Popcorn has solidified itself as the ultimate movie companion, but that was before you had to worry about the carbs in popcorn. Now, you’re probably wondering: is popcorn allowed on keto?
Carbs in Popcorn
The amount of carbs in popcorn is dependent of the type of popcorn you’re eating and how you’re eating it. Let’s be real, an entire bucket of popcorn at the movies is going to have a higher carb count than a bag of the microwave stuff. I’ve included nutritional information from the USDA for various types of popcorn. Note: these are not brand-specific, so it is still wise to review the nutrition facts on your popcorn!
- Air-Popped popcorn has 77.78 g of carbs per 100 grams and 6.22 g of carbs per cup (8 g) (USDA).
- Microwave popcorn has 57.26 g of carbs per 100 grams and 4.52 g of carbs per cup (7.9 g) (USDA).
- Oil-Popped popcorn has 58.10 g of carbs per 100 grams and 4.65 g of carbs per cup (8 g) (USDA).
Net Carbs in Popcorn
Just a friendly reminder: to calculate the net carbs in popcorn, we subtract total fiber from total carbs. I’ve included the net carbs for each of the aforementioned styles of popcorn.
- Air-Popped popcorn has 63.28 net carbs per 100 grams and 5.02 net carbs per cup.
- Microwave popcorn has 47.26 net carbs per 100 grams and 3.72 net carbs per cup.
- Oil-Popped popcorn has 48.10 net carbs per 100 grams and 3.85 net carbs per cup.
How many carbs are in movie theater popcorn?
It’s a little more tricky to calculate the carbs in movie theater popcorn compared to popcorn you make at home. Movie theater popcorn does not regularly include nutritional information, and the brand of popcorn varies between theaters. There’s also a big chance that the actual weight of your popcorn bucket will vary between refill trips (was that 2 or 2 ⅓ scoops, that time?) as well as between theaters. Theater A’s small might be five cups, while Theater B fits six cups in their small.
Truthfully, the number of carbs per cup is most likely similar to your home popcorn. What this means is that you could probably expect between 4.5 and 6.2 grams per cup (or roughly 57-78 g of carbs per 100 grams). The real struggle comes with not having accurate measures. Listen, I won’t blame you if you sneak your digital scale in to better estimate your numbers. I won’t judge, as long as you don’t talk during the movie.
Can you eat popcorn on a low carb diet?
Popcorn is definitely not the worst food you could be eating on a low carb diet. If you are limiting your carb intake, a cup of popcorn will not knock you out of ketosis. You don’t have to feel guilty if the temptation is too strong and you steal a couple bites next time someone has a bowl of popcorn!
Issues with popcorn will arise when you eat more than just a small amount. I know I personally have the tendency to eat popcorn by the handful; a cup just wouldn’t cut it for me!
Popcorn also isn’t known for being the most filling food. If you’re looking for a snack that will satiate you without too many carbs, popcorn may not be the best choice for you.
What snacks can I have on the keto diet?
Vegetables will always be the number one choice for best keto snack. It might not be what you wanted to hear, but it’s the truth. Many vegetables are low carb and low calorie; you also have the benefit of vegetables being filling and full of nutrients.
If you are in the snacking mood and can’t bear the thought of eating vegetables, you have some other options. Jerky (beef, chicken, turkey, etc.), cheese, pork rinds, olives, pickles, and hard boiled eggs all make excellent low carb snacks.
Is corn good for keto diet?
Despite corn being a vegetable, it has quite a high carb count. This is because it is a starchy vegetable. An ear of sweet yellow corn has anywhere between 13 and 27 carbs. White corn is nearly identical, in case you’re thinking there’s a way around these numbers. On a typical keto diet, an ear of corn will put you at risk of knocking yourself out of ketosis.
Because staying in ketosis is one of the main goals of the keto diet, corn might be seen as “bad”. However, we don’t like to classify foods as good or bad. Rather, corn has a higher chance of affecting your ability to maintain ketosis, and therefore should be avoided.
Calories in Popcorn
Just as the carbs in popcorn vary, so do the calories in popcorn.
Based on the cup of popcorn we have discussed previously, the calories in a single 8 gram cup of popcorn range from 31 to 42. Way to go, popcorn!
When evaluating 100 grams of various styles of popcorn, the calories range from 387 to 535. When you get into larger amounts of popcorn, there starts to be a more obvious calorie variance between popcorn types.
In terms of a low-calorie snack, popcorn definitely fits the bill (so long as you don’t go overboard). Like most foods, moderation is key to fitting popcorn into any diet.
Apart from being low calorie and fairly low carb, popcorn is doing quite well in the fiber department. A single cup of popcorn has about 1 gram of dietary fiber. Not too shabby!
Problems with popcorn nutrition arise when eating anything but the air-popped, unsalted kind. Suddenly, you have to worry about oil, butter, trans fat, saturated fat, and artificial flavors. It’s these things that transform popcorn from “fairly healthy snack” into “junk food”.
Popcorn Keto Substitutes
Popped amaranth and popped sorghum are two of the most popular popcorn substitutes; unfortunately, neither of these are low carb! Instead, the best keto substitutes are vegetables that provide a similar crunch and ease of eating. The more movie-friendly the better, right?
Celery sticks, broccoli, and cauliflower are all super easy to put together (make a raw veggie movie platter from our Low Carb Vegetable List!). Even better, they all have the desired crunch-factor! Also, by eating these, you won’t miss out on the fiber. Sounds like a win, win.
Other keto (and movie!) friendly substitutes include pork rinds and baked cheese bites. While these are more similar to chips/crackers, they still provide a nice low carb crunch. If you’re someone who associates movie night with junk foods, these are excellent guilt-free choices.
Hi, I'm Tasha–nutritionist, recipe developer, and multi-published cookbook author.