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Ask Dr. Gourmet

What are the best choices at the movie theater?

I sometimes like to go to the movies and wonder, what are the best, healthy snacks that can be found at the concession stand to nosh on while watching the latest blockbuster?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Bowl of Popcorn

This is a HUGE challenge (pun intended). Movie theaters are not the best for snacking but it is something that we all think we should be part of the experience. My best suggestion is to not eat snacks at all. I realize that this is pretty un-American, but the snacks at movie theaters have an amazing amount of calories. Theaters were, in many ways, the beginning of supersizing, with super big buckets of popcorn and oversized candies.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) reported on this last year and found that a large bucket of buttered popcorn can contain well over 1,000 calories and as much as 1,500 mg of sodium. Ordering the popcorn without butter will save somewhere around 250 calories, but that's still a lot.

The candy's not much better. Part of this is because the portions are so much larger. Raisinets might be a good choice: chocolate and fruit are both snacks that might be better choices. That 3 1/2 ounce box is 380 calories, however. A similar sized box of Junior Mints is over 400 calories. I could go on but it is really challenging. There's just not much at a movie theater that is going to be a great choice.

Even the theaters that are serving food don't think much about portion sizes and calories. I recently went to a "theater cafe" and we ordered a cheese plate, thinking that it might be a reasonable choice along with the eggplant caponata. The servings were HUGE. I figured that there must have been as much as 3/4 of a pound of cheese on the plate.

So, what to do? Get a kiddie popcorn. It'll be more than enough to satisfy you. Order a diet soda or a bottle of water. If you are going to have candy, split it with someone or take some home.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet