Blockbusters and air conditioning make going to the movie theater one of my favorite summer indulgences. But the treats at the concession stand can turn an afternoon of laughs into a calorie-and fat-laden horror show. For example:
Large popcorn +
Large soda +
half a bag of M&Ms
= 2,400 calories!
That's like eating nearly an entire large Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza by yourself. Considering that most people don't need more than 2,000 calories a day, that's going way overboard, especially when you consider the amount of saturated fat and sugars you've also consumed.
I won't suggest that you don't buy any snacks at the movie theater-that's just not realistic and you wouldn't listen anyway (I wouldn't either!), but there are clearly healthier choices you can make-and they're just as satisfying as the diet-busting ones. Here are my picks for healthier ways to treat yourself at the theater, complete with nutrition info to guide your choices, plus healthier options to make at home, when you're watching the DVD version.
Tip: Most movie theaters just serve "movie-sized" packages of candy, which usually provide 3 to 5 portions. Look for the smallest box.
(8 oz., 1,160 calories, 35 grams saturated fat, 122 grams sugars)
Welch's Fruit Snacks
(2.25 oz, 130 calories, 0 grams saturated fat, 23 grams sugars)
Chocolate and Nut Butter Bites
(79 calories and 2 grams of fat) come together in seconds with ingredients you likely have in your kitchen.
Large popcorn with buttery topping
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), nutritional content can range from 1,170-1,460 calories and 22-64 grams of saturated fat, depending on the theater.
Junior-size popcorn without buttery topping
This size provides 225-350 calories and 2-18 grams of saturated fat. Consider splitting it with a friend.
Super-easy Cheesy Popcorn
has just 75 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat.
Depending on the theater, a 54-ounce soda may deliver as many as 500 calories and 132 grams of sugars.
If you're at a theater with a coffee bar you could go for this. Add plenty of milk and you'll get a little calcium.
Water is always a great choice.
This option is usually 16 oz., but ice takes up about a quarter of the cup, leaving only 12 ounces of soda (124 calories and about 30 grams of sugars).
Make your own Greek Iced Coffee
which has 57 calories and is sweetened with only 2 teaspoons of sugar (8 grams).
3 Slimming Tips for Movie Munchies
Beyond what you choose to eat, here are some other suggestions for keeping calories, fat and portions in check during movie time:
1. Share with a friend. Splitting your favorite movie-watching snacks allows you to indulge without going overboard.
2. If you can, pick a theater that has healthy snack options. Some Cinemark theaters offer low-fat milks. Others sell Skinny Cow low-fat ice cream sandwiches, which at 140 calories and 1 g saturated fat won't bust the bank.
3. Save money and broaden your snack options by watching a movie at home.
What do you order at the movie theater?
By Nicci Micco
Nicci Micco is deputy editor of features and nutrition at EatingWell and co-author of EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners. She has a master's degree in nutrition and food sciences, with a focus in weight management.
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