The spring sports season is here and along with it comes one of my favorite whole grain snacks: popcorn. Many people forget that popcorn is a whole grain. Popcorn adds fiber to our diet and it's naturally low in fat and calories. Plus, it 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.
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 ounce of un-popped popcorn equals a quart popped. This how we make popcorn at our house. My 2 year old loves to watch the kernels pop.
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 1/2 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
When I make my own trail mixes I like to add popcorn, but for a sweeter snack I love this Chex Mix. It is easy to make and can be served to guests needing gluten-free foods.
Snickerdoodle Chex Mix
All you need:
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups Cinnamon Chex Cereal
2 cups Chocolate Chex Cereal
4 cups popped popcorn
All you do:
1. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon; set aside. In large microwaveable bowl, mix cereals and popcorn.
2. In 1-cup microwavable measuring cup, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Pour over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly coated.
3. Microwave uncovered on High 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Sprinkle on half of the sugar mixture; stir. Sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture; stir. Microwave 1 minute longer. Spread on waxed paper or paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.
Nutrition Information Per Serving: Calories 100, Total Fat 3.5g, Saturated Fat 2g, Total Carbs 15g, Protein 1g, Sodium 80mg
This information is not intended for medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.
Katie Wilhelmi is a registered dietitian at the New Ulm Hy-Vee.