movie snacks

Pump the Brakes on Movie Snacks

What should you know before you order that large popcorn?

A Saturday night at the movies can clean out your wallet—and pack on the pounds. Movie theaters now are required to post calorie counts on their menus. The FDA’s rule applies to food establishments with 20 or more locations, including movie theaters, fast-food chains, amusement parks and bowling alleys. While this may take the guesswork out of how many calories you’re consuming while you watch the latest thriller, studies show that even armed with this information, many adults still don’t change their caloric intake.

So we’re providing a few facts you might not know about movie snacks:

  • The average small movie popcorn with butter has about 600 calories, more than a quarter-pound cheeseburger, which has 550 calories. You could have three slices of thin-crust cheese pizza or three milk chocolate candy bars for about the same number of calories. And here’s more food for thought: A slice of cheesecake has about 410 calories.
  • You can have a meal of two large pieces of fried chicken (800 calories), a cup of mashed potatoes (230) and a 16-ounce soda (200) or the average large movie popcorn with butter, which is about 1,270 calories. Here’s another comparison: Two cups of spaghetti with meat sauce and a slice of garlic bread total roughly 800 calories, while a small thick-crust pepperoni pizza with a 10-ounce can of soda has about 940 calories.
  • Grab a large combo—a 48-ounce soda and a large popcorn with butter—and you’ll consumer about 1,700 calories, accounting for 85 percent of the daily allowance, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
  • An average small movie soda is about 23 ounces and has about 14 teaspoons of sugar and a little more than 200 calories. An average large movie soda is 47 ounces has almost 30 teaspoons of sugar and about 450 calories. But these numbers can vary wildly, depending on the chain. One theater chain’s medium soda can be 32 ounces, while another’s is 44 ounces. A small can vary even more: One chain’s small soda might be 16 ounces, while another’s is double that. The same holds true for popcorn, where the size of a medium tub of popcorn can vary by as many as 10 cups. One chain’s version of a medium popcorn might contain 10 cups, while another’s might have up to 20.
  • An average small popcorn contains about 450 milligrams of sodium, about 20 percent of the recommended daily amount for adults and 30 percent of the recommended amount for children and adults who are older than age 51 or African American, or who have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.
  • Choose your chocolate carefully. A 3.5-ounce bag of chocolate-covered raisins has 420 calories, a 4.8-ounce bag of chocolate-covered mints has 570 calories and a 4-ounce bag of chocolate-covered peanut butter pieces has 580 calories. If you simply must have chocolate, your best bet may be the 3-ounce bag of chocolate-covered caramels, which comes in at 370 calories.
  • If you split a small unbuttered popcorn with a friend, you’ll each get about the same number of calories as you would from an 8-ounce container of flavored whole-milk yogurt, about 230. For comparison purposes, a hard-boiled egg has about 80 calories, half a cup of cottage cheese contains 110 calories and 18 cashews have 165 calories.
  • To make date night at the movies healthier, eat dinner before the movie; this can help curb hunger. If watching a movie isn’t the same without the popcorn, split a bag with a friend and ask that it be plain, meaning unbuttered and unsalted. Some theaters offer more healthy snack options, including bottled water and trail mix, so check your options before ordering.
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