Movie Theater Survival Guide Tips, Best and Worst Choices

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Hi HG,

My family and I go to the movies a lot this time of year, and I always end up getting popcorn, soda, and candy. I know those are bad choices... but are there any good ones?

Blockbuster Barbara

Hi BB,

Movies are great, but giving in to those concession-stand treats can be a major calorie catastrophe! I've got some tips, bring-along picks, and theater finds to keep your night at the movies free of guilt...

HG's Movie Theater TipsTop Tips
* Don't hit the theater on an empty stomach. Eat a healthy meal before you go, and then pop a mint. You'll be less tempted if your appetite's satisfied and your mouth is minty fresh!

* Scan the menu boards at the theater for calorie counts. You can also ask if they have nutritional info on hand. Chances are, you won't want that jumbo tub of buttered popcorn if you see it has 1,200 calories! And when reviewing candy nutritional panels, do the math: Theater boxes tend to have at least 3 servings.

* Split a snack. If you're viewing the film with friends, grab one snack to pass around. You'll save calories without feeling like you're missing out. A good option to split? Sour Patch Kids -- just 150 calories per serving, and the tartness will keep you from plowing through 'em too fast.

* BYOS: Bring your own snack. This is my number-one movie-going tip. The truth is that the concession stand is dangerous territory for a calorie counter -- the portions are huge, and there's a lot of fatty, sugary, scary stuff. You're much better off packing a few emergency snacks. Speaking of which...

Concession-Stand Swaps
* Instead of theater popcorn... pop and bring your own. Go for 94% fat-free microwave popcorn -- bonus points for mini bags. Just bring a purse or bag large enough to sneak it in. BTW, a large buttered popcorn can have between 850 and 1,500 calories and up to 130 grams of fat! So if you're going that route, get the smallest size without butter and plan on sharing it with a friend.

* Instead of sugary soda… go for calorie-free picks. A 24-oz. regular soda (a typical theater size) has about 300 calories... so not worth it. A bottle of water is your best bet, but if that's too plain, you've got choices. Go for unsweetened iced tea, diet soda, or even coffee. You can also add some sugar-free drink mix to that water -- keep packets or the squeezable stuff in your purse.

* Instead of jumbo candy boxes… bring your own pre-portioned treats. I like sweets I can savor, like lollipops or hard candy -- Dum Dums, Tootsie Pops, and Jolly Ranchers top my list. Snack bars are great too!

Hot Finds 
* AMC offers a Smart MovieSnacks bundle. It comes with Chiquita fruit chips (110 calories), POPCorners popped corn chips (140 calories), an Odwalla bar (about 200 calories), and a bottle of water. I don't recommend eating that all at once, but those are great snacks!

* Cinemark Cinemas has some fantastic options. Munch on Jack Link's Beef Jerky (100 calories) and Dreyer's Fruit Bars (80 calories). But don't be fooled by the Lite Bites Snack Pack -- with popcorn and trail mix, it has 400 calories and over 26g fat!

Enjoy the flicks!


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