03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Death By Movie Popcorn? Possibly

This week the Center for Science in the Public Interest updated the findings of its' historic study about the caloric and fat overload found in many a movie-goer's favorite treat -- popcorn.

Among the findings are that:

1) The 'bag 'o corn' is really a thrice super-sized nightmare: "You MAY be eating three McDonald's Quarter Pounders with 12 pats of butter while watching a movie...that food is nutritionally comparable to what you'd find in a medium popcorn and soda combo at Regal, the country's biggest movie theater chain: 1,610 calories and three days' worth--60 grams--of saturated fat. (Nutrition aside, that combo costs $12--for raw ingredients that must cost Regal pennies.)"

2) The advertised nutrition information is incorrect. Regal says that its medium popcorn has 720 calories and that its large has 960. But CSPI's lab tests found that those numbers were understated. Regal's medium and large sizes each had 1,200 calories and, thanks to being popped in coconut oil, 60 grams of saturated fat. (The large size looks bigger, thanks to its titanic tub, but it costs a dollar more and comes with a free refill.) A "small" at Regal has 670 calories and 34 grams of saturated fat. That's about as many calories as a Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizza--except the popcorn has three times the saturated fat.

A few thoughts here:

1) In these tough economic times, I hear how it's hard to eat healthy because it costs more. While there are truths to this, movie meals can cost a pretty penny both at the time ($12) as well as in the long run (heart disease etc.) so bring your own healthier treat (it's not hard to be healthier than this popcorn) and save some bucks or even better, come to the movie for the entertainment and skip the food as entertainment. After all, sitting on our backsides gazing up is hardly strenuous activity requiring refueling

2) I underlined a piece above about coconut oil and I want to provide some information here lest coconut oil become the easy target of this nutrition(less) story. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but it is one that has good health properties (medium chain triglycerides for easy absorption, lauric fatty acid etc) and can tolerate high heat making it a better choice than a trans fat or an oil that shouldn't be heated to higher temperatures. I prefer and recommend organic because then the health benefits aren't reduced by the potential for pesticides. That said, coconut oil, like any saturated fat and like fats and food in general must be consumed with portion control in mind - 60 grams is the issue here, not coconut oil. Think of using coconut oil to stir-fry veggies where the fat enhances the absorption of fat-soluble antioxidantsa as a healthier choice than a 12 ounce serving of steak -- you get the idea.