Smart Snacking at the Movies

Smart Snacking at the Movies

Get the facts about fat and calories in movie-theater snacks and drinks, along with strategies for cutting back.

By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Staff Nutritionist, myOptumHealth

It's a snowy day. You bundle up to see the new blockbuster that just came out last week. What could be better than settling down in a cozy movie theater with a big bucket of popcorn in your lap?

Going to the movies is a great American pastime. But many people unknowingly consume too many calories and fat grams in the process. You may not have realized it, but those bucket-sized servings you buy are not intended to be eaten alone. They're really meant to be shared between friends or family members. A large box of theater candy has multiple servings in it, too. Have one by yourself and you'll really be eating for 6.

Movie snacks: a review

  • A medium (about 11 cups) container of non-buttered popcorn has about 900 calories and 70 grams of fat.
  • Check with your local theater about what they use to pop their corn. Although some have changed to heart-healthier non-hydrogenated oils, all are still high in total fat and calories.


  • An average box of candy at the concession stand ranges from 450 to 750 calories.
  • Among the least damaging to your diet are gummy candies and chocolate mints. Still, mind the portions.
  • Bite-sized chocolates have the highest calorie and fat content.


  • A small soda at a movie theater is the same as a 12-ounce can. It has about 170 calories and 42 grams of sugar.
  • A large non-diet soda or lemonade is about 300 to 400 calories, depending on how much ice is in the drink.
  • Sodas also deliver about 70 grams of sugar per large drink. This is equivalent to eating 6 tablespoons (over 1/4 cup) of pure sugar.

How to improve your movie snack rating
Want to enjoy a theater snack without overdoing it? Here are some tips to keep you focused.

  • Don't go to the theater hungry. If you go to a pre-dinner movie, make sure you have a snack before you head out. You'll be more likely to resist the temptation at the snack bar.
  • Go for the gum. Keep your mouth busy with sugarless gum, or suck on a couple of sugarless candies.
  • Share! Split a small popcorn (400 calories, without butter) with a friend or two. Must have candy? Get the smallest box and share with your movie partners.
  • Choose a better beverage. Opt for bottled water, tea, or coffee to sip on.
  • Consider the calories. Most value packages should be shared with others. Otherwise, you could be consuming as many as 1,500 calories by yourself.
  • Pocket the savings. A snack and a soda can cost as much as a movie ticket. Hang onto the money and let it pay for your next movie outing.In the meantime, sit back, relax, and enjoy the art of being entertained. That's a surefire strategy that won't cost you any calories.


  • United States Department of Agriculture. Nutrient data laboratory. Accessed: 07/14/2011

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