Updated: Aug 8
What is one of the best high fiber, low fat snacks that can be sweet or salty or BOTH to satisfy any craving? POPCORN! Read on for 3 of my favourite ways to flavour your way to popcorn snacking bliss.
Confession. I'm a snacker. I can't help it. I've tried to deny this snacking side of myself, it's no use. I love to sit down and munch, when I'm reading, when I'm watching tv, when I'm writing blog posts... So, rather than fight it, I build conscious (conscientious) snack time into my daily plan and use it as an opportunity to get some additional nutrients that I need. By choosing my snacks wisely, I can allow myself to be a little bit mindless in the moment of actual snacking, though I do try to pay attention to my chewing! [what do I mean? Here's a great Precision Nutrition post about why we should chew our food well].
For my mindlessly mindful snack-o-ramas, popcorn is a mainstay. My brother gifted me one of these handy microwave popcorn poppers and I HIGHLY recommend it. No oil needed + super fast popping and cleanup. Pour in the fresh kernels, microwave for 2-3 minutes (this will depend on your microwave. When you first try it, start with 3 minutes and then LISTEN CLOSELY. When the popping slows WAAAY down, it's ready!!) and VOILA! you have the perfect base for whatever flavour mood you're in.
[A NOTE ABOUT PRE-PACKAGED MICROWAVE POPCORN: Whilst it's also low-cal and super convenient, I steer clear for a few reasons. 1. Many of the bags are lined with PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). This chemical has been linked to infertility, cancer, and weight gain. 2. (And honestly this feels more like #1 to me, many of these microwavable bags come loaded with too much sodium , unhealthy fats like hydrogenated soybean oil, and loads of chemicals and preservatives, including added colors and flavors, which can contribute to increased inflammation and belly fat.]
So, What's So Great (Nutritionally) About Plain, Airpopped Popcorn?
It's the perfect low calorie, low fat, high fiber, whole grain snack. And it serves as a base for a host of flavorings. There is no end to the many ways to zhuzh it up. You can be as creative as you'd like with it (just try to steer clear of drenching it with butter).
If you're not sure where to start, here are 3 of my fave popcorn recipes:
This is my #1 Go To and my family loves it too. It's SUPER DELICIOUS and a perfect antidote for those random Doritos cravings (it's actually more delicious and satisfying).
1/2 cup popcorn kernels (unpopped)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
3 splashes olive oil (divided)
Combine nutritional yeast, spices, and salt into a small bowl. When kernels have popped (see above for how to pop in the microwave), pour popcorn into a large bowl. Drizzle with a splash of olive oil, add some nutritional yeast mix, toss. Repeat splash, mix, and toss 2 more times and serve!
Nutritional yeast is a complete source of protein, meaning it supplies all the essential amino acids and is high in a particularly beneficial form of soluble fiber (beta-glucan). Higher intakes of beta-glucan have been shown to lead to favorable cardiovascular outcomes, including lowering "bad cholesterol" and increasing "good cholesterol." In addition, most brands of nutritional yeast contain potassium, which reduces blood pressure, vitamins (especially B-vitamins essential for energy metabolism), and minerals, including calcium, iron, and potassium.
Smoked paprika is high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. It's also a good source of vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as iron, potassium, and magnesium.
Cumin may help improve digestion and is a good source of iron, while garlic powder is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Olive oil is a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and protect against heart disease.
Salty & Sweet Popcorn:
1/2 cup popcorn kernels (unpopped)
2 tbsp shelled pistachios
2 tbsp dark chocolate chips
Olive oil (misted)
Kosher salt (optional, to taste)
Pop the kernels and mix everything together in a large bowl. Sprinkle a little kosher salt to taste. If needed, mist with a little olive oil.
Pistachios are a good source of fiber, protein, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats. They've also been linked to weight loss.
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and has been shown to improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. It's also a good source of iron, magnesium, and copper.
Apple Cinnamon Popcorn
This recipe is inspired by one from Around My Family Table. When you're craving apple pie (well, sometimes you should just eat the pie), but if you're steering clear because of a competition weight cut, or you just don't have time to whip up a pie, here's a good substitute that smells delicious and tastes like Autumn. Feel free to follow Around My Family Table's recipe, but if you're watching your sugar and fat intake, I've made a few tweaks to use natural stevia instead and cut down on the oil by using an oil spray (just don't go crazy with this).
1/2 cup unpopped kernels
A few quick squirts olive oil (I like using something like this to make a spray)
1 tsp natural stevia (or to taste)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (or to taste)
¼ tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup dried apple chips (watch out for added oil versions - read the label and look for ingredients that are just apples or apples and spices like cinnamon - like these!)
Place the popped popcorn into a large bowl. Add the apple chips.
Spray olive oil (or oil of choice). Stir in the stevia, cinnamon and salt. Toss until well coated.
A half cup of dried apple chips is 110 calories and provides 4g of fiber. It's also high in potassium and vitamins C.
Stevia is a natural sweetener that is calorie-free and has a glycemic index of zero. This means that stevia does not raise blood sugar levels like other sweeteners such as sugar and honey. Stevia is also a good source of antioxidants, vitamins C and B6, and minerals such as magnesium and potassium.
Cinnamon is a warming spice that has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, improve heart health, and reduce inflammation. Cinnamon is also high in antioxidants.
And that's IT! You can really mix up whatever you'd like. If I'm in a super hurry and just want something even simpler, I'll just scale back mix-ins. Sometimes I sprinkle my popcorn with a little cinnamon and sugar. Sometimes it's just nutritional yeast and black pepper. I also really love this cocoa popcorn seasoning from Gneiss Spice. They have other popcorn "spice" mixes I still have to try. One of my clients is super partial to ranch reasoning powder (I found some on Nuts.com).
By the way - NONE of the links in this article are affiliate links. They're just linked because I like these products and thought you might too.
Happy reading! Happy popcorn making and EATING!
If you make anything, drop me a line and let me know - or share your fave recipes and mix-ins in the comments!