Popcorn a Fun and Healthy Autumn Snack

For some reason autumn and popcorn just seem to go together. It is a great snack or treat for Fall get together and how many can pass up a bag of freshly popped corn at a ball game?

Nebraska is the #1 producer of popcorn in the United States, producing nearly 45% of our nation’s crop. Popcorn can be a healthy snack, if made with little or no added salt and butter. It’s also good for you because it counts as a whole grain, reports Extension Specialist Lisa Franzen-Castle. USDA’s Choose MyPlate recommends getting at least half of your grains from whole grains. Three cups of popped popcorn equal one serving from the grains group. Check out these suggestions to make popcorn fun and healthy.

Popcorn is a whole grain, contains fiber, and is naturally low in fat and calories. A cup of air-popped popcorn has 31 calories and oil-popped corn has 55 calories, adding butter or other flavorings will increase the calories per cup. Popcorn is a great choice for between meal snacks because it satisfies and doesn’t spoil your appetite. Check the Nutrition Facts Label for fat, sodium, and calories when buying pre-packaged popcorn to compare brands and types. Try to eat popcorn with little or no added salt or butter.

Consider adding popcorn to soups or salads for some added crunch, season plain popcorn with a flavored powder like garlic or onion powder or season the popping oil with spices to create a lightly flavored savory treat. Try combining popcorn with dried fruit and nuts for your own custom snack mix. Create easy to prepare and tasty popcorn dessert bars by tinting the liquid ingredients for different holidays.

Not only is popcorn tasty and economical, but it’s also easy to prepare. Whether you choose to pop popcorn in an electric popper or on the stove, follow these tips from The Popcorn Board: First, warm the popper, heavy pan, or skillet. If oil popping your corn, add 1/4 cup of cooking oil to the pan. Allow the oil to heat. The best popping temperature is between 400 and 460 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil burns at 500 degrees. If your oil starts to smoke, it's too hot. Any cooking oil will work provided it can retain the proper temperature. Don't use butter because it will burn before getting hot enough. Test the heat of the oil by dropping in one or two kernels. When the kernel pops or spins in the oil, you're ready to add the remaining popcorn. Pour just enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pan. Shake the pan to be certain oil coats each kernel. Kernels that don’t pop do not have sufficient water contained within the starch to create the build-up of pressure needed to pop the kernels.

Eating popcorn is a great way to increase whole grains and fiber in your daily diet.

For more information, contact your local Nebraska Extension Office or on the web at:  food.unl.edu Nebraska Extension In Our Grit, Our Glory.