Do you ever feel like living a natural lifestyle makes it harder for you to find snack food?
It’s definitely a good trade, of course, switching from convenient, easy snacks to a more healthful, nutrition-oriented lifestyle, but there’s no denying that a lot of things get harder when we choose to eat a whole foods diet.
There are a lot of things that you just give up, or seriously cut back on. (Moderation is key!) I’m not saying that’s a problem, but I’m always glad when, instead of giving up a favorite food entirely, I can just change the way I eat it.
Popcorn is one of those foods that our culture has turned into a convenience food. When I was growing up, popcorn came out of a bag and out of the microwave. It was nice, too, because it doesn’t take any effort beyond opening the plastic bag and programming the microwave for two minutes. Some microwaves even have a popcorn button!
Reasons to Avoid Microwave Popcorn
Unfortunately, as I’ve gotten older and started researching more, I’ve realized that microwave popcorn can be a really harmful thing to eat. For one, there are very few options available for USDA Certified Organic microwave popcorn. Luckily all popcorn is non-GMO, but it is not all organic. Like all other foods, it’s important to purchase organic popcorn so you can avoid pesticides and herbicides. Finding organic popping corn in bulk is pretty easy, especially at natural grocery stores like Whole Foods or your local food co-op.
Back to microwave popcorn, even if you do find organic, it tends to come in two varieties: unsalted or lightly buttered. Personally, I dislike the taste of unsalted popcorn. It tastes like a bowl full of styrofoam packing peanuts; I imagine. (I’ve never actually tasted packing peanuts.) As for lightly buttered popcorn? Well, even though organic is often our best option as consumers, it isn’t a perfect stamp of approval. Lightly buttered popcorn tends to have “natural flavoring,” which you probably already know should be avoided. (This post from Food Babe helps explain why.)
If you can get past the questionable ingredients, you still have two big problems with microwave popcorn. Even the popcorn bag itself (or, more accurately, the coating of the bag) can be extremely harmful. PFOA, which keeps the popcorn from sticking to the bag, has been linked to reduced fertility and thyroid problems. (Read more here from the NRDC.) And if you want one more reason to stay away from microwave popcorn, you’ll have to think twice about the use of the microwave itself.
Popcorn on the Stove: A Healthier Alternative
The good news is that you can give up microwave popcorn without giving up all popcorn. Popcorn on the stove is incredibly easy to make, and it’s also delicious. (This recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.)
- ⅓ cup organic popcorn (find it here)
- 3 Tbsp oil*
- salt to taste (find unrefined sea salt here)
- additional toppings: cinnamon, melted butter, spirulina seasoning salt (learn how to make it here), chili powder, etc.
- Get out a pot with a lid that holds at least three quarts.
- Place your pot on high heat and pour three tablespoons of oil into the bottom. Wait a few minutes until the oil is quite hot.
- Next, drop a test kernel into the bottom of the pan. When the kernel pops, add the rest of the popcorn quickly. Cover and remove from heat for thirty seconds.
- Place the pot back on the stove. After a few seconds, you will hear your popcorn begin to pop. This part is actually much like microwaving popcorn in that your best bet is to use your ears. When you hear the pops become spaced out by more than a second or two, take the pot off of the stove. (Just a note here: I always think it’s better to take the pot off a little early than to leave it a little too long. I’d rather have perfect popcorn with too many kernels on the bottom than have a whole pot of burned popcorn.)
- Pour your popcorn into a bowl and add toppings if you wish. It’s time to enjoy!
What about you?
Note: Matt and Betsy air pop their popcorn and add real butter and freshly grated parmesan cheese–it’s delicious! (Find air popcorn poppers here.)
How do you enjoy your popcorn? Share your tips for healthy popcorn below!