Report

30 Microwaveable Buttered Popcorns—Ranked!

If you think the scary movie you're watching is terrifying, just wait until you take a closer look at the nutrition label of your microwaveable popcorn.

Report

30 Microwaveable Buttered Popcorns—Ranked!

If you think the scary movie you're watching is terrifying, just wait until you take a closer look at the nutrition label of your microwaveable popcorn.

Armed with a warm green tea and a blanket scarf draped around my shoulders, I went for a stroll around my neighborhood this weekend. Pools were being drained, restaurants were storing away their outdoor seating, and storefronts were already being ornamented with holiday-themed decor. And you know what that means: It's that time of year to curl up on the couch under a fuzzy blanket and finally work through your Netflix queue.

So, once I returned home, that's exactly what I did. But before I got comfortable, I hurried over to the pantry to grab the perfect movie-night snack: buttery microwave popcorn. As a potent source of fiber and whole grains, popcorn is a hunger-quelling snack. Not to mention, a study by Penn State University researchers found that eating a large volume of food (like popcorn) can leave you significantly more satisfied than a smaller-portioned, higher-calorie snack (like a chocolate bar)—it's why eating more high-volume veggies is #36 of our 50 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds—Fast!

But if you pop the wrong kernels, you could be doing your body more harm than good. Buttery kernels are often doused with a combination of inflammatory vegetable oils and artificial flavors. Manufacturers then extend the popcorn's shelf life by adding petroleum-derived antioxidant tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ). This corrosion inhibitor is commonly used in biodiesel, and the FDA allows it in your food as a preservative. (Something tells us watching the Rush Hour series while noshing on butane-drenched munchies would be fairly unsettling.)

The good news? If you follow our guide, you can still enjoy microwave popcorn without the lingering notion that you're noshing on lighter fluid. Pick up a bag of our Eat This-approved choices and leave the Not That's on the shelf. Curious about how your other favorite snacks stack up? Check out our exclusive report: 35 Best-Selling Chips—Ranked!

From Worst To Best…

popcorn in bowl

To rank microwave popcorns fairly, we compared equivalent servings of each bag: roughly two tablespoons or around thirty-two grams of unpopped corn. We based our ranking initially on presence of any harmful additives to the popcorn (such as partially hydrogenated oils [aka trans fats]). We gave products points for using natural ingredients and for being organic, which reinforces the lack of unhealthy ingredients. From there, we deducted points whenever popcorns were high in vegetable-oil-derived fat or sodium.

NOTE:

In January 2016, the FDA finally banned the Teflon-like, grease-resistant chemical that's been linked to various cancers, infertility, thyroid issues, and birth defects from being used in food packaging: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). That was great news since a study by the FDA found that up to 20 percent of PFOA levels in our bodies can come from consuming a mere 10 bags of popcorn a year. Unfortunately, the FDA has already approved nearly 100 PFOA-like compounds for use in food packaging—a majority of which have little to no information regarding long-term health consequences, according to the Environmental Working Group. So, although all of the bags listed below are PFOA-free, there is little evidence to support (or deny) that PFOA substitutes are safe to be in contact with your food. Ah, the joys of food manufacturing.

Additionally, every major popcorn brand found on this list removed the synthetic butter flavor, diacetyl, from their products back in 2008. Previously used in the majority of store-bought brands, inhalation of the synthetic butter flavoring had been found to cause lung disease and increase the risk of Alzheimer's among those who had prolonged exposure to the chemical. Although some experts believe diacetyl substitutes might be just as dangerous, a study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition found that waiting just 10 minutes post-pop can significantly reduce the amount of vaporized chemicals you breathe in. Now that we've got this science out of the way, onto the rankings!

