Today is National Popcorn Day! Celebrate with popcorn but make it healthier. We all know popcorn can be quick and easy with microwave popcorn but it has a lot of stuff in their that is not good for us. At the movies none of us are quite sure what that butter topping they put on it is exactly either. I promise you that you can make healthy popcorn easily at home though and in your microwave or a hot air popper plus lots of healthier toppings.
Popcorn has only 31 calories per cup of cooked corn and it is a whole grain. For those that have gluten sensitivity you will be happy to know that popcorn is naturally gluten free. It is also very filling and you can eat quite a bit of it. Three cups of popcorn is equal to one serving from the grain group.
To start, you need to pop the corn. Skip those store-bought microwave bags or cookers that require oil. Instead use a hot air popper or make your own oil-free popcorn in your own microwave. Take a brown paper lunch bag and add 1/4 cup of kernels. Fold the bag over a couple of times and pop it in the microwave for about 3 minutes. Done! Check out my post on making healthy and inexpensive microwave popcorn at home for more details. You now have a healthy bag of popcorn to eat plain or try some of these healthier topping options.
Healthier Popcorn Topping Options
- Balsamic Vinegar
Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to your popcorn and shake well in a bag to coat. Balsamic vinegar has polyphenols which can help your body get rid of damaging free radicals and lessen oxidation. It can help lower the bad cholesterol in your body.
- Olive Oil Instead of Butter
One of the things about making popcorn in the microwave or hot air popper is that it is very dry. If you have dry seasonings to add they do not have much to stick to which is why butter is commonly used. Instead of butter try drizzling with a bit of good olive oil instead. Olive oil is a heart-healthy good fat to use in your diet. It still has calories, but it is a healthier option.
Cinnamon helps your body use glucose which decreases your blood-glucose levels. If you are diabetic or at-risk for diabetes this can be very helpful. Sprinkle cinnamon on your popped corn for a calorie-free flavor boost.
- Nutritional Yeast
Check the health food section of your grocery store, sometimes the bulk items, for nutritional yeast. I have used this in other recipes and it adds a bit of a nutty and cheesy flavor while providing you with loads of potassium at the same time. Sprinkle over your popcorn and shake well. You might want to drizzle with a little olive oil first.
I adore garlic and love it on just about everything. You can use garlic powder, make sure it is not garlic salt, to sprinkle over your popcorn for super easy flavor. You can also take a fresh clove of garlic and cut it in half, now rub the garlic all around the bowl you are going to put your freshly popped corn in. Add the popcorn and toss well so the fresh garlic juice gets on all the pieces.
- Parmesan Cheese
Get a piece of real Parmesan cheese and freshly grate it, finely, over the top of your hot popcorn. You can use the Kraft Parmesan in the green can, but trust me that the fresh cheese will be much better and is healthier.
- Black Pepper
I only use whole peppercorns at our house in a pepper grinder for all of my cooking and seasoning. It is so much better than the already ground pepper. A fresh grind or two of black pepper on popcorn is delicious!
- Chocolate Chips
Over your hot popcorn sprinkle on some mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and then shake well so the chips melt a bit. One tablespoon of them will have about 75 calories. This is a bit messier to eat but it is great when you have a chocolate craving.
- Check Your Spice Cabinet
Don’t be afraid to experiment with other spices. Dig into your spice cabinet and find your favorite flavors to sprinkle on your popcorn. Be careful to watch out for salt in spice mixes.
Are you a popcorn fan? What are your favorite healthier toppings to use on popcorn?