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Healthy Snacks at The Movies

Going to the movies can be a full sensory experience. For many people, the aroma of buttered popcorn conjures up memories of climactic cinematic moments. Unfortunately, many movie theater concessions are full of salt, saturated fat, or sugar. Despite this, a trip to the movies does not have to destroy the balance in your diet. Finding creative ways to enjoy wholesome snacks at the movies will allow you to indulge your inner movie critic while still staying healthy.

Considerations When Considering a Healthy Trip to the Movies

Concessions are a major part of a movie theater’s revenue (Lobb, 2002). This leads many movie theaters to forbid moviegoers from bringing outside food or snacks. While it’s certainly possible to sneak in a small snack in your purse or coat, it is best to follow the movie theater’s official policies to avoid any trouble. Although many theaters follow the “no outside food” policy, it is possible to find theaters that permit outside snacks. Most movie theaters’ websites have their policies stated online. Check independent theaters in your area as well as big box chains to find one that permits outside food.

If you do bring your own food to the movies, be considerate of your fellow moviegoers. Choosing snacks that are extremely crunchy or packages in crinkly wrapping can be very distracting for the people around you. For example, it is considered a movie etiquette breach to bring a bag of potato chips or individually wrapped candies, both of which make a lot of noise. If you simply cannot do without your favorite snack, repackage it in a small baggie to prevent the sound of crinkling packaging.

It’s also important to consider the smell of your food. Everyone expects a movie theater to have a scent of the buttered popcorn sold at the concessionaire. If you bring your own more pungent snacks, however, this may be off-putting to others. For example, the scents of onion, tuna, or corn oil can waft through an entire theater in minutes. Limit your snack selection to those with a neutral or modest scent to avoid upsetting your theater neighbors.

Navigating the Movie Theater Concessions

Movie theaters are not known for their healthy snack options. In fact, the moviegoing experience facilitates the type of mindless snacking that can be bad for your health. However, informing yourself ahead of time allows you to make healthier choices at the theater (MacMillan, 2015):

  • Drink water. Movie theater sodas may be 54 ounces or more, and some theaters even offer free refills. A large soda may have 96 to 174 grams of sugar and up to 696 calories (Consumer Reports, 2012). Drinking water is a healthier option that is better for your teeth and waistline. Ask if the concessionaire has a lemon wedge to add some flavor.
  • Choose popcorn wisely. A large buttered popcorn may contain 844 to 1,591 calories and more than 54 grams of fat (Consumer Reports, 2012). Additionally, movie theater popcorn is often laden with sodium, which is bad for heart health. Lighten this snack up by choosing the smallest size and foregoing butter. Adding a small sprinkle of salt is okay, but it’s best to share your popcorn with a friend to keep the portion healthier.
  • Nachos and cheese. There’s something satisfying about nachos and cheese, but this sense of satisfaction is certainly not a reflection of the snack’s nutritional value. A large movie theater nacho portion may contain 907 calories and 54 grams of fat (Consumer Reports, 2012). Opt for a soft pretzel instead. A small soft pretzel with no cheese is 480 calories, making it a more reasonable snack (MacMillan, 2015). Brush off any extra salt and share with your neighbor to satisfy your craving for a savory movie snack.

Bring Your Own Movie Snacks to the Theater

If you find a theater that permits you to bring your own snacks, this can be a great way to indulge without disrupting your diet. Good savory snacks include pretzels, trail mix, roasted chickpeas sprinkled with sea salt, or pita chips. If you have a sweet tooth, package a small handful of your favorite candy in a small baggie. Yogurt-covered raisins, gummy candies, chocolate peanut butter popcorn, or graham crackers make great treats.

Perhaps the best way to indulge your need for creative movie snacks is to recreate the theater experience at home. This allows you to enjoy the pungent, crunchy snacks that would drive your fellow theatergoers crazy. Plus, it makes for a more budget-friendly option. If you’re enjoying a movie at home, expand your imagination with creative popcorn toppings (think smoked paprika, blue cheese, buffalo style, powdered cheese, or chili seasoning).

Healthy Recipes to Make Your Own Movie Snack

The recipes below offer simple ways to create your own snacks with sweet or savory flavors and a wide variety of textures to accommodate any taste. Each treat can be easily transported in a small plastic bag or container and supplies a wholesome means of satisfying your cravings for movie munchies!

