16 Mar Movie Theatre Munchies
Movie Theatre Munchies
Have you EVER bought (or picked up) your movie ticket at the theatre, walked past the concession stand, gone directly to your seat, and watched the entire movie… WITHOUT eating anything? I have NEVER! (Nor do I ever intend to.) We’re all human, for God’s sake!
How can any normal person (with fully-functioning olfactory senses) walk into a movie theatre and NOT go into the dreaded – and delightful – popcorn trance? Me? I become almost airborne. All self-control floats right out the window, as I zombie-walk toward the smell of freshly popped corn. And then, just as I think I’m walking away with a (somewhat) healthy movie snack of water and popcorn with no added “real” butter, at that crucial moment… (Drumroll please) the lights hit the beautifully displayed assortment of candy, and I am completely seduced, like a moth to a flame (or, more appropriately, a fly to sugar).
Now, on any normal, non-movie day, I eat an extremely healthy, yet realistic, diet. In fact, I have been known to bring my own snacks to a theatre. I would wait for the lights to go down before reaching for the home-made trail mix I’ve stashed in my purse. Needless to say, with the scent of buttered popcorn in the air and the sight of my fellow movie-goers shoveling that particular delicious treat down their throats, I was suddenly less-than-satisfied with my healthy snack. In fact, I felt downright PISSED; it seemed to mess with my whole movie-going experience. I mean, let’s face it, some situations just call for you to eat, and eat poorly. If any of this sounds familiar to you, I am here to help. By “help,” I do NOT mean “try to talk you off your diet ledge.” Hardly. What I mean is, I’m going to give you the lesser of the movie-going evils.
Everybody has their “thing” when they go to the theatre. Some people need salty, some people need sweet, and some need frozen. (occasionally I need all three). If you have total control of your cravings 24/7 (this is not me), if you NEVER have cheat days (again. not me), or if you are on a seriously strict diet (nope, fortunately not me again), then this next short section is for you!
BRING YOUR HEALTHY SNACKS FROM HOME:
SALTY: Instead of movie theatre popcorn, which is loaded with fat and artificial flavoring (even without the added “real” butter), pop your own popcorn at home. For quick popcorn-on-the-go, place 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels in a paper lunch bag. Roll the end of the bag closed. Heat in the microwave at full power, for 2 minutes, or until the popping slows. Spray with a little olive oil, and season with sea salt or the seasoning of your choice.
SWEET: Instead of giving in to the the plethora of movie theatre candy options, bring your own zip-lock bag of home-made trail mix. Make your own recipe, using your favorites. I use almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios (all unsalted and raw, of course), and a handful of dark chocolate chips. The nuts fill you up and provide a dose of healthy fat and fiber, while the dark chocolate chips satisfy your sweet tooth.
FROZEN: Bringing your own frozen treat from home may seem a little unrealistic. But, if you plan ahead, it’s really quite simple. Place bite-sized pieces of fruit in a zip-lock freezer bag, and freeze overnight. I like to use grapes because the skin of the grape keeps your hands from getting sticky when the fruit begins to melt. However, firm raspberries, blackberries and blueberries also work well. Just before leaving for the theatre, grab your frozen baggie. By the time the movie starts, your icy treat will be ready to eat.
Okay, so this brings us to our next category…
I’M STANDING AT THE CONCESSION COUNTER – NOW WHAT?
This is for the people who arrive at the theatre empty-handed, or worse yet, go to the movies primarily for the junk-food. I, myself, have sat through an unbearable movie (in 3-D no less) just because I was craving movie snacks. There are some really scary statistics (which I’ll call “not-so-fun-facts”) out there about the calories and fat found in movie theatre treats, but I’m not here to frighten you away from the concession stand counter. We are here to cheat. We’ve already determined that. So now what?
SALTY: Don’t even think about the nachos. Ewww. White corn tortillas with warm orange sauce. (That kind of “cheese” must come from very special cows.) Skip the salted pretzel and hotdog as well. We are NOT going to the theatre to eat dinner! If you eat before you go, you will consume less junk once you get there.
