There's no movie called "Diehard With Clogged Arteries" or "Eat, Pray, Lever," but if there were, they would undoubtedly have a segment dedicated to the unhealthy snack foods and candies sold and consumed at movie theaters. Over at Health.com, they've found ways to avoid the unhealthiness and that high calorie impact.
Corporate dietitian for Life Time Fitness Paul Kriegler told Health.com that it was a given that people are going to eat at the movies. But: "You definitely don't want to go (to the movies) hungry, and whatever you do order you're going to want to share with friends."
Of course, it makes sense that the best way overall to avoid the crush of mega-calories in movie foods is to not eat at all while you're viewing the latest blockbuster. Eat before you go see the movie. Still, part of the fun of going to movies is the indulgent snacking. So here's the thing: If you're going to do some snacking, at least be smart about it. Here's five of the worst movie foods that you can buy at the theater and some tips on how to diminish the health costs while not diminishing your movie-going experience at the same time.
That's two ways to cut caloric intake: Buying less snacks due to having already eaten and taking on less calories by sharing what you do purchase.
But these are the foods to avoid:
1. Large Buttered Popcorn. This should be common sense. It's a huge tub of popcorn smothered in butter. Still, people have difficulty wrapping their heads around something so light carrying such a massive caloric load. But it does. A 2009 study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) discovered that a large popcorn at Regal Cinemas had 1,200 calories per tub and 60 g of saturated fat. AMC theaters scored 1,030 calories and 57 g of saturated fat (which only gets worse when you consider AMC allows for free refills). And Cinemark pulls a 910 on the calorie scale but only 4 g of saturated fat. Add more butter? Add another 130 calories for each tablespoon. But less calories and saturated fat is made up in sodium. Cinemark has the most sodium (1,500 mg), which has been linked to high blood pressure and heart disease, the upper limit of the Recommended Daily Allowance.
2. Pizza. In the category of "dinner entree," the personal pizza is considered worst. AMC's brand of the dish bows in at 780 calories. But it's the sodium that might kill you first. The pizza drops 1,960 mg of sodium on a body. Not at all healthy.
3. Nachos. Considered the "worst savory snack," nacho tortilla chips concoctions are a cheesy caloric mess. Regal pulls down 780 calories while AMC nails 554 per dish.
4. Theater-sized box of M&Ms. The worst chocolatey snack is the big box of chocolate M&Ms. A box packs 210 calories per serving. And just how many servings are in a box? There are 2.5. That's 525 calories per box. Kriegler tells Health.com that although the peanut-styled M&Ms may seem healthier, they're not because of the quality of the ingredients of the candy.
5. Theater-sized box of Reese's Pieces. The worst peanut butter-based candy contains even more calories per box -- 600. (To be fair, the box is 4 ounces, whereas the M&Ms box is 3.4 oz. That makes each serving slightly less -- 10 calories -- than M&Ms.) But Reese's Pieces has 1.5 grams of artery-clogging trans fats per box (or .5 g per serving).
So there you have it. The five worst movie foods. And remember: Each calorie, fat, and sodium measure can be reduced by smaller amounts consumed (either by oneself or by sharing). But if you want to be a healthier movie-goer, perhaps eating at the theater should be eliminated altogether.
But if too many people do that, the price of theater tickets will rise (because, according to Stanford School of Business research, concessions represent about 40 percent of a theater's profits).
Sometimes it seems that you just can't win. But there's always the compromise: Eat the theaters' more healthy foods, like pretzels, Sno-Caps, and items from the zero-to-low calorie menus. That way ticket prices stay low -- along with your weight and blood pressure.
(photo credit: Leonmalkovich, Creative Commons)