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How To Make Healthier Popcorn

Updated on July 13, 2014
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Raye gardens organically, harvests rainwater, strives to eat locally, and honors the gods from her home in the Pacific Northwest.

Trying for a Healthier Treat

One of my favorite things is going to the movies and eating popcorn. Sadly, movie popcorn is dreadfully unhealthy. Check out the report below that tells how eating a medium bucket of popcorn is like several fast-food burgers with a dozen extra pats of butter added.... eeeeewwww! And then think about those large buckets of popcorn that they give free refills on. It's no wonder Americans are one of the most-overweight cultures on the planet.

Then there's microwave popcorn. I don't know which will give you cancer first: the plastic linings of the bags, or the fake, chemical butter they put on it. Really, as quick and easy as it is, it's unhealthy too.

I'm not ready to give up popcorn entirely, but I am ready to start eating less of it, and to put forth the effort to start making it myself and making it more healthy. Here's what I've learned about how to make healthy popcorn. Enjoy!

The Lowest-Calorie Popcorn Option

The lowest-calorie option for making popcorn is to use an air popper. It's the only cooking process that doesn't add calories to the popcorn. If you compare oil-popped and air-popped popcorn, you'll definitely notice a big difference in the flavor, but there's also a massive reduction in the calories involved if you skip using any oils.

Melted butter is just another phrase for "flavored oil" and "added calories" so if you feel you can't skip that either, use as little as you can stand. If you'd like to add some flavor to your popcorn but would like something less greasy, here are some suggestions:

  • grated Parmesan cheese - use fresh grated, not the scary chemical version that comes in a green can. It has more flavor anyway.
  • salt - try some of the natural salts as they will have more flavor to them than regular, commercial table salt. Smoked salt is also worth a taste test.
  • garlic powder - sprinkle a little bit and toss well before tasting. if you think you need more, go slowly.
  • paprika
  • turmeric
  • brewer's yeast or nutritional yeast

Adding these sorts of flavor sprinkles does have one side effect, and it's messy hands. My best advice for that is to give eating your popcorn with a spoon or chopsticks. I happen to like the chopstick version because it makes me eat my popcorn a lot more slowly.

Stovetop Popping Tips

A lot of people really do love the taste of stove-top-popped popcorn. Here are a few tips to help keep the calories down and the healthiness up:

Olive oil - You'll get less calories if you swap out the butter and use a cooking oil for making popcorn. A lot of people recommend canola oil, but it contains acids which cause joint inflammation. Organic olive oil (non-virgin) is best for the high heat cooking that you do when you make popcorn.

Use a steel popper - You want to avoid aluminum as it comes with its own toxicities. Steel is more durable and is a non-toxic cooking material.

AVOID - The absolute worst oil to use is coconut oil. It's 90% saturated fat. If you want a comparison, lard is only 40% saturated fat and almost nobody cooks with that anymore.

How do you Pop and Flavor your Popcorn?

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      nicki 2 years ago

      Olive oil should never be heated. Use raw coconut oil or beef tallow. And real butter, preferably from raw milk, is great. The reason you don't want to use it is because it will burn at the l those temperatures. But utter is actually really good for you so pour it on after your popcorn is popped. And raw salt is an amazing source of minerals.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 2 years ago from East Coast

      I have tried Parmesan and even a bit of powdered cayenne at times but my favorite is simple. Olive oil and salt. I will have to try the smoked salt that you suggest, I have never heard of this before and it sounds interesting.

    • insp profile image

      insp 4 years ago


    • talfonso profile image

      talfonso 5 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      I for one haven't tried air-popped popcorn with brewer's yeast before, but all your ideas sound really good. I'm trying to lose weight, and I would like to try one of those ideas out!

    • profile image

      CC 5 years ago

      I'm such a popcorn lover, I don't know how I can get around not putting butter. I will have to try the garlic and vinegar suggestions. I'm done with the unhealthy microwave popcorn bags. Thanks for the info.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      I'm definitely a believer in homemade popcorn and am especially partial to popcorn topped with grated fresh parmesan. Thank you! Voted up and shared.

    • cityalice profile image

      cityalice 5 years ago

      Thanks for the tips. Stove top popped popcorn sounds so good right now.

    • profile image

      Kaeruzawa 5 years ago

      Try this: I soak some garlic in olive oil, and then lightly drizzle on the air popped corn. Not only does it taste great by itself, keeping the benefits of the olive oil without over heating it, but any additional seasonings, from salt and spice to parmesian adhear much better.

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      roni 5 years ago

      It's not the microwave popcorn that's bad for you; it's all the additives in those bags you buy. I have a microwave popcorn bowl that I got from a thrift shop years ago; it has a grooved design on the bottom. I just buy a bag of regular popcorn, pop it, and I can add whatever I want. I've seen tons of these on Amazon, probably your local Wal-Mart has them. If you are trying to save money, this is a way cheaper way to go. And I think you can just use a regular paper bag; just don't know how to keep it together.

    • profile image

      nerissa 5 years ago


    • maxravi profile image

      Ravi Singh 5 years ago from India

      I learnt some new way to make popcorn today.. thanks :)

    • cowtowngirl77 profile image

      cowtowngirl77 5 years ago

      This sounds like a good recipe, I will try it.

    • talfonso profile image

      talfonso 6 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      This Hub really makes me want to invest in an air popper! I occasionally eat popcorn anyway.

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      Mike 6 years ago

      Don't use GMO corn or GMO Canola.

    • loves2cook profile image

      loves2cook 6 years ago from Portland, OR

      I had no idea about the dangers of microwaved popcorn -- thanks for the info!

      I've been a "heart-stopper" popcorn lover for years. I remember in college, my sister and I would ask for extra butter slathered in the middle of the popcorn bucket, then more butter still on top. Ah, the days of a high metabolism...

      I'll have to look into garlic & onion powders for sure. They give me a ton of flavor in other dishes but I've yet to try them on popcorn. Thanks!

    • inbo5599 profile image

      Lisa 6 years ago from Michigan

      Wow . . . thank you!

    • QHuman profile image

      QHuman 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I LOVE popcorn so healthy versions are always good.

    • dobo700 profile image

      dobo700 6 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for the great hub! I have to go eat now.

    • eatlikenoone profile image

      eatlikenoone 6 years ago from Saline, MI

      I make my own microwave popcorn. I put about 1/3 cup of kernels into a standard brown paper lunch bag. I hold the bag over twice and stick it in the microwave. I don't even add any oil. I only have problems with kernels sticking if I am using a low powered microwave that takes longer.

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      culligan92 6 years ago

      I won't touch that microwave popcorn!

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