Even though popcorn is mostly air, many conventional options are full of fats, preservatives, and artificial flavors. That’s why we decided to look into healthier options.
In our research, we found that the best popcorns contain only whole foods ingredients, have limited fat and sodium, and may be organic or gluten-free. Both pre-popped and microwave popcorns can be equally healthy. With these things in mind, we handpicked our favorite healthy popcorns available online.
Top 5 Best Healthy Bagged Popcorns to Buy Online
If you’re looking for convenience, pre-popped bagged popcorn could be the way to go. Here are some of the best out there.
1. LesserEvil Organic Popcorn, Himalayan Pink Salt (18 Count, .88 oz Each)
Best Single Serving Popcorn
These single-serving bags of popcorn make for the perfect light snack. It has a light coconut oil aroma and just a touch of salt to give it flavor. If you’re not a fan of coconut oil, this company also makes popcorn with avocado oil and ghee.
Reviewers love the light, not overwhelmingly salty flavor and appreciate that it comes in single servings as it makes for easy portion control.
|Ingredients||Organic non-GMO popcorn, organic coconut oil, himalayan salt|
|Per Serving||Serving size: 2.6 cups, Calories: 100, Carbs: 15g, Sugar: <1g, Fiber: 5g, Fat: 4g, Sodium: 170mg, Protein: 2g|
|Official Certifications||Organic, non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, kosher|
2. G.H. Cretors Popcorn Extra Virgin Olive Oil (12 Pack, 4.4 oz Each)
Best Movie Theater Popcorn Alternative
This organic popcorn is popped with heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil and just a touch of sea salt, giving it a rich movie theater popcorn taste without the excess oil or calories.
Reviewers love its decadent flavor and note that it’s much lighter on your stomach than oil-laden alternatives. Even those who don’t like healthy or organic foods think this tastes like a junk food treat.
|Ingredients||Organic popcorn, organic extra virgin olive oil, sea salt|
|Per Serving||Serving size: 3.5 cups, Calories: 140, Carbs: 15g, Sugar: 0g, Fiber: 3g, Fat: 8g, Sodium: 120mg, Protein: 2g|
|Official Certifications||Organic, non-GMO, gluten-free|
3. Pop Zero Cinnamon Toast Popcorn (9 Pack, 6 oz Each)
Best Healthy Sweet Popcorn
For those who like their popcorn sweet, there are healthy options for you too. This sweet cinnamony popcorn is made with all-natural ingredients and contains just 3 grams of sugar per serving.
Reviewers note that it tastes much better than its low sugar and calorie count would have you believe. It has a mild cinnamon flavor and just the right amount of sweetness to satisfy your sweet tooth without being overwhelming.
|Ingredients||Air popped popcorn, algae oil, evaporated cane juice, whole algae flour, cinnamon, sea salt, caramel natural flavor|
|Per Serving||Serving size: 1 oz, Calories: 140, Carbs: 17g, Sugar: 3g, Fiber: 3g, Fat: 7g, Sodium: 140mg, Protein: 2g|
|Official Certifications||Non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan|
4. SkinnyPop Popcorn, Original (4.4 oz)
Best Lower Sodium Popcorn
With just 39 calories per cup and a short list of wholesome ingredients, this popcorn is a great option for those looking for a healthy snack. It’s flavorful and fulfilling–with about half the sodium as other healthy popcorns.
Reviewers write that this popcorn makes for easy snacking and that a single serving is quite filling. Many reviewers also like this brand’s white cheddar flavor.
|Ingredients||All natural popcorn, sunflower oil, salt|
|Per Serving||Serving size: 3.75 cups, Calories: 150, Carbs: 15g, Sugar: 0g, Fiber: 3g, Fat: 10g, Sodium: 75mg, Protein: 2g|
|Official Certifications||Non-GMO, gluten-free, kosher|
5. G.H. Cretors Organic Popcorn, Chile Jalapeño White Cheddar (12 Pack, 4.5 oz Each)
Best Flavored Popcorn
For those who like popcorn that coats the fingers a bit, this decently spicy, cheesy popcorn does just that–without any artificial ingredients or emulsifiers.
