Healthy Snacks At The Movies

Going to the movies can be a full sensory experience. For many people, the aroma of buttered popcorn conjures up memories of climactic cinematic moments. Unfortunately, many movie theater concessions are full of salt, saturated fat, or sugar. Despite this, a trip to the movies does not have to destroy the balance in your diet. Finding creative ways to enjoy wholesome snacks at the movies will allow you to indulge your inner movie critic while still staying healthy.

Considerations When Considering a Healthy Trip to the Movies

Concessions are a major part of a movie theater’s revenue (Lobb, 2002). This leads many movie theaters to forbid moviegoers from bringing outside food or snacks. While it’s certainly possible to sneak in a small snack in your purse or coat, it is best to follow the movie theater’s official policies to avoid any trouble. Although many theaters follow the “no outside food” policy, it is possible to find theaters that permit outside snacks. Most movie theaters’ websites have their policies stated online. Check independent theaters in your area as well as big box chains to find one that permits outside food.

If you do bring your own food to the movies, be considerate of your fellow moviegoers. Choosing snacks that are extremely crunchy or packages in crinkly wrapping can be very distracting for the people around you. For example, it is considered a movie etiquette breach to bring a bag of potato chips or individually wrapped candies, both of which make a lot of noise. If you simply cannot do without your favorite snack, repackage it in a small baggie to prevent the sound of crinkling packaging.

It’s also important to consider the smell of your food. Everyone expects a movie theater to have a scent of the buttered popcorn sold at the concessionaire. If you bring your own more pungent snacks, however, this may be off-putting to others. For example, the scents of onion, tuna, or corn oil can waft through an entire theater in minutes. Limit your snack selection to those with a neutral or modest scent to avoid upsetting your theater neighbors.

Navigating the Movie Theater Concessions

Movie theaters are not known for their healthy snack options. In fact, the moviegoing experience facilitates the type of mindless snacking that can be bad for your health. However, informing yourself ahead of time allows you to make healthier choices at the theater (MacMillan, 2015):

  • Drink water. Movie theater sodas may be 54 ounces or more, and some theaters even offer free refills. A large soda may have 96 to 174 grams of sugar and up to 696 calories (Consumer Reports, 2012). Drinking water is a healthier option that is better for your teeth and waistline. Ask if the concessionaire has a lemon wedge to add some flavor.
  • Choose popcorn wisely. A large buttered popcorn may contain 844 to 1,591 calories and more than 54 grams of fat (Consumer Reports, 2012). Additionally, movie theater popcorn is often laden with sodium, which is bad for heart health. Lighten this snack up by choosing the smallest size and foregoing butter. Adding a small sprinkle of salt is okay, but it’s best to share your popcorn with a friend to keep the portion healthier.
  • Nachos and cheese. There’s something satisfying about nachos and cheese, but this sense of satisfaction is certainly not a reflection of the snack’s nutritional value. A large movie theater nacho portion may contain 907 calories and 54 grams of fat (Consumer Reports, 2012). Opt for a soft pretzel instead. A small soft pretzel with no cheese is 480 calories, making it a more reasonable snack (MacMillan, 2015). Brush off any extra salt and share with your neighbor to satisfy your craving for a savory movie snack.

Bring Your Own Movie Snacks to the Theater

If you find a theater that permits you to bring your own snacks, this can be a great way to indulge without disrupting your diet. Good savory snacks include pretzels, trail mix, roasted chickpeas sprinkled with sea salt, or pita chips. If you have a sweet tooth, package a small handful of your favorite candy in a small baggie. Yogurt-covered raisins, gummy candies, chocolate peanut butter popcorn, or graham crackers make great treats.Perhaps the best way to indulge your need for creative movie snacks is to recreate the theater experience at home. This allows you to enjoy the pungent, crunchy snacks that would drive your fellow theatergoers crazy. Plus, it makes for a more budget-friendly option. If you’re enjoying a movie at home, expand your imagination with creative popcorn toppings (think smoked paprika, blue cheese, buffalo style, powdered cheese, or chili seasoning).

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