Pumpkin Granola Bars {gluten-free}

Pumpkin Granola Bars Recipe {gluten-free}

For a pleasant pumpkin palate that is both portable and discreet, these bars provide the perfect snack for nibbling in the midst of a crowded theater. Each bar features a soft texture that can easily be broken into small pieces ideal for casual snacking.
Ingredients: Gluten-free rolled oats, pumpkin puree, cashew butter, honey, maple syrup, dark chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin spice.
Total Time: 45 minutes | Yield: 8 bars

Homemade Granola Bars {gluten-free}

Homemade Granola Bars Recipe {gluten-free}

A crunchier treat of a similar savor, these homemade granola bars supply a sweet yet nutty flavor. While making the treats, you can also cut them into smaller, bite-size bits to make them more accommodating for the type of snacking done in the theater.
Ingredients: Dried mulberries, dried strawberries, raw cashews, organic peanut butter, ripe bananas, raw sunflower seeds, hemp protein powder, gluten-free rolled oats, chia seeds, flaxseed meal.
Total Time: 40 minutes | Yield: 12 76-gram bars

No-Bake Granola Bars {gluten-free, vegan}

No-Bake Granola Bars Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

Another delectable granola bar, this variety supplies a sweeter taste and texture than either of our other options. Cutting this into smaller bits produces a candy-like treat that is sure to delight your sweet tooth while still satiating your stomach.
Ingredients: Gluten-free rolled oats, peanut butter, dried tart cherries, pistachios, flaxseed meal, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, agave syrup. unsweetened applesauce, melted cacao nibs or dark chocolate.
Total Time: 15 minutes | Yield: 8 - 10 servings

Blueberry Chia Jam Bars {gluten-free, vegan}

Blueberry Chia Jam Bars Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

These delectable berry bars are ideal for those that prefer a treat that is more strictly sweet with an underlying crumbly consistency that adds to the snacking experience. While cutting these treats up, be sure to monitor portion control by only packing up as much as you and your party plan to eat.
Ingredients: Raw almonds, gluten-free rolled oats, chia seeds, maple syrup, water, vanilla or almond extract, blueberries, cacao powder, coconut oil.
Total Time: 30 minutes | Yield: 16 mini bars

Chocolate Goji Berry Bars {gluten-free}

Chocolate Goji Berry Bars Recipe {gluten-free}

Another blend of sugary goodness and savory substance, these bars offer a taste of chocolate that is tempered by a wholesome blend of superfoods quinoa and goji berries, as well as the flavorful and wholesome combination of dates and pistachios.
Ingredients: Pitted dates, almond butter, quinoa puffs, goji berries, raw pistachios, coconut oil, dark chocolate chips.
Total Time: 20 minutes | Yield: 8 bars

No-Bake Pistachio Cookies

No-Bake Pistachio Cookies Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

These pistachio cream cookies are a dive off the deep-end into dessert-like delights. Fans of malted melt balls and other classic cinematic snacks that favor distinctly sugary sensations will love the sweetness of the coconut filling that defines these wholesome snacks.
Ingredients: Pistachios, unsweetened shredded coconut, gluten-free rolled oats, maple syrup, moringa powder, water, vanilla extract, cashews, almond butter, vanilla, coconut oil.
Total Time: 20 minutes | Yield: 16 cookies

Healthy Vegan Chocolate Truffle

Healthy Vegan Chocolate Truffle Recipe

Another substitute for conventional candies, these delectable truffles use a base of date fruits to offer the same satisfying texture with a natural source of sweetness that is much more wholesome than traditional varieties.
Ingredients: Jumbo Mejdool dates, almond flour, chia seeds, flaxseed meal, cacao powder, agave or maple syrup, almond milk, unsweetened shredded coconut.
Total Time: 15 minutes | Yield: 24 truffles

Almond Truffles {gluten-free, vegan}

Almond Truffles Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

For those that don’t fancy chocolate but are still seeking something sweet, these truffles use a similar blend of healthsome ingredients to create a tart treat with a raspberry flavor that features a hint of almonds.
Ingredients: Pitted dates, almond flour, almond butter, water, flaxseed meal, freeze-dried raspberries, unsweetened shredded coconut.
Total Time: 15 minutes | Yield: 14 - 16 truffles

Healthy Movie Snack Suggestions

Searching for a snack that requires less preparation and that comes in a bag ready for snacking? These scrumptious selections provide a healthier alternative to typical theater treats. Find a bite to suit your palate with the diverse array below!

References

Consumer Reports (2012). Tests on movie theater food show nutritional nightmare. Retrieved from http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/03/movie-theater-food-a-scary-story/index.htm

Lobb, A. (2002). How a movie theater makes money. CNN Money. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2002/03/08/smbusiness/q_movies/

MacMillan, A. (2015). Best and worst movie snacks. Health. Retrieved from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20658048,00.html