Popcorn is a whole grain, so it adds fiber to the diet. It’s naturally low in fat and calories and costs only pennies per serving. Three cups of popcorn is considered a 1-ounce serving of grain by the American Diabetes Association and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Compared to many snack foods, popcorn is low in calories. Air-popped popcorn provides only 30 calories per cup and 1.2 grams of dietary fiber. When oil-popped, it contains only 55 calories. Even drizzled lightly with butter, it's only 90 to 120 calories per cup. Popcorn is ideal for between meal snacking or anytime!
Proper storage of popcorn kernels is important. Without moisture, popcorn can't pop. The best way to store popcorn is in airtight containers. Plastic or glass is your best bet to avoid moisture loss, especially when stored in a cool place like a cupboard. Avoid the refrigerator. Some say the cold storage makes the popcorn taste better, but many refrigerators contain little moisture and can dry out kernels.
People have been popping corn since the Aztec Indians used it in ceremonies in the early 16th century! Prior to microwave packages, most people popped corn on top of the stove in a heavy pan. One (1) ounce of un-popped popcorn equals a quart popped.
To pop popcorn on a range-top:
Adults should be careful not to burn themselves from the steam or hot oil.
Use a 3- to 4-quart pan with a loose lid that allows steam to escape. Heat ? cup to 1/3 cup oil for each cup of kernels. (Don't use butter!) If the oil smokes, it is too hot. Test the oil by putting a few kernels in the hot oil. When they pop, add the rest of the popcorn, cover the pan and shake to evenly spread the oil. When the popping begins to slow, remove the pan from the stovetop. The heated oil will still pop the remaining kernels.
Pre-salting kernels toughens popcorn. So, salt the popcorn after it has been popped -- or skip salt altogether and add salt-free spices.
Try these holiday snack mixes using popcorn.
Maple Pumpkin Spice Popcorn
Serves: 4 (1 ? cup each)
All you need:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice mix
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional
5 cups popped popcorn
All you do:
In a large saucepan or pot, heat brown sugar, maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice mix over medium heat. Cook, stirring, 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbling. Stir in butter until melted and well blended. Add pecans, if desired, and popcorn and stir until well coated. Allow mixture to cool before serving. Serve immediately or store.
Page 2 of 2 - Nutrition per serving: 120 calories, 3.5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 0 sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 1 g protein.
Cranberry-Orange Caramel Corn
Serves: 20 (about ? cup each)
Source: Popcorn Council
All you need:
10 cups popped popcorn
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, undiluted
1 teaspoon orange or vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
All you do:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place popcorn, cranberries and almonds in a large bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan heat butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and orange juice concentrate over medium heat until butter is melted. Bring to a boil and boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in extract and baking soda (mixture will foam).
Pour syrup mixture over popcorn mixture in bowl; stir to coat well. Spread evenly in a large, rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, lined with foil and sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake 30 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. Stir caramel corn as it cools on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container.
Nutrition per serving: 140 calories, 7 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium, 19 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 2 g protein.
Tracey Shaffer is a registered dietitian at the Blue Springs Hy-Vee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-224-4288.