Sunday, October 11, 2015

Popcorn a Healthy Snack?

Air-popped popcorn is a healthful snack. Buttery, salty popcorn is not a healthy snack; it’s loaded with fats, sodium and unnecessary calories. That doesn’t mean all popcorn is bad, though. Without unhealthy additions, popcorn is an ideal snack that has few calories and a lot of fiber. Fiber slows digestion, which prolongs fullness and holds you over until your next meal. 

Popping - To make popcorn healthful, you need to start with plain popcorn kernels. They’re sold in bulk at most grocery stores. Don’t be intimidated by popping your own kernels -- it’s easy to do. Place them in a brown paper bag, roll the top closed and microwave the popcorn as you would commercial popcorn. Alternatively, you can place the kernels in a microwave-safe bowl and set a microwave-safe plate on top to contain the kernels as they pop. If you plan to make healthful popcorn on a regular basis, though, consider a specialty air popper. While these machines are often loud, they pop the kernels more evenly than a microwave oven does and the popcorn often has a better flavor. Plus, there’s less risk of burning the popcorn in a specialty air popper. To avoid additional calories, don’t use any popping method that requires you to add oil or other fats. 

Seasoning - While you shouldn’t add salt or fats to your popcorn, you don’t have to eat it plain. You have several options for healthful seasonings. For spicy popcorn, try a blend of crushed red pepper and cayenne. Paprika and chili powder make a less spicy popcorn, lemon pepper makes popcorn zesty and a blend of basil, oregano and parsley will give popcorn an herbal overtone. If you’d rather have sweeter popcorn, try ground cinnamon or grated nutmeg. Powdered ginger, ground black pepper, five-spice powder and allspice are other examples of healthful seasonings. It’s usually best to add the seasonings after popping the popcorn, but if you’re microwaving the kernels, you may add them before you pop. 

Serving Size and Nutrition - While air-popped popcorn without salt or oil is low in calories and fat, you still need to limit your serving size. A 3-cup serving is reasonable for a snack, but if you’re voracious, a double serving is okay too. You need to use 1 1/2 tablespoons of kernels to make 3 cups of popped popcorn. One 3-cup serving of air-popped popcorn has 93 calories, 1 gram of fat, 3.5 grams of fiber and 2 milligrams of sodium. To compare, 3 cups of commercial microwave popcorn with oil has 192 calories, 14 grams of fat, 2.7 grams of fiber and 348 milligrams of sodium. If you add just 1/4 teaspoon of salt to your air-popped popcorn, its sodium content will skyrocket to 581 milligrams. 

Storing - Air-popped popcorn may be stored in a sealed container for up to one week without going stale. This is perfect for making a week’s worth of snacks in advance. If you need to store the popcorn for more than a week, you can make a homemade version of commercial popcorn bags. Place the kernels and your chosen seasonings in a brown paper lunch sack and fold it. It will be about the size of commercial microwave popcorn. Tie a string around it to keep air out, or tape it closed, and write the flavor on the popcorn package.
by Serena Styles

#healthypopcorn #popcorn

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