I love popcorn. It became my go-to snack years ago when I adopted a healthier lifestyle. However, recently, I’ve become more concerned about processed foods and additives used to preserve them — especially foods that are so simple, like popcorn. Corn kernels, plus heat, equals popcorn.
I always opted for 94 percent fat free microwave popcorn because it’s lower in calories. But that yellow-orange artificial butter started giving me the heebie jeebies. Some varieties — even low-fat brands — have traces of trans fat, and that’s just not cool.
And have you heard of Popcorn Lung? In September, a Colorado man was awarded $7.2 million from three companies for damages caused by microwave popcorn. Wayne Watson developed the serious lung disease, and his lawyers argued it was because he inhaled the artificial butter smell from two bags of popcorn a day for 10 years. Typically, popcorn factory workers contracted bronchiolitis obliterans because of high exposure to diacetyl, an artificial flavoring used to give popcorn a buttery taste. Although many manufacturers no longer use diacetyl, some still do. So read the label.
I couldn’t deny my love of popcorn, but I started to feel guilty every time I bought a box. Then one day, I thought: I’d like to make my own popcorn, but in a convenient way, not with a popcorn maker. I learned that all it takes is a paper bag, corn kernels and a microwave.
An added bonus: If you’re a popcorn connoisseur, making your own popcorn will save you some bucks. I bought 50 paper bags and a 32-ounce bag of kernels for about $5. Jolly Time Healthy Pop popcorn costs about $2.59 for a three pack, which is only 9 ounces of popcorn. Also, you can make as much as you’d like, so you can create your own 100-calorie bags, rather than paying manufacturers to portion it for you.
1. Pour 1/4 cup of kernels into a paper bag.
2. Lay bag on its side and fold opening twice.
3. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, or until popping slows.
Warning: Do not leave kernels unattended while popping. The bag could catch fire.
Nutrition information (3 cups of plain popcorn): 92 calories, 1 gram fat, 19 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 4 grams fiber.
Play up flavor
Buttery: Toss kernels in 1/2 tablespoon of melted butter before popping. (adds 50 calories and 5.5 grams fat)
Sweet: After it’s done popping, place popcorn on wax paper. Melt 1 ounce of dark chocolate in the microwave (heat for 10 second intervals and stir to avoid burning). Drizzle chocolate on the popcorn and season with sea salt. Let cool. (1 ounce dark chocolate adds 162 calories, 11 grams fat, 15 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams protein and 2 grams fiber)
Cheesy: Sprinkle popcorn with grated Parmesan cheese, sea salt and pepper. (1 tablespoon of Parmesan adds 22 calories, 1 gram fat, 2 grams protein)
Spicy: For Cajun, Curry, Italian and Southwestern flavors, check out Martha Stewart’s flavored popcorn recipes.
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