can have over 600 calories!  Not to mention you're getting a heaping load of trans fats and saturated fats.  It's too bad really, because that stuff is so tasty!  If only there was a way to get some delicious popcorn without all the blatant violations of health code.

Well, there's good news.  Popcorn can EASILY be turned into an extremely healthy snack.  Yes, that's right, it's a very easy task to convert that buttery, artery clogging corn dripping with butter into a delicious, nutritious snack for movie night, game night, or even a mid-day snack.  In fact, popcorn is actually a whole grain, and therefore in its natural form is already quite good for you.  Let's figure out how we'd go about optimizing this!

First off, you need to take a step away from the microwave.  Yes, I know it's hard, but listen for a second.  That microwave popcorn, while not horrible, still has all sorts of oils and strange chemical butters sprayed all over the kernels to make them tasty and addictive, hence why the stuff sells so well.  In general, microwave popcorn isn't too good for you.  

There ARE a few "healthier" options when it comes to microwave popcorn, and many companies now sell 100 calorie popcorn bags.  If nothing else, you can at least get a well portioned movie snack that won't push you over your caloric limits for the day.  

But there's a better way, and no I promise you I'm not just full of hot air.  However, this method sure is!  Remember air popped popcorn?  It was all the rage a while ago, when popcorn was still being widely introduced to the masses.  You buy the kernels, stick them in an air popper, but a bowl under the output spout, and watch as the little fluffy puffs come flowing out of the noisy little machine.  Surprisingly, this is still the healthiest way to cook popcorn, because you can buy popcorn kernels with NO ADDITIVES.  That's right, they're raw popcorn kernels, no butter, no salt, no trans fat, just little pieces of white heaven in the making.  

How does it compare to the buttered up stuff calorie-wise?  In one cup of air popped popcorn there are only 31 calories!  Not bad, not bad at all.  There's also no sugar, and no fat.  Just gets better and better, doesn't it?

Now I know what you're thinking:  "I couldn't eat that, that stuff is wayyy too bland!" 

This is where a little bit of creativity goes a long way.  Air popped popcorn is in essence a blank canvas.  It's easy to make your own healthy recipes filled with all the nutrients you desire and within your calorie requirements.  And you can make the stuff to YOUR taste!  Awesome!

And what would this article be without some recipe suggestions?  Here are some of the better air-popped popcorn recipe ideas I've run across:

Cinnamon and Splenda:  It's as simple as it sounds, sprinkle cinnamon on your freshly popped popcorn, add a little Splenda, Truvia, or other zero calorie sweetener, and mix it all up.  It'll taste fantastic and keep you slim and trim.

Sea Salt:  Though I'm not one for huge sodium consumption, if YOU'RE in control of how much salt you're adding it's much easier to keep the doses lower.  Add a little sea salt to your popcorn, and enjoy!

Flavored sprays:  There are many low/zero calorie sprays sold out there in grocery stores now, including butter, olive oil, and garlic.  These can add a lot of taste with extremely little effect on overall calories, and are much better than the nasty oils used in many popcorns.  Remember though, moderation!

Spice it up:  I LOVE SPICY THINGS.  Adding chili pepper to popcorn is an awesome idea, especially if you want a little kick in your snack.  You can add other spices like curry powder as well if you really want to bring some flavor into those kernels.

Grated Cheese:  This one's easy! Just grate a little cheese over top of your warm popcorn and you'll get a better, more wholesome cheesy flavor than that nasty oiled up microwave stuff.  It'll provide you with a lot more nutrients as well!

Popcorn doesn't have to be loaded with nasty stuff, and it doesn't have to be unhealthy.  It can be quite good for you, and still taste better than you can imagine.  Try it out!  Get creative!  Air poppers are cheap and bulk bags of kernels won't break the bank either.  Have some fun on your next movie night, and show the family what popcorn should REALLY taste like.

Be imaginative, think healthy, and as always, GOOD LUCK!

1 comment:

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