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Pass (on) the popcorn


I had several ideas for this week’s post, but I decided to put them off in favor of sharing a big tub of butter-flavored popcorn with you. There’s no way we can sit through a WHOLE movie without downing 2,000 or 3,000 calories in the process. We might starve. Add in the coming attractions and those annoying commercials and that comes to 2 or 3 hours. We can’t make it that long without adequate food and drink. Can we?

Popcorn. We’ll have some popcorn because that’s a healthy treat, right?

Wait, let me back up and set the stage. First some statistics and credits.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the past 20 years has seen a dramatic rise in obesity rates in the United States. In 2008, only Colorado (not that 18.5% is all that great) had a less than 20% obesity prevalence. Thirty-two states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25%, six of which were equal to or greater than 30%. Check the map at the end of this post to see where your state fits into the mix.

Now the credits. The movie food nutrition data used in this post came directly from the December issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter, which is the voice of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Okay, back to the movie and the food that will sustain us while we sit on our bums for a couple of hours. Let’s watch Julie & Julia, at least Julia used real butter, rather than butter-like flavoring.

I’ll use the data on Regal Entertainment Group provided by CSPI. Regal is the largest theater chain in the US. If you’ve gone to any movies lately you know the kid behind the counter always encourages you to buy the large serving. That way if the 20-cup tub of popcorn doesn’t last through the coming attractions, you can go back for more (shudder). Here are the heart-stopping (literally) details.

Regal Theaters Popcorn
1 large tub with 2 tablespoons of “buttery” topping

1,460 calories
64 grams of saturated fat
980 mg of sodium
This is if the person adding the “buttery” topping stops at 2 tablespoons, which I doubt happens. You can also “up” the sodium content if you re-salt it yourself on the way to your seat (I don’t eat movie popcorn, but I will admit to having a heavy hand with the salt shaker).

Regal Theaters Soda Pop (hey, we need something to wash down all that salty, buttery popcorn)
1 large drink
54 fluid ounces
500 calories
33 teaspoons of sugar

Reese’s Pieces, 8 ounces (we must have candy – this is treat night)
1,160 calories
35 grams of saturated fat
31 teaspoons sugar

Okay, lets figure out what we’ve had while sitting on our bums in a dark theater for 2 hours.

Total calories: 3,120 (WHOA, it’s not like we’re riding in the Tour de France)
Total grams of saturated fat: 99 (5 day’s worth)
Total mg of sodium: 980 (those of us who re-salted can add another 400 mg)
Total teaspoons of sugar: 64 (now, what are empty calories again)

Let’s say the average person needs 2,000 calories a day. The daily values appropriate for that caloric intake are:
20 grams of saturated fat
2400 mg of sodium
refined sugar – yikes, we don’t need refined sugar (imagine what a bowl of 64 teaspoons of sugar looks like)

This is a small example of why obesity rates and the associated health problems are on the rise in this country. Skip the movie food and bring a bottle of water and some healthy snacks into the theater. Yeah, I know, the movie police might get you. Better than having a heart attack while watching Men Who Stare at Goats.


Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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