Popcorn is high in fiber, which makes it a fairly healthy snack. Well, let's just say it's a good alternative to salty favorites like chips. And anyone who's ever worked in an office knows all too well the intoxicating scent of microwaved popcorn in the air. Resistance is futile. But microwaved popcorn isn't actually the most healthy, environmentally-friendly snack. To wit:
1) Here's what Newman's Own Organic Light Butter Microwaved Popcorn lists as its ingredients: organic popcorn, organic palm oil, natural butter flavor (contains milk), salt, annatto (for color), vitamin E, and contains soy and peanuts. Even the 94% fat free version contains 'natural flavor.' Natural flavor? Hmm, just because it's natural (and they are not required to disclose the ingredients) doesn't mean it's healthy. (The Newman's Own Web site does not disclose these 'natural' ingredients.) And what about that palm oil? It's a really cheap cooking oil, high in saturated fats, that is used by most commercial food processors. Then there's Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop popcorn, which contains the food additive/carcinogen TBHQ (also used in perfume and varnish - yum!). Bleh.
2) There's been a lot of press around the butter-flavor ingredient diacetyl causing lung cancer in people who work in microwave popcorn factories. The evidence has caused big manufacturers to phase out usage of diacetyl. Now there's concern that people who are frequently exposed to the odor of microwaved popcorn containing diacetyl could be at risk. Bleh.
3) And then there's that lovely popcorn bag, which absolutely cannot be recycled. Bleh.
Buying a bag of popcorn and popping it in
olive (sorry, just learned that olive oil should not be heated this hot -- it will burn and break down) or canola oil or in a hot-air popper takes about as long as microwaved. You know exactly what you and your kids are eating, plus there's no bag to throw away. I recently started popping corn on the stove top as an after-school snack. We make a giant pot of it, eat some then bag it up and munch on it throughout the week. The kids just love it, I actually enjoy the ritual of popping it, I like knowing what we're eating and it's a whole lot cheaper than microwaved. Give it a try.