The latest thriller might not be the most spine-tingling part of your next visit to Carmike Cinemas. Order a bucket of popcorn to accompany your viewing experience, and the calorie and sodium tally may scare you more than the movie's surprise ending. Homemade, air-popped, unbuttered popcorn is a virtuous treat offering whole grains, antioxidants, fiber and few calories. The methods of preparation, additives and portion sizes offered by Carmike make this quintessential movie food less nutritionally desirable.
The smallest size of Carmike Cinemas' popcorn comes in an 85-ounce container and has 530 calories. Go up in size and you'll get 810 calories for a 130-ounce bucket, 1,060 calories for 170 ounces and 1,190 calories for 190 ounces. Typically, these larger buckets are made for sharing -- eat it all yourself, and you'll be taking in more calories than a large meal.
Proteins and Carbohydrates
Popcorn isn't a high-protein food, nor does it contain all the amino acids to make it a complete protein. Carmike's popcorn contains 9 grams per 85-ounce container, 14 grams per 130-ounce container, 18 grams per 170-ounce and 20 grams per 190-ounce container. Popcorn is a carbohydrate-rich food, though, with Carmike's offering between 61 and 237 grams per container, depending on the size. The movie popcorn does share the high-fiber content of air-popped versions, with values ranging from 11 to 24 grams per container.
In 2009, consumer watchdog organization The Center for Science in the Public Interest revealed that some movie popcorn contains three days' worth of saturated fat. This means you would be ingesting far more than the 16 grams the American Heart Association says you should consume per day on a 2,000-calorie diet. Carmike Cinemas' popcorn contains significantly less than these elevated amounts, with just 2.5 to 5 grams in their containers -- one-third or less of your daily limit. The overall fat content of the popcorn is high, though, because it's popped in oil. The small 85-ounce container provides 28 grams of fat, while the largest size provides a total of 63 grams. Carmike Cinemas' popcorn contains no cholesterol.
The average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, well above the recommended 2,300 milligrams, reported the Institute of Medicine in 2013. Perhaps it's because Americans love their movie popcorn. The 85-ounce container offers 1,530 milligrams, while the largest 190-ounce container provides 3,420 milligrams. Lower sodium intakes may help reduce your risk of chronic disease. In some theaters, the staff will accommodate requests to pop popcorn without added salt.
Butter It Up
Carmike Cinemas serves its popcorn unbuttered -- you add it yourself on the side. Although the company doesn't provide the nutritional information for its particular topping, a typical tablespoon of the stuff adds 130 calories. The Center for Science in the Public Interest likens putting buttery topping on your popcorn to adding oil to your fries or chips.
- The Whole Grains Council: Popcorn: The Perfect Snack Food
- Carmike Cinemas: Concessions
- The New York Times: Popcorn’s Dark Secret
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: ‘Two Thumbs Down’ for Movie Theater Popcorn
- Institute of Medicine: Sodium Intake in Populations: Assessment of Evidence
- American Heart Association: Saturated Fats