Ultimate Low Sodium Guide to Movie Theater Snacks
Who doesn’t love going to the movies? Summer blockbusters! Rainy day matinees! I love to go to the movies. If you’re like me, you even have signature movie snacks that are must haves. Popcorn? Twizzlers? Icee? Those are some of my faves. The problem with being low sodium is that many of these snacks will have to go by the wayside, or at least be modified to stay part of our low sodium diet. Here is the Ultimate Low Sodium Guide to Movie Theater Snacks.
My Love of Movies
I love to go to the movies. It has been a passion of mine since I first started going to see movies. One of the first movies to help foster that love was Star Wars. In Livermore, California, one of the places I lived growing up, summer temps would often climb up into the 100s.
We would escape the heat by starting with a morning show if possible, or a matinee. We’d grab snacks and then sit through the show. When that show ended, we found places to hide, and stayed for the next 2 or 3 showings until the temperatures came back down.
Back then, Theaters were a lot different. There were maybe 4 screens. No Multiplexes. Popcorn and soda never came in buckets (until 7-11 first served Big Gulps). Remember this little commercial?
How bad are Movie Snacks these days?
Today’s ginormous movie theater popcorn offerings range from 400 to 1,200 calories, with one to three days’ worth of saturated fat and up to 1,500 milligrams of sodium. Add the candy and sodas, then you add 300 to 1,110 empty calories worth of candy and another 150 to 500 calories for an Icee or Soda. Then there are other salt laden bombs to avoid: hot dogs, chips with nacho cheese sauce, giant pretzels, pizza, and on some occasions chicken tenders.
I thought Popcorn could be low sodium?
It can, just not in the process that the theaters use to prepare it. All of the major theater chains use a similar “buttery” non-hydrogenated soybean oil topping that adds about 120-130 calories per tablespoon. Some theaters also offer a real butter topping that adds 9 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.
Even without the buttery topping, movie theater popcorn is seasoned with an unhealthy dose of salt. Sodium levels range from 210 milligrams in the smallest 6-cup bag, to a heart-stopping 1,500 milligrams in the large tub. That’s an entire day’s worth of sodium for me. Yikes!
What is on the Low Sodium Guide to Movie Theater Snacks?
So now that I’ve ruined all the good choices, what could possibly be left?
Popcorn. Yes, Popcorn! You can split a small unbuttered version of the movie theater offering, or, most major chains will fix up a small batch of unsalted popcorn for you, if you are patient and willing to wait. Also, be willing to get there early to the start of the show if you are going to request it. I would bring in a small spray bottle of “I can’t believe it’s not butter” and some McCormick’s Salt Free Garlic & Herb spice and season my own.
Drinks. So, honestly, water is your safest bet here. Almost all chains will have a bottled water option. There are some vita-waters now appearing in many theaters, but beware the sugar counts there.
Non-Candy Snacks. The Giant Pretzel without the cheese sauce for dipping comes in at 65 mg of sodium.
Candy. There are many options. Remember that movie size candy usually contains 3 servings, so triple the numbers if you eat the whole thing. For the lowest sodium choices, pick something like Twizzlers or Sour Patch Kids over chocolate, which contains more fat and calories. But you still need to watch the portion size: Four pieces of Strawberry Twist Twizzlers have just 133 calories, less than 1 gram of fat, and 95 mg of sodium, while 1.5 ounces of Sour Patch Kids contain 140 calories, no fat, and 30 mg of sodium. Share the candy with a friend so you’re guaranteed not to eat the whole box. If you must have chocolate, I recommend picking up a small bag of m&m’s and bringing it in (The Theater size is 4 oz.), or better yet, make up some low sodium trail mix with unsalted peanuts and raisins.