30

Jolly Time Mini Bags Blast O Butter, Ultimate Theatre Style

jolly time mini bags blast o butter, ultimate theatre style

Per 3 tbsp (43 g) unpopped (4.5 cups popped, 1 serving per bag): 210 calories, 16 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 6 g trans fats), 410 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (4 g fiber, < 1 g sugar), 3 g protein

Although we kept serving sizes consistent for most of the popcorn bags, we made an exception for this one. That's because the bag is marketed as single serving, so we'd assume people would likely work through the entire thing. Doing so means you'll set yourself back three days worth of soon-to-be-banned trans fats (from partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil) and a quarter of your day's worth of fat. It's not just microwaveable popcorn that does it; check out these 14 Sneaky Types of Food With Bogus Serving Sizes to see more examples of how you could be duped into consuming more calories than you were initially led to believe.

29

Cousin Willie's Buttery Explosion

cousin willie’s buttery explosion

Per 2 tbsp (30 g) unpopped (5 cups popped): 160 calories, 10 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 3 g trans fat), 340 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (5 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

This bag of kernels is a relic of the old days. Before the FDA announced in 2015 that it was banning partially hydrogenated oils—also known as artery-clogging trans fats—from food, the majority of microwaveable popcorn brands contained this shelf-stable ingredient. Because the ban will be enforced starting in 2018, many brands have moved away from this cardiotoxic ingredient. Not Cousin Willie's. The Indiana-based company serves up 150 percent of your recommended maximum intake of trans fats—one of the worst foods for your brain—in their standard serving.

28

Pop-Secret Homestyle

pop-secret homestyle

Per 2 tbsp (32 g) unpopped (3.5 cups popped): 150 calories, 9 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 340 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

Besides the high sodium and fat content, we were also irked by Pop-Secret's addition of propyl gallate to their kernels. It might be classified as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), but a National Toxicology Program study reported an association with tumors in rats. Unfortunately, that study came out in 1982, and any significant findings since then are sparse. Before we eat anything, we'd rather have ample evidence suggesting an ingredient is safe rather than partial suggestions the additive could be an endocrine disruptor, just like BPA.

27

Smart Balance Smart Movie Style Microwave Popcorn

smart balance smart movie style microwave popcorn

Per 3 tbsp (32 g) unpopped (3.5 cups popped): 170 calories, 11 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 420 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

26

Pop-Secret Double Butter Flavor

pop-secret double butter flavor

Per 2 tbsp (32 g) unpopped (3.5 cups popped): 180 calories, 11 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 380 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

It might have less fat than the brand listed below, but Pop-Secret contains more saturated fat—the type of fat that's been found to increase levels of your bad gut bacteria that cause weight gain.

25

Orville Redenbacher's Pour Over Movie Theater Butter

orville redenbacher’s pour over movie theater butter

Per 2 tbsp (33 g) unpopped (3.5 cups popped): 180 calories, 14 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 330 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

Those 14 grams of fat are full of linoleic acid: an omega-6 fatty acid that has been found to be possibly adipogenic, which means it promotes fat storage in our bodies. Luckily, you have the calorie-cutting power in your own hands, thanks to Orville Redenbacher's "Pour Over" butter. Use the flavor sparsely!

24

Orville Redenbacher's Movie Theater Butter

orville redenbacher’s movie theater butter

Per 2 tbsp (34 g) unpopped (5 cups popped): 160 calories, 10 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 340 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

This might surprise you, but the ingredients of Orville Redenbacher's Movie Theater Butter and the exact same as the "Home Recipe" bowl listed below. But because there's more fat and sodium in this recipe, we'd recommend going with the option below.

23

Orville Redenbacher's Home Recipe Pop-Up Bowl

orville redenbacher’s home recipe pop-up bowl

Per 2 tbsp (35 g) unpopped (4 cups popped): 170 calories, 11 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (3 fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

It might be called "Home Recipe," but we'd bet you don't have "artificial flavors" or "TBHQ" in your pantry. We do, however, hope you have these 20 Healthy Pantry Staples!

22

Orville Redenbacher's Butter

orville redenbacher’s butter

Per 2 tbsp (35 g) unpopped (4.5 cups popped): 170 calories, 12 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 260 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

Thanks to the addition of lower-sodium salt, potassium chloride, this popcorn recipe is lower in the blood-pressure-raising stuff than its peers. Unfortunately, it's still too high in fat to be considered healthy.

