Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Extolling the Virtues of Popcorn

Awesome Jeff and I got into a fight this morning about popcorn, of all things.

I made a comment last night about how bloated I felt. Since I had eaten a burger and onion rings with my dad, I'm pretty sure that my sodium intake was upwards of 3500 mg for the day. My cookie pooch had turned into a burger pooch, and I looked like I was about 6 months along.

This morning, as I was getting ready for my weekly trip to Dallas, I got the air popper out.

Grumpy Jeff rolled his eyes and informed me that popcorn salt also causes bloat and that it was weird that I was popping corn at 7:30 in the morning for my afternoon snack.

It got me to thinking, 'maybe other people don't get it either.' So let me explain.

I have always had a love affair with popcorn. When I was a child, my grandfather used an air popper and a host of other corn popping contraptions to pop corn into giant paper grocery sacks.

Then, he would pour melted butter into the sack and shake vigorously.  As you sat with the paper sack on your lap, the butter would inevitably start to seep through and onto your clothes.  

It is a fond, fond memory that I have of a man whose motto when it came to snacking was "Eat all you want - as long as it ruins your dinner." 

During my teen years, Jill and I would each put down an entire bag of Act II movie theater butter or butter lover's popcorn while we watched All My Children after school.

Then during college I discovered my one true love.

I also discovered that Awesome Jeff was more than willing to take me to the movies and share a bucket with me. As my greasy fingers brushed his in that $4 vat of buttery goodness, I thought I could hear angels singing, and I was sure that this was a relationship made in Heaven.

At the ripe age of 37, I can't eat movie theater popcorn without remorse. All those trans and saturated fats leave me with what I refer to as 'the popcorn hangover.'  Of course, it could be because I'm not satisfied until I have eaten the entire bucket.

By myself. 

But, while theater popcorn is not at all that good for you, it turns out that popcorn can actually be a very sensible snack . . . If you keep your head about it.

So, why do I love it? Let me count the ways:

1. It gives me my carb fix.

Some people love carbs. Pasta, bread, chips.


I'm one of those people. I'd eat two servings of each with each meal if I could.  But, refined carbohydrates really are one of those "a moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips" type food for me.

2. It is whole grain.

When "carb loading" (something needs to fuel this hungry runner), I really try to stick to whole grain and/or gluten free options (e.g. Whole wheat bread, rice pasta, whole grain crackers).


Whereas refined grains go through processing that removes most of the nutrients including fiber, whole grains are an important source of fiber.   Also, whole grains provide health benefits like reducing the risk of heart disease, helping with weight management, and reducing cholesterol.  And, making you feel full.

Well guess what? Popcorn is whole grain. Hello, it's a corn kernel that is popped into a satisfying pillow of fluffy white awesomeness.


3. It's low calorie . . . and that means that I can eat massive quantities of it.

One cup of air popped popcorn is only about 35 calories. Compare that to a serving of 16 original wheat thin crackers, which contains 140 calories, and it's easy to see why popcorn is the better choice.

Of course, preparation is key.  While my bucket of carmike corn is approximately 1100 calories, the same bucket with air popped corn is only about 260 calories.

4. You can jazz it up.

Now,  I'm not going to eat a bucket of unseasoned, air-popped corn. That would be like chomping on cardboard.


But, I do love me some spray butter. Elizabeth and I call it spray silicon because nothing in it is pronounceable. I'm sure its not a good-for-you food, and I rue the day that I decide that there is something in it that is killing me softly.  Until then, however, it keeps my popcorn perfectly moistened and flavored.

I also keep an assortment of popcorn seasonings on hand.

Some times in a jalapeno mood. I'm almost always in a white cheddar kind of mood.

5. It can be bloat free.

Popcorn seasonings are definitely not sodium free.  The white Cheddar seasoning contains 440 mg of sodium.

At our house, we try to keep the sodium down. It has adverse effects on all of us.

So if I'm making corn for Awesome Jeff (or if I want to wear a swimsuit the next day), I frequently season my corn with my beloved Ms. Dash.  I like Southwestern Chipotle or Spicy. If you like a little spice in your life, try some crushed red pepper. A little dab will do ya though.

6. It's portable.

Pop it up. Throw it in a gallon size Ziploc, and it will be fresh all day.

Not going to lie. I recently found a bag in my car that was at least four or five days old. I ate it. Of course I did. Because I'm a human garbage disposal.

Those are the reasons that I'll pop corn at 7:30 a.m. - well in advance of snack time.   Next time you are at walmart, pick up an air-popper.  It was the best $10 I never spent (mine was a gift).

What did you snack on yesterday or today? 

Happy snacking,


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