While it may be hard to find a truly healthy movie theater snack, it is possible to enjoy healthier options.
A nutrition expert offers some tips as moviegoers return to theaters after a pandemic hiatus.
“The experience of going to the movies and focusing on what you’re watching rather than what you’re eating can create this sort of mindless binging of unhealthy snacks,” said Courtney Ford, a senior registered dietitian at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
“One of the best things you can do is be intentional with what you order so you don’t eat more than you actually want to,” she said in a college news release.
Popcorn is a whole grain that doesn’t dramatically affect blood sugar. It’s the healthiest item most often available at the theater, Ford said. But beware: Heavy salt and butter can offset its benefits.
Chocolate-covered nuts are a great choice, she said. They offer protein. They’re also heart-healthy and have less sugar than chocolate-covered fruit.
Some theaters have more on the menu. When they do, Ford suggests looking for items that combine a protein with a carbohydrate, such as a hot dog or a grilled chicken sandwich or wrap. Items high in protein will keep you full longer than less substantial foods.
Stay away from the candy section, Ford urged. They pose the most health problems.
“Snacks that are pure sugar, like gummy or sour candies, raise your blood sugar really high and if that’s the only thing you eat, your blood sugar then dramatically drops,” she said. “If you are going to have candy at the movies, be sure you eat a carb or protein to mitigate those drastic changes in blood sugar levels.”
Sugary drinks like sodas and frozen fizzy beverages are empty calories. Avoid them, Ford suggests.
Ford also recommends making movie nights at home or at community events healthier.
Choose frozen grapes and fresh fruit instead of candy. Add popcorn. Consider packing sandwiches for a balanced meal, she suggested.
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to completely avoid the foods you enjoy, Ford emphasized.
“You aren’t going to the movies every day, so don’t feel bad if you decide to snack extra,” she said. “The more you put off these cravings, the more likely you’ll overdo it when you finally let yourself enjoy them.”