Popcorn is a go-to snack for many people. It's known for being irresistibly tasty and makes a great crunchy snack for a movie, social event or any other occasion. What's more, it can even offer some nutritional benefits if you choose a healthy popcorn brand.
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That's right: There's a big difference between popcorn you buy at a movie theater and the kind you eat at home, and even with homemade popcorn, ingredients and additives can differ quite a bit.
With that in mind, we consulted experts on which popcorn brands on the market can actually be considered healthy, and what makes them so great.
How We Chose
There's a lot of variety when it comes to popcorn brands. We made our selections using our own research and knowledge and also gathered the expertise of registered dietitians.
The brands we chose were picked based on the following criteria:
- Nutrition (especially calories, fat, fiber and sodium)
- Ingredients list
10 Best Healthy Popcorn Brands
1. Skinny Pop Original ($3.49 per bag; Amazon)
2. Lesser Evil Himalayan Pink Salt ($3.19 per bag; Target)
3. Quinn Aged Parmesan and Rosemary ($4.29 for 2 bags; Target)
4. Boom Chicka Pop Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn ($2.59 per bag; Amazon)
5. Bjorn Qorn ($45.95 for 12 bags; Amazon)
6. Pipcorn Truffle Mini Popcorn ($29.99 for 6 bags; Amazon)
7. Newman's Own Organic Touch of Butter ($4.49 for 3 bags; Instacart)
8. Whole Foods 365 Organic Yellow Popcorn ($3.49 per bag; Amazon)
9. Trader Joes Organic Popcorn With Olive Oil ($9.49 per bag; Amazon)
10. Anthony’s Organic Yellow Popcorn Kernels ($12.99 per bag; Amazon)
1. Skinny Pop Original
- Calories: 150
- Fat: 10 g
"Skinny Pop is made with only three ingredients — popcorn, sunflower oil and salt," says Jean Hanks, RDN, CDN, of Well by Messer.
"Sunflower oil is rich in unsaturated fats, so while the total fat is higher, most of that fat is heart-healthy. Plus, compared to other brands, the sodium in one serving is very low at 75 milligrams," she says.
This popcorn is also a good source of fiber, offering 3 grams per serving.
2. Lesser Evil Himalayan Pink Salt
- Calories: 120
- Fat: 6 g
Quality ingredients set this healthy popcorn brand apart from the rest, our experts say.
"Lesser Evil uses extra virgin coconut oil, which gives this popcorn a uniquely satisfying taste. There are no questionable ingredients and it is sustainably processed. I like getting the snack-sized bags to put in my daughter's lunchbox," says Lauren Manaker, RDN, LD, registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition Now.
3. Quinn Aged Parmesan and Rosemary
- Calories: 170
- Fat: 10 g
For healthy popcorn that's still convenient to make at home, try this brand.
"Quinn popcorn is a great option for people who love microwavable popcorn but don't want to be exposed to the chemicals typically used to coat the bags, which are linked to negative health effects," Manaker says. "Made with quality ingredients like non-GMO corn, this popcorn is a staple in my pantry."
The Aged Parmesan and Rosemary flavor is unique and offers a savory taste that's absolutely crave-worthy. They also make other delicious flavors like Vermont Maple Kettle Corn, White Cheddar and Sea Salt. All flavors are made with simple and organic ingredients.
4. Boom Chicka Pop Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn
- Calories: 140
- Fat: 8 g
Some brands of kettle corn can be very high in sugar. Yet this version gives you the same great taste without the stuff you don't want.
"There are only two teaspoons of added sugar per serving, meaning it can easily fit into the recommendation of six to nine teaspoons daily. Plus, it's low in sodium for a well-balanced snack."
5. Bjorn Qorn
- Calories: 140
- Fat: 8 g
This is not your average popcorn. "Bjorn Qorn is made on a farm that is solar powered and constantly improving its energy-independent operations," Manaker says. "The nutritional yeast gives this popcorn a satisfying cheese-like flavor along with some important nutrients, like vitamin B12. Plus, it's 100 percent vegan."
6. Pipcorn Truffle Mini Popcorn
- Calories: 140
- Fat: 8 g
This is a unique type of pre-popped popcorn that is made with heirloom corn. This means the seeds are around 100 years old and have been open-pollinated, which helps keep the crops genetically diverse and more sustainable over time.
The company is also a certified B Corporation, which means it meets high standards of performance, accountability and transparency on things like employee benefits, charitable giving and supply chain practices.
Companies that are B corporations also collaborate to improve their communities, create inclusive workplaces and reduce climate impact.
This brand provides 20 percent less fat than leading pre-popped popcorn brands and has 21 grams of whole grains and no artificial colors or flavors. It is also gluten-free and non-GMO.
7. Newman’s Own Organic Touch of Butter
- Calories: 130
- Fat: 2 g
Newman's Own is a brand that's widely available on grocery store shelves. Per 3.5 cups popped, this popcorn provides 130 calories, only 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 240 milligrams of sodium and an impressive 5 grams of fiber.
"If you need some butter flavor on your popcorn, this can be a good option without sacrificing too much nutritionally," says Laura McDermott, RDN, CD, a registered dietitian with RET Physical Therapy Group.