21

Pop-Secret Butter Flavor

pop-secret butter flavor

Per 2 tbsp (33 g) unpopped (3.5 cups popped): 160 calories, 10 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 300 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

Planning on diving into a bag of Pop-Secret Butter? Make sure you've got a glass of water ready to wash down those 300 mg of sodium.

20

Pop-Secret Jumbo Pop Butter

pop-secret jumbo pop butter

Per 2 tbsp (32 g) unpopped (4 cups popped): 160 calories, 10 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 300 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

Investing in Pop-Secret's Jumbo option gives you an extra half a cup of popcorn for the same nutritional figures as the brand's normal kernel size. Bigger really is better!

19

Jolly Time Xtra Butter

jolly time xtra butter

Per 2 tbsp (33 g) unpopped (4 cups popped): 160 calories, 11 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 300 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (3 g fiber, < 1 g sugar), 3 g protein

For being an "extra butter" flavor, Jolly Time offers a decent option that uses real butter and buttermilk for flavor.

18

Jolly Time Butter

jolly time butter

Per 2 tbsp (34 g) unpopped (4 cups popped): 160 calories, 10 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 300 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

It might be lower in saturated fat and sodium than the brand below, but you get less bang for your buck: only 4 cups popped corn compared to 4 and a half listed for ACT II.

17

ACT II Movie Theater Butter Popcorn

act ii movie theater butter popcorn

Per 2 tbsp (34 g) unpopped (4.5 cups popped): 150 calories, 8 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 370 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

If you're looking for more volume, ACT II has a decent pick for the same ingredients as its peers. We'd just recommend having a glass of water at the ready to compensate for that sodium count. Being high in sodium is one of the main reasons why many of these foods made it on our list of the 50 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.

16

Pop-Secret Movie Theater Butter

pop-secret movie theater butter

Per 2 tbsp (32 g) unpopped (4 cups popped): 150 calories, 9 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

The winner of all the "Movie Theater" flavors! It's a bit higher in fat and saturated fat than ACT II's option, but it's significantly lower in sodium.

15

ACT II Butter

act ii butter

Per 2 tbsp (32 g) unpopped (4.5 cups popped): 130 calories, 6 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

For a "Butter" option, ACT II is one of your best bets. Especially since it's a bit higher in protein than other brands.

14

Jolly Time Simply Popped

jolly time simply popped

Per 2 tbsp (34 g) unpopped (4 cups popped): 150 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

Sure, Jolly TIme's Simply Popped is a little higher in calories and fat than the ACT II above, but it's made with real clarified butter (not some ambiguous "natural and artificial flavor") and rosemary extract as an antioxidant (rather than butane-derived TBHQ).

13

Pop Weaver Light Butter

pop weaver light butter

Per 1/2 bag (29 g) unpopped (makes 5 cups popped): 120 calories, 4 g fat (0.75 g saturated fat), 165 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2.5 g protein

You'll get a whopping 5-cup serving for only 4 grams of fat and less than a gram of saturated fat.

12

ACT II 94% Fat Free Butter

act ii 94% fat free butter

Per 2 tbsp (26 g) unpopped (4.5 cups popped): 87 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (2.5 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2.5 g protein

Luckily, ACT II's nearly fat-free option doesn't compensate by dumping on buckets of salt to make up for the lack of flavor.

11

Orville Redenbacher's Light Butter

orville redenbacher’s light butter

Per 2 tbsp (28 g) unpopped (4 cups popped): 105 calories, 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 225 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (2.5 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2.5 g protein

Even with lower-sodium potassium chloride, this light butter option from Orville Redenbacher is still a bit high on the sodium count.

10

Smart Balance Smart 'n Healthy Microwave Popcorn

smart balance smart ’n healthy microwave popcorn

Per 3 tbsp (29 g) unpopped (4 cups popped): 110 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 75 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

With a name like "Smart Balance," we would've hoped this option would have left out the artificial flavor, annatto, and TBHQ. Regardless, it still has decent nutritionals: it's low in fat, sodium, and calories while being high in fiber and protein.

9

Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop! Butter

orville redenbacher’s smart pop! butter

Per 2 tbsp (25 g) unpopped (4 cups popped): 80 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 195 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (2.5 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2.5 g protein

Low in calories, fat, and sodium, Orville Redenbacher hits a homerun with this Smart Pop! Bag. We just wish it didn't have artificial flavor or TBHQ.

8

Newman's Own Light Butter Popcorn

newman’s own light butter popcorn

Per 2 tbsp (30 g) unpopped (3.5 cups popped): 120 calories, 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

We prioritized Newman's Own Organic line because it has to adhere to stricter rules than their "Naturals" line regarding which the sources of flavors and additives. For example, Newman's Own Microwave Popcorn adds annatto extract (for color), while their organic line doesn't. Although it's not oil-derived like other artificial flavors, a study published in Archives of Toxicology Supplement found that the food dye caused allergic responses as frequently as artificial dyes did.

7

Quinn Real Butter Popcorn

quinn real butter popcorn

Per 2 tbsp (33 g) unpopped (makes 3 cups popped, 3 servings per bag): 180 calories, 11 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (3 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 3 g protein

We commend Quinn for their radical transparency—they share with their customers exactly who makes the food their eating and where their ingredients come from—and that certainly goes for describing what "flavors" they use in their "natural flavors:" butter powder (cream, salt, buttermilk). We were just hoping for a little less fat, although we are happy it's from high oleic sunflower oil! A type of oil with fewer inflammatory linoleic fatty acids.

6

Newman's Own Organic Pop's Corn Extra Butter

newman’s own organic pop’s corn extra butter

Per 2 tbsp (33 g): 140 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (5 g fiber, < 1 g sugar), 2 g protein

Even with extra butter, this organic option doesn't hit too high of a fat mark.

5

Jolly Time Healthy Pop Butter

jolly time healthy pop butter

Per 2 tbsp (34 g) unpopped (5 cups popped): 110 calories, 2 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (5 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

For 5 cups of popcorn, Jolly Time hits the bullseye with their "Healthy Pop Butter" offering. It has a reasonable sodium count, it's low in fat and calories, and the 5 grams of fiber qualify it to be a high fiber food.

4

Newman's Own Organic Pop's Corn Butter

newman

Per 2 tbsp (33 g): 130 calories, 4.5 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (5 g fiber, < 1 g sugar), 3 g protein

Just four ingredients are found on the back of this popcorn box: popcorn, palm oil, salt, and natural flavor. It's low in fat, high in fiber, and made with simple ingredients. Count us in!

3

Jolly Time Low Sodium 100 Calorie Healthy Pop Butter

jolly time low sodium 100 calorie healthy pop butter

Per 2 tbsp (34 g) unpopped (5 cups popped): 110 calories, 2 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 95 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (5 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 4 g protein

It may not look fancy, but Jolly Time actually comes out with a decent pick for microwave popcorn. No artificial flavors, made with non-GMO corn, and no TBHQ make their Low Sodium option a healthy pick!

2

Newman's Own Organic Pop's Corn Light Butter

newman

Per 2 tbsp (33 g): 110 calories, 2 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (5 g fiber, < 1 g sugar), 3 g protein

Newman's Own does everything right with this organic option. The only reason it took second place was because it had nearly double the amount of sodium than our top pick.

1

Whole Foods Organic Microwave Popcorn Light Butter Flavor

whole foods organic microwave popcorn light butter flavor

Per 2 tbsp (33 g) unpopped (4 cups popped): 130 calories, 2.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (3 g fiber, < 1 g sugar), 3 g protein

Whole Foods' 365 Brand popcorn already scored major points for being organic, but the icing on the cake was its low fat and low sodium count.