Reviewers love that you actually get the heat from the peppers and describe it as “spicy, but not enough to warrant drinking water.” Despite that, the cheesy flavor doesn’t get overwhelmed.
|Ingredients||Organic popcorn, sunflower/safflower oil, cheddar cheese (cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes), nonfat milk, whey/buttermilk, sea salt, chile pepper, jalapeno pepper|
|Per Serving||Serving size: 2.5 cups, Calories: 160, Carbs: 10g, Sugar: 1g, Fiber: 2g, Fat: 12g, Sodium: 250mg, Protein: 3g|
|Official Certifications||Organic, gluten-free, kosher|
Top 5 Best Healthy Microwave Popcorns to Buy Online
If you’re low on space or need a longer shelf-life, microwave popcorn may be for you.
1. Quinn Snacks Microwave Popcorn (9 Bags, 2.3 oz Each)
Best Pure, No Junk Popcorn
This popcorn is made from organic corn, oil-free, and comes in a bag free from any chemical or plastic liners. In short, it’s about as pure as you can get.
Reviewers love the light, airy crunch of this popcorn and note that when you follow the instructions, nearly every kernel pops. However, if you’re not used to air-popped popcorn, it may taste a bit bland.
|Ingredients||Organic popcorn kernels, salt|
|Per Serving||Serving size: 3 cups, Calories: 80, Carbs: 16g, Sugar: 0g, Fiber: 3g, Fat: 1g, Sodium: 160mg, Protein: 3g|
|Official Certifications||Organic, non-GMO|
2. Black Jewell No Salt No Oil Microwave Popcorn (18 Bags, 2.9 oz Each)
Best Plain, Air-Popped Popcorn
As its name suggests, this popcorn contains nothing but popcorn. It’s made using black corn, which is higher in antioxidants than yellow or white varieties (though it still pops completely white!).
Reviewers love that this popcorn is a blank slate for you to add your own salt or flavorings, which makes it great for those watching their fat or sodium intake.
|Per Serving||Serving size: 3 cups, Calories: 100, Carbs: 20g, Sugar: 0g, Fiber: 3g, Fat: 1.5g, Sodium: 5mg, Protein: 3g|
|Official Certifications||Non-GMO, kosher|
3. Smude’s Brand Microwave Popcorn (3 Bags, 3.2 oz Each)
Best Conventional Microwave Popcorn Alternative
This popcorn is made with all-natural ingredients and comes in an unlined bag. It uses a homemade high-oleic, cold-pressed sunflower oil that’s healthier than traditional sunflower oil and has a richer flavor.
Reviewers write that while it tastes lighter than conventional microwaved popcorn, it has a better, fuller flavor. Do note, however, that the bag may be a little oily due to the fact that it’s unlined.
|Ingredients||Popcorn, sunflower oil, salt|
|Per Serving||Serving size: 3.5 cups, Calories: 170, Carbs: 16g, Sugar: 0g, Fiber: 2g, Fat: 13g, Sodium: 260mg, Protein: 2g|
|Official Certifications||Non-GMO, gluten-free|
4. Newman’s Own Microwave Popcorn, Organic Light Butter (36 Bags, 2.8 oz Each)
Best Butter-Flavored Popcorn
For those who prefer their popcorn butter flavored, this organic popcorn will give you a rich, buttery flavor with half the fat of conventional buttered microwave popcorn.
Reviewers love that it’s light but still has a natural butter taste. It makes a great kids’ snack as it satisfies their palates in a more healthful way.
|Ingredients||Organic popcorn, organic palm oil, sea salt, natural flavor|
|Per Serving||Serving size: 3.5 cups, Calories: 130, Carbs: 25g, Sugar: 0g, Fiber: 5g, Fat: 2g, Sodium: 240mg, Protein: 4g|
5. Eliza’s Organics Organic Microwave Natural Popcorn (12 Bags, 3 oz Each)
Best Quick Cooking Popcorn
This popcorn features just a hint of oil to enrich the flavor without adding unnecessary calories or fat. It’s free of any artificial ingredients, and though it uses palm oil it’s organically produced.