Get a small popcorn with NO added butter. Trust me, there is butter already all over that “no extra butter” popcorn. (Or at least yellow-colored butter flavoring. Same special cows, I guess.) Also, don’t fall for the bargain. If you pay the extra .50 for the larger size, you are paying for 500 additional calories. And chances are, in the dark, while everyone is distracted by the giant screen (including yourself), you will mindlessly eat those extra 500 calories. Here’s a not-so-fun-fact… A large buttered popcorn is equivalent to eating 4.5 cheeseburgers (1500 calories). Get the small.
SWEET: If you read the labels on the jurassic-sized candies at the theaters, you can rank the sweets from bad to worse based on the number of calories and grams of fat per serving. Almost every internet site uses this criteria to scare you into one choice or the other. I was going to include the nutritional label of each candy in this post. However, I think this is misleading. First of all, I never look at the fat content. Fat makes us fat, but sugar also makes us fat. Excess sugar is stored as fat in our bodies, so looking at the fat content of a candy bar, without also checking out the sugar content, makes no sense to me. Instead, I ignore both and look for items that have the most protein, and/or fiber. I know this may go against the normal criteria for a candy, but give this some thought:
If you mix chocolate or candy-coating with a protein or fiber, that candy will automatically fill you up more. Which means, you’ll eat less of it. In addition, the fiber slows down the rate at which the sugar hits your bloodstream. So, based on this criteria, Raisinets and Peanut M&M’s are at the top of my list. Nuts fill me up more than raisins, so I usually get the Peanut M&M’s. I eat them one at a time, but there’s logic behind this method. I first suck at the candy-coating until it’s gone, then tackle the chocolate, finally crunching the peanut in the center. At this rate, you can imagine, it takes me a long time to get through a few handfuls.
Now, if neither of the above does it for you, Junior Mints or Milk Duds are my next go-to candy at the theatre. Here’s why – there is only so much mint
I can eat before it stops tasting like a sweet-treat and starts tasting more like toothpaste. In addition, the taste of mint actually minimizes my salty cravings. (see the blog, Grocery Shop Like a Skinny Girl). I find that I inhale far less popcorn when I eat Junior Mints. Milk Duds, on the other hand, are impossible to eat fast or by the handful without either losing a filling or swallowing them whole. In fact, you will spend just as much time trying to get them off of your teeth as you will actually ingesting them. So, if I’m going to cheat, both of these are on my list of possibilities. In contrast, a not-so-fun fact: an 8 oz. bag of Reese’s Pieces, which you can shovel into your mouth a dozen pieces at a time, is equivalent to eating 26 pieces of bacon, and with a whopping 1200 calories. Yikes!
FROZEN: There are a number of various frozen delights available at any given movie theatre. Nestlé Dibs, those chocolate-covered, vanilla ice-cream bites, were my kids’ favorites growing up. These days, with an ever-increasing demand by consumers to have healthier snack alternatives, movie theaters are stepping up and offering more than the classics. In some theatre chains, for example, pro-biotic frozen yogurt is offered (skip the toppings, unless it’s either fresh fruit or nuts), as well as Dole Frozen Fruit Bars, which are made with real fruit. This is a huge improvement from the classic blue-raspberry ICEE (still available by the way), which is basically dyed, frozen, sugar-water. (NOTE: Expect a huge sugar crash after the brain-freeze wears off.)
DRINKS: Water is the obvious choice here. Many theaters also carry Vitamin Water Zero. But then again, we are here to cheat, folks. Usually I have water, but occasionally I will have that Diet Coke I’ve religiously deprived myself from during those other 360 non-theater-going days a year. Assuming you are among the average Americans who go to the theatre 4-5 times a year, you are not going to do any long-term harm by having a diet soda while you are out watching a flick. Final not-so-fun fact: a large (non-Diet) Coke has 10.8 Tablespoons of sugar and 521 calories. Get the Diet Coke on this rare occasion, or drink water.
So there you have it, my really healthy bring-your-own snack options, as well as my best choices at the concession stand.
Enjoy the movie. Enjoy the snacks. Just plan on hitting the gym extra hard the next day.