"It has minimal saturated fat, moderate sodium and is a good source of fiber. The good news is it does not contain hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils."
An added bonus: The Newman's Own Foundation gives 100 percent of profits to good causes, including driving resources to help kids who face adversity.
Instacart ($4.49 for 3 bags)
8. Whole Foods 365 Organic Yellow Popcorn Kernels
- Calories: 110
- Fat: 1.5 g
Popping your own popcorn gives you the ability to flavor it to your specific liking. "I always recommend that patients pop their own kernels at home on the stovetop," Hanks says. "Americans eat too much processed food, and making your own popcorn is pretty simple."
With popcorn as the only ingredient, you have free reign when it comes to toppings. "I recommend seasoning the popcorn with a drizzle of olive oil and a little bit of salt, so you know you're getting additional healthy fat as opposed to saturated fat from butter," Hanks says.
"In my opinion, this is the best bang for your buck in terms of protein and fiber for not a lot of calories or fat."
9. Trader Joes Organic Popcorn With Olive Oil
- Calories: 130
- *Fat: 6 g *
If plain popcorn isn't your jam, opt for this healthy popcorn from Trader Joe's. "If you are looking for popcorn with a bit more flavor than just salt, this can be a good option because the olive oil adds a bit of savoriness to your snack," McDermott says.
"Trader Joe's Olive Oil Popcorn is delicious, organic and contains only three ingredients," says Hanks.
10. Anthony's Organic Yellow Popcorn Kernels
- Calories: 150
- Fat: 1.5 g
These popcorn kernels from Anthony's are organic, non-GMO and gluten-free, and they're grown and packaged in the US.
"Not only is this cost-effective popcorn easy to keep on hand, but since you are popping it yourself, you can season it with whatever yummy and low-sodium seasonings you enjoy," says Morgyn Clair, RDN, registered dietitian and founder of Fit Healthy Momma.
"Adding your own flavors can help keep the salt in your snack low."
How to Choose a Healthy Popcorn
When choosing a healthy popcorn brand, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you make a healthy choice.
1. Check the Sodium
Most of the sodium Americans eat comes from packaged and prepared foods (such as popcorn), according to the FDA. They classify anything with less than 5 percent of your daily value of sodium to be considered low, and anything above 20 percent is considered high.
Too much sodium is linked to things like high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease, according to a November 2019 study in Pediatric Nephrology. This is especially true for people who are salt-sensitive.
When you're shopping, try to pick popcorn brands with as little sodium as possible.
2. Limit Saturated fat
The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of your total daily calories. Too much saturated fat is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, according to the Harvard T. H Chan School of Public Health. \
"The other thing to check is that it does not have an ingredient with the word 'hydrogenated' or 'partially-hydrogenated.' Hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils are trans fats, which contribute to plaque in the arteries and heart disease," McDermott says.
3. Skip Added Sugar
Sugar can hide in almost any food, including popcorn. It is not uncommon for pre-packaged popcorn to contain added sugar, especially if it's a kettle corn variety or if it's flavored with any sort of sweet ingredients.
Most popcorn brands should not contain any added sugar at all. If you're choosing kettle corn, which is meant to be sweet, stick to the lowest amount possible, such as 8 grams or less per serving as is in the Boom Chicka Pop Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn described above.
4. Read the Ingredients
Popcorn brands should have just a handful or less of real-food ingredients.
"Generally, the more ingredients a product has, the more processed it is. So if you see a bunch of ingredients you don't recognize, you may want to put the bag back on the shelf," Hanks says.
5. Pay Attention to Packaging
Many microwavable popcorn bags are lined with Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), according to a May 2020 study in Environmental Health Perspectives.
"These are chemicals that repel water and grease, and they are used in paper products designed to hold hot and/or greasy foods," Manaker says. "Because popcorn is typically popped with grease (like oil or butter), manufacturers include this chemical to make sure the bag stays intact once the popcorn is popped."
High levels of certain PFAS have been tied to to the following, according to the CDC:
- Higher cholesterol levels
- Lower vaccine response in children
- Higher risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant people
- Higher risk of kidney or testicular cancer
- Changes in liver enzymes
- Lower infant birthweight
"These outcomes won't happen to every single person who eats microwavable popcorn with PFAS, but the risk may be higher for people who regularly eat it," Manaker says.
6. Choose Organic or Non-GMO
Corn is the most commonly grown crop in America, and most of it is GMO (which stands for genetically modified organism). Most GMO corn is created to resist insects or tolerate herbicides, according to the FDA. In 2020, 92 percent of the corn planted in the U.S. was GMO.
Organic foods are not allowed to be genetically modified in any way, according to California Certified Organic Farmers. This can be beneficial, as the risks of genetically modified foods may include things like allergies and antibiotic resistance, according to the Center for Food Safety.
Organic foods are also grown without pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, some of which have been tied to hormone problems and some types of cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Ultimately, it is important to "take your health and satisfaction into consideration simultaneously," Holden says. "If sodium is a concern for you, find a popcorn with 5 percent or less. If you're trying to take in less sugar, find a brand with 8 grams or less."
You may also want to try a few healthy popcorn brands before you buy a case, too. "Don't buy the brand that claims to be the 'healthiest' if it means you're not going to enjoy it," Holden says.
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