Healthy Movie Snacks

We all love going to the movies. After all, it’s an American tradition.

But along with that tradition typically comes buckets of “butter”-laden popcorn, candy filled with high fructose corn syrup (soon to be renamed “corn sugar” to try to get away from its bad reputation), and even nachos with cheese that could qualify as a biohazard based on the first 3 ingredients alone. But we eat them. All of them, simply because they taste good.

Healthy Movie Snacks

Here’s a sobering fact, however:

New laboratory tests conducted by the non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest reveal that a $12 medium-popcorn-and-soda combo sold at Regal, the country’s largest movie-theater chain, contains 1,610 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat — the equivalent of three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with 12 pats of butter. Source

Yep, that wonderful-tasting bucket of popcorn is smothered in soybean oil, artificial flavoring, beta carotene for color, and preservatives, giving many folks a very necessary run to the bathroom as well as their nearest Weight Watcher’s meeting!

I won’t deny that I’ve fallen victim to a bucket of popcorn or a candy bar calling my name from those pretty, well-lit shelves.

But that was years ago. In fact, I don’t really remember the last time I had movie popcorn or a candy bar.

Now, I should mention here that I do NOT, under any circumstances, feel deprived. Quite the opposite. The truth is, if I did really feel deprived, I would absolutely give in to having a candy bar. But that’s what’s great about eating clean and healthy. Once you really get on the “bandwagon,” you eventually lose those cravings. I haven’t had a candy bar in years because I honestly don’t want one. I don’t even remember what they taste like.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the occasional treat at the movie theater. The only difference is that I bring my own instead of handing over an entire paycheck for one tiny bucket of popcorn and chemicals.

Here’s what I take into the theater with me (conveniently hidden in a backpack or large purse to avoid any conflicts – I figure when the movie theater starts providing clean and healthy treats, I’ll start giving them my money again) – What do you like to sneak into the theater?




If you’re having a night in with a movie rental, here are some fun ideas to liven things up.

  • If your movie has a theme, try making healthy snacks that fit that theme! For example, in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”, you could make a clean eating pasta dish as a main course (Eat/Italy), a nice curry flavored finger food as a snack (Pray/India) and a coconut drink for your beverage (Love/Indonesia). Have fun with it!
  • Have a “movie popcorn” tasting contest! Find different popcorn flavorings. Mix them with small amounts of popcorn and put in small “tasting dishes”. The winning popcorn get’s re-popped and guests get to take a bag home.
  • If you have a projector, take your movie outdoors along with your dinner! BBQ some clean eating foods to nosh while you watch your movie on lawn chairs and drink fun, clean drinks!
  • Fall is nearly upon us. Take that movie projector and some blankets outside. Serve clean apple cider, baked apples, and pumpkin soup!
  • Make it a potluck movie night! Everybody brings a dish. But the catch is that it has to be healthy and clean! The best dish wins a prize based on the movie!

And lastly, I’d like to share a little daydream of mine. Some day, I would like to organize a huge clean eating movie night. It will be in the fall, and I’ll project an old Halloween movie against a wall somewhere (maybe a park). Everybody will bring their lawn chairs and a mug. I’ll serve clean apple cider and that pumpkin soup I mentioned above. And for the kiddos, I’ll serve Hot Chocolate. I’ll do this every weekend for the 4 weekends leading up to Halloween. Doesn’t that sound like a blast?

Some day…

Article is an original work and is © Tiffany McCauley. It may not be reproduced for any reason without written permission by the author.

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  1. I like to pop my own popcorn at home and sneak it into the theater 🙂

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Roxan – Yep! That’s the best kind of movie popcorn!

  2. Anna Johnston says:

    Great facts here Tiffany, I’m not a huge fan of ‘movie popcorn’ but wow.., had no idea it contained quite so much in the way of fats. Didn’t know they were about to rename corn syrup either…, so thanks, love it when I learn new stuff like this about food.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Anna – Thanks! Gald you enjoyed the article. It seems the food industry is always changing something to fool the consumer. We have to stay on our toes!

  3. Have you tried baked kale chips? They are super clean, way low in calories and carbs, but high in nutrients, and the crunch is very satisfying when you have the munchies!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      ThoraLee – Not yet, but they are on my list!

  4. not related to this section of your site..sorry, i am new at this. My family does NOT like wheat pasta. We seem to have found a great clean substitute. Brown rice pasta is awesome. It tastes great…less bitterness than whole wheat and my kids eat it without a complaint!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Deborah – Yes, it’s a fantastic substitute!

  5. Unfortunately, theaters make their money off the food concession not the tickets. So people that sneak food in instead of buying it are contributing to the demise of the movie theater. They are already struggling. Wouldn’t it be better to lobby for healthier choices for them to sell? Still popcorn, but also some healthy alternatives? That way they’d have a better chance of staying in business.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      SA – I’m all for that. But really, what are the odds of them selling healthy foods? Pretty slim, I’d say. Plus, and apple would probably cost $10!

  6. Clean eating “carmel corn” Ate my 2 cups of clean popcorn and did not know what to do with the rest since it goes stale. So I improvised and came up with this recipe.
    1 tablespoon melted coconut oil.
    2 tablespoon agave syrup
    2 table spoon unsweetened coco powder.
    Add all in bowl mix and put in ziplock in fridge. Enjoy. 🙂

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tiffany – Wow! Thank you! Can’t wait to try it!

  7. My kids are crazy for air-popped popcorn drizzled with Flax seed oil and a sprinkle of sea salt!

    1. Anonymous says:

      Dawn – Sounds like a great snack!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Jaiya – I’ve heard of the popcorn thing before. I might have to try it that way. Hmmm…..

  9. graciouspantry says:

    Elle – Ya, movie food can be pretty gross. I had a friend who worked in a theater in high school. They had hot dogs on one of those roasters that rotate all the time. If they didn’t sell all of them by the end of the day, they went back in the fridge. Eventually, they would get a greenish tint to them. But they would just toss them back on the roaster until they were brown again. How nobody ever got sick is beyond me. Ick.

  10. graciouspantry says:

    Any lean meat will work, really. Boneless, skinless chicken breast, lean pork or beef…. and of course, organic and pasture raised is best when you can afford it.

  11. Great ideas, I love bringing my own snacks, baked apple chips are my favorite. I just wanted to comment about hard boiled eggs, as great as they are they stink! I would hate to sit near anyone eating them at the theatre and I bet I’m not alone. I would go with your other choices.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Bambi – haha! You may have a point!