Healthy Movie Snacks?

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As hard as it might be to imagine healthy movie snacks, if a CEO of a well known entertainment company had his way, we’ll all be doing just that. At ShoWest, the largest annual convention for the movie theater industry, a bid was made to get concessionaires to go beyond offering those delicious movie snacks we all love (popcorn, candy, soda) and bring in some healthier choices… things like fruit, granola, trail mix, yogurt and veggies with dip.

The idea of healthy movie food isn’t coming out of the blue. A recent Nielsen poll found that 60% of parents feel that their overall movie-going experience would be better if there were healthier choices at concession stands.

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Two thirds of all movie-goers (and three quarters of parents) would be more apt to buy good-for-you snacks if they could.

Figures show that have the average American visits a movie theater four times a year, but those with young children are likely to go far more often, maybe once a week… not a good thing considering the epidemic proportions of the childhood obesity problem.

According to a SmartMoney.com late 2009 interview with Warren Miller, a senior equity analyst for stock tracking service Morningstar, "85 cents of every dollar spent at the concession stand is profit."

A CNN money story from earlier this year reinforces the point. A bag of popcorn at most movie theaters costs 60 cents to make, but sells for $6.00. Theater owners might not want to make room for healthy food items that don’t have that kind of return.

And in case you’re wondering just how unhealthy that delectable popcorn might be…

One tablespoon of the non-hydrogenated soybean oil used to pop the corn adds 130 extra calories. A medium (20 cup) serving of popcorn at Regal, the biggest of the movie theater chains in the U.S. delivers 1,200 calories, plus a whopping 60 grams of saturated fat (the kind that clogs arteries and promotes heart disease) and 980 milligrams of sodium. And in case all that isn’t enough for you, the buttery topping adds another 200 calories.

As a point of reference, the recommended daily intakes for adults are 2,000 calories, 20 grams of saturated fat and 1,500 milligrams of sodium.

Of course the popcorn isn’t the only choice at the movies that isn’t healthy. Candy and soda are certainly part of the bad-for-you mix… especially since the sizes are just huge… much larger than they need to be. And no one is used to the idea of healthy foods at the movies.

So… next time you’re at the movies, think a bit about the choice of snacks you’ll take inside with you. According to the CSPI dispatch, those yummy treats are packing lots of calories too. For example…

– A 5-ounce bag of Twizzlers has 460 calories and 15 teaspoons of sugar.

– A 7-ounce box of Nerds has 790 calories and 46 teaspoons of sugar.

– Butterfinger Minis, Raisinets, Sno-Caps, or M&M’s have between 400 and 500 calories and at least a half-day’s worth of saturated fat.

– An 8-ounce bag of Reese’s Pieces have 1,160 calories and 35 grams of saturated fat.

– A small soda (16 oz to 32 oz), usually a quarter filled with ice, has 150 to 300 calories, diet soda or water are more calorie-conscious choices.

Of course, many of us see going to the movies as a break from reality, a vacation from the cares of everyday life. Eating and drinking those tasty (though bad for us) treats is a part of that experience… a part it’s unlikely to change very much even if the healthy movie snacks do make it to the concession stand at your local theater.


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