Diabetes? Pick Popcorn over Potato Chips


Chef Franklin Becker

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Move over, potato chips. Who doesn’t love a bowl of hot, crunchy popcorn? It’s one of my favorite snacks for several reasons:

  • It’s a healthy whole grain.

  • It’s fairly low in calories.

  • It’s easy and quick to make.

  • You can season it many different ways.

Chips Versus Popcorn

When you compare the nutritional values of popcorn to potato chips, popcorn comes out way ahead.

  • A little 1-ounce bag of potato chips has 150 calories, 15 grams of carbs, 10 grams of fat, and 150 grams of sodium.

  • One cup of air-popped popcorn has just 31 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fat, and 0 grams of sodium. Even when popped in oil, a cup of popcorn has only 55 calories.

So dig in to three cups of popcorn. It’s a nutritious, satisfying snack with fewer than 100 calories.

Make It Healthy

Forget the bags of already-popped corn in the supermarket snack aisle. They often have extra fat and sodium. Some “light” microwavable popcorn products are fine, but it’s easy and cheaper to pop your own:

  • Use the microwave oven. Place two tablespoons of popcorn in a brown paper bag. Fold the bag shut twice. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes until the popping stops.

  • Use the stove top. Heat two teaspoons canola oil in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add two tablespoons of kernels. Cover the pot and shake gently for 2 to 3 minutes until the popping has slowed.

  • Use a hot air popcorn popper. Just follow the machine’s instructions. You won’t need to use any oil to pop the corn.

Season It Your Way

Instead of melted butter, drizzle the popped corn with olive oil (my favorite healthy oil). A little oil helps seasonings stick to the popcorn. If you’re watching calories, skip the oil, or use an oil mister so a little goes a long way. Try these zesty seasoning ideas:

  • Asian: a little toasted sesame oil, low-sodium soy sauce, and szechuan and cayenne peppers

  • Cheesy good: grated fresh asiago cheese and cracked black pepper

  • Mediterranean:  grated parmesan cheese and dried oregano and basil

  • Southwestern: red chili powder, lime zest, and a dash of garlic salt

  • Trail mix: for a heartier snack, add almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and dried banana chips

The lean protein from this pan-roasted chicken can help stabilize your blood sugar levels.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Feb 16, 2015

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