Pop Some Healthful Popcorn!

popcornAccording to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), each year, Americans consume about 17.3 billion quarts of popped popcorn. This means that an average American eats about a quart of popcorn every week!

If we are eating so much popcorn, we probably want to ask this question: Is popcorn healthful?

Popcorn is considered a whole grain, contains a lot of fiber, and is naturally low in calories and fat. If you eat it in moderation (overeating anything is not good for you), popcorn can be a very healthful snack! However, commercial microwave popcorn is often loaded with a large amount of fat and sodium, as well as artificial flavors and preservatives. It is much healthier to pop you own popcorn from kernels. It’s really easy, and it’s often cheaper!

You can use an air-pop popcorn machine, but you don’t have to go out and spend a ton of money.  I suggest two methods to make your good-and-good-for-you popcorn:

MICROWAVE METHOD

What you need:

– 1/2 cup popcorn kernels

– A brown paper bag or microwave-safe container with lid.

Directions:

  1. Add popcorn kernels into the paper bag and fold the top of the bag 2-3 times (Do not use staples or paperclips to secure the opening. They might spark in the microwave). OR put the kernels in a microwave-safe container and make sure to close the lid, unless you want to see the microwave full of popcorn!
  2. Place the bag in the microwave and set it for 3 minutes on high or cook it until the popping sound slows down to a pop every couple of seconds.

STOVE TOP METHOD

What you need:

– 1/2 cup popcorn kernels

– A small pan with lid

Directions:

  1. Evenly spread the kernels on the bottle of the pan and completely cover the pan with the lid.
  2. Set the burner to medium heat.
  3. Once you start hearing the kernels popping, shake the pan frequently so that heat gets spread evenly.
  4. When the popping sound slows down, take the pan off the heat and wait until the kernels stop popping.

For both methods, do not wait until the popping sound totally stops. Otherwise, you will get burnt popcorn.  If you get a lot of unpopped kernels, you are probably trying to pop too many kernels at once.

After you have made your fluffy, crunchy popcorn, lightly add olive oil or canola oil. You really don’t need a lot of oil. Start with a teaspoon then, if it’s not enough, add just a little more until the seasonings stick to the popcorn. If you have cooking spray, it might make the process easier for you.

You can be really creative with the seasonings! Just adding some salt (not too much!) will give your popcorn a nice authentic flavor. You may sprinkle some sautéed garlic (or garlic powder), cinnamon, grated cheese, pureed veggies, etc.  The fun part is to experiment and find your favorite recipe!

***An important note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not serving popcorn to children under four because it can pose a risk for choking.

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