Is Popcorn Allowed on Keto?

When you start a new eating plan, the first thing you want to know is whether you can still enjoy your favorite foods.

If you’re ready to embrace the keto diet, that means you’re prepared to drastically cut your carbs and increase your intake of high-fat foods. 

Remember, the primary goal of the ketogenic diet is to get the body into ketosis. It is a metabolic state where the body mainly uses fat as fuel instead of carbohydrates.

Popcorn is a snack made from dried corn kernels that are heated to produce edible puffs.

Plain, air-popped popcorn can be a healthy snack and is a good source of vitamins, minerals, carbs, and fiber.

However, since it contains carbs, you may question whether popcorn can fit into a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet.

This article presents an overview of popcorn’s nutrition, the ketogenic diet, and whether the two can coexist.

What is Popcorn?

Popcorn refers to the puffs that form when corn kernels are cooked, causing the water inside of them to expand and the kernels to explode.

It’s a popular snack that is enjoyed for thousands of years. It is also thought to originate from the Americas.

Some researchers suggest that people in Peru ate popcorn over 6,000 years ago.

Today, people all over the world eat popcorn. It can be made on the stove, in an air popper, or your microwave. It’s also sold popped.

Popcorn is usually served with melted butter and salt but can be flavored with herbs, spices, cheese, chocolate, or other seasonings, too.

Keto Diet Overview

The ketogenic diet recommends dramatically reducing your intake of carbs and replacing them with fat.

This leads to a metabolic state known as ketosis, during which your body uses ketones for energy. Ketones are the byproduct of the breakdown of fat in the absence of carbs.

The ketogenic diet is commonly used to help children with epilepsy manage their seizures.

It’s also been linked to health benefits like weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, lower bad cholesterol levels, and blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.

To achieve ketosis, you typically need to eat less than 50 grams of carbs per day — though some people may have to reduce carbs even more.

As a result, low-carb foods like eggs, meats, fatty fish, avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and non-starchy vegetables form the basis of a keto diet.

According to most keto experts, the carb limit refers to net carbs. These are calculated by subtracting the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbs serving food.

Based on this logic, whole grains and other fiber-rich carbs contain fewer net carbs than foods without as much fiber, such as refined grains.

Popcorn Nutrition

Though most think of corn as a vegetable, popcorn is recognized as a whole grain.

Popcorn kernels are harvested when the corn plant is mature, and all parts of the grain are intact.

Eating whole grains has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and overall mortality.

This is because whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that provide many health benefits.

Since popcorn is high in fiber, it is filling without bumping up your caloric intake. It’s also rich in minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and manganese.

What’s more, popcorn offers antioxidants like polyphenols that help prevent cellular damage caused by molecules called free radicals. In particular, polyphenols may provide protective impacts against cancer and other chronic diseases.

Calories in Popcorn

Just as the carbs in popcorn range, so do the calories in popcorn.

The calories in a single cup of an 8-gram popcorn range from 31 to 42. Way to go, popcorn!

When judging 100 grams of various styles of popcorn, the calories range from 387 to 535. When you get into larger popcorn volumes, there starts to be a more obvious calorie variance between popcorn types.

In terms of a low-calorie snack, popcorn fits the bill (so long as you don’t go overboard). Like most foods, moderation is the solution to fitting popcorn into any diet. 

Carbs in Popcorn

The amount of carbs in popcorn is dependent on the type of popcorn you’re eating and how you’re eating it.

Let’s be real, a whole bucket of popcorn at the movies will have a higher carb count than a bag of the microwave stuff.

That said, we have listed down the nutritional information from the USDA for various types of popcorn. Note: These are not brand-specific, so it is still wise to evaluate the nutrition facts on your popcorn.

  • Oil-Popped popcorn has 58.10 g of carbs per 100 grams and 4.65 g of carbs in each cup (8 g) (USDA).
  • Air-Popped popcorn has 77.78 g of carbs per 100 grams and 6.22 g of carbs in each cup (8 g) (USDA). 
  • Microwave popcorn has 57.26 g of carbs per 100 grams and 4.52 g of carbs in each cup (7.9 g) (USDA).

Net Carbs in Popcorn

Just a friendly reminder: To measure the net carbs in popcorn, subtract total fiber from total carbs. We’ve added the net carbs for each of the styles mentioned above of popcorn.

  • Air-Popped popcorn has 63.28 net carbs per 100 grams and 5.02 net carbs for each cup.
  • Microwave popcorn has 47.26 net carbs per 100 grams and 3.72 net carbs for each cup.
  • Oil-Popped popcorn has 48.10 net carbs per 100 grams and 3.85 net carbs for each cup.

How Many Carbs are in Movie Theater Popcorn?

It’s a little more tricky to determine the carbs in movie theater popcorn than popcorn you make at home. Movie theater popcorn does not usually include nutritional information, and the brand of popcorn varies between theaters.

There’s also a big chance that the actual weight of your popcorn bucket will vary between refill trips and between theaters. Theater A’s small might be five cups, while Theater B fits six cups.

Truthfully, the number of carbs per cup is most likely comparable to your home popcorn. What this means is that you could probably expect between 4.5 and 6.2 grams per cup (or roughly 57-78 g of carbs per 100 grams).