Reviewers appreciate how light and fluffy this popcorn is. They note that it cooks in under 2.5 minutes and seems to produce more volume than other microwave popcorns.
|Ingredients||Organic yellow popcorn, organic palm oil, salt|
|Per Serving||Serving size: 4 cups, Calories: 110, Carbs: 20g, Sugar: 0g, Fiber: 4g, Fat: 2.5g, Sodium: 280mg, Protein: 3g|
|Official Certifications||Organic, non-GMO, kosher|
How to Choose a Healthy Popcorn – Buying Guide
Finding a healthy popcorn is actually pretty easy. Just keep these few factors in mind when making your choice.
Look for Simple, Whole Foods Ingredient Lists
Popcorn—even packaged popcorn—should be little more than corn, salt, oil, and maybe some spices or cheese as seasoning. So stay clear of popcorns that have any artificial flavors, dyes, or preservatives, especially diacetyl, a flavoring that’s been linked to so-called “popcorn lung” disease.
You may even want to pay attention to the kind of oil used. Generally speaking, the most healthful oils you might find include olive, coconut, and avocado oil. Sunflower oil, one of the most common popcorn oils, is high in unsaturated fats, which makes it good for heart health, though it is slightly higher in omega-6 fatty acids. Some oils that you may want to avoid due to the generally high level of processing that they go through include canola, vegetable (or soy), corn, and grapeseed oil.
Be Careful of Fat, Sugar, and Salt Content
Because popcorn is so light, it can be easy to believe that it’s automatically healthy. But even if it’s not movie theater butter flavored, you still want to pay attention to the nutrition label. In particular, it’s important to keep an eye on the fat and salt content. Generally speaking, you want to keep it under 5 grams of fat and 100 mg of sodium per two-cup serving.
When it comes to flavored popcorn, especially sweet varieties, you should also pay attention to the sugar content. Less than 6 grams is ideal. And of course, always remember to check nutrition labels against serving size!
Keep an Eye Out for Official Certifications
If you have any dietary restriction, particularly if you’re gluten-sensitive, be sure to check out the official certifications. While popcorn is naturally gluten-free, snack items often share processing facilities, which may lead to cross-contamination. Corn is also known to be one of crops most affected by pesticides and GMOs, so if you’re concerned about that, look for organic or non-GMO stamps.
To Pop or Not to Pop: Microwaveable Popcorn is Convenient, but Poses Health Risks
Believe it or not, sometimes popcorn is unhealthy not because of what’s in it, but because of what it’s in. Popcorn bags are lined with a chemical called PFOA, which makes the bag slick and non-stick. Unfortunately, this chemical has also been linked to cancer and infertility.
Bagged popcorn may therefore be the safer choice. If you want to go bagged, air-popped popcorn is often cited as a healthy choice because it can be prepared without oil, contains plenty of nutrients, and less saturated fat than other popcorns.
Of course, if you’re looking to save space, microwave popcorn is your only choice (or you could just get kernels for the stovetop). Certain brands do offer microwaveable popcorn in chemical-free bags. You could also prepare microwave popcorn on the stove, as PFOA is most dangerous when heated. It’s more time-consuming, but your body will thank you. Other than that, let the popcorn cool before you open it and never inhale the steam—no matter how satisfying and yummy that may be.
How to Cook Microwave Popcorn on the Stove
If you’re concerned about chemicals in your microwave popcorn bag, it’s actually fairly easy to cook it on the stove instead. This allows you to bypass the bag completely.
Use a 2-3 quart pot with a lid. Open your bag of popcorn and empty it inside and cover it–if the kernels are dry (that is, if they don’t have much oil), add a tablespoon of oil to the pot. Turn the heat to medium and give the pot a shake every 15 seconds. It should begin to pop in about 30-45 seconds, and once it does, shake the pot consistently to prevent burning. Once the popping slows, remove the pot from the heat and take the cover off to let the steam out. Empty the popcorn and assess if you need to return any remaining kernels to heat.
Popcorn should be little more than corn and maybe a little salt or oil. Granted, it may take a while to accustom your palette to the lighter flavors of plain popcorn, but there are plenty of healthy options that also pack flavor.
By Jacqueline Oshiro
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