The real struggle comes with not having accurate measures.

Can You Have Popcorn While in a Low-Carb or Ketogenic Diet?

Popcorn kernels contain high amounts of fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants. Thus, making this tasty snack with several health benefits.

One study found that people who consumed one cup of popcorn felt more satiated and satisfied than eating the same amount of potato chips. Why? Popcorn is a whole grain that is high in fiber, and it’s nutrient-dense.

According to approved popcorn nutrition facts, you should be able to eat about a cup of popcorn and still stay in ketosis.

If you’re new to a low-carb lifestyle, or just starting the ketogenic diet, cutting out your favorite high-carb snacks can be a complicated process.

As your body adapts to ketosis, you may experience cravings for comfort foods or temporarily feel a dip in your energy levels as you make the change. 

Favorably you can have popcorn on keto. But you have to be careful when consuming it.

A cup of oil-popped popcorn using coconut oil has just 4 grams of net carbs and 2-3 grams of healthy fat. It’s a great way to satisfy your cravings without kicking you out of ketosis. 

However, there are other situations when popcorn won’t fit into your keto meal plan.

Depending on your daily carb limit, popcorn may be capable of fitting into a keto diet.

A typical serving of air-popped popcorn is 3 cups (24 grams) and holds 4 grams of fiber and 18 grams of carbs — or 14 grams of net carbs.

Popcorn can easily fit into a keto diet with a daily limit of 50 grams of net carbs and can even be included in more limiting versions of the keto diet.

Not to mention, if you’re doing a keto diet to lose weight, popcorn only has 90 calories per serving.

However, a 3-cup (24-gram) serving would take up a large part of your daily carb allotment.

If you want to enjoy popcorn on a keto diet, consider restricting other high-carb foods, so you don’t exceed your net carb limit.

Bread, chips, sweets, and other refined grains are high in carbs and contain little to no fiber. On the other hand, popcorn and other whole grains have more fiber and fewer net carbs.

Therefore, instead of high-carb, low-fiber foods on a keto diet, eating popcorn can help satisfy carbs’ desire without going overboard.

Still, it’s essential to be conscious of portions when eating popcorn on a keto diet since it can be easy to overconsume.

To help keep portion size in check and feel more satisfied, you can add fat from coconut oil, butter, or olive oil to popcorn. Making popcorn at home instead of buying pre-popped varieties can also help you manage how much you eat and what you add to it.

To make popcorn at home, heat one tablespoon of coconut oil or butter in a large pot over medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of popcorn kernels.

Cover the pot with a lid while the kernels pop. After popping stops, remove from heat and season with oil or butter and salt.

Quality Matters

As always, the quality of your food choices matters. Making popcorn at home instead of buying pre-popped versions can give you more control over the ingredients and how much you eat.

You can try to use organic, high-quality ingredients and mix in a little love, passion, and that home-cooked touch at home. To keep you more satiated while you’re crunching on popcorn, add healthy fat from butter, coconut oil, or olive oil.

Many of the pre-packaged, microwavable popcorn bags are lined with certain chemicals. This includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that is associated with thyroid problems and ADHD.

Some microwave popcorn might also have artificial butter flavorings and chemicals like diacetyl. Others are saturated with sugar that could easily kick you out of ketosis.

Some brands use hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils that contain problematic trans fats. Research has associated trans fats with a heightened risk of heart disease and other conditions.

When to Avoid Popcorn on a Keto Diet

Which one appears more likely: Having a single cup of tasty popcorn or having five cups of popcorn in a sitting? 

For most people, self-discipline around food is not the easiest thing. If you tend to eat lots of popcorn, you presumably shouldn’t make it a daily snack.

The number of carbs you can eat per day on keto will vary according to your body type, goals, and health history. Some people can eat a full five-cup serving of popcorn with 25 grams of net carbs and stay in ketosis, but that’s not the same for everyone.

If you find yourself overeating, gaining unwanted body fat, not losing weight, or not hitting your keto goals, you might want to avoid popcorn on keto.

If you want to eat popcorn, use the stovetop method or an air popper instead of microwave popcorn. That way, you have control over what oils and any toppings you use. You can avoid unnecessary artificial flavors and other unhealthy ingredients, either.

If you’re on the keto diet, you can apply coconut oil, butter, or olive oil to cook popcorn on the stove, or you can add healthy fats after you air pop it.

When you go to the movie theater, keep in mind that theater popcorn is most likely highly processed and filled with harmful additives and added sugars—as such, taking your keto snacks might be a wise decision. 

Remember that popcorn will not be your only source of net carbs, even on a strict keto diet. Don’t forget to factor in all carb content of other carbohydrate sources, so you don’t exceed your limit and exit ketosis.

So, is Popcorn Keto Approved?

When you switch to the keto diet, one of the biggest challenges is what to eat for keto snacks. With bread off the table, many fruits on the keto no-go list, and potato chops too high in carbs, not much is left when you feel like snacking on keto.

Can you indulge in butter slathered popcorn as a snack on keto?

Popcorn is permitted on the keto diet, but you have to be very careful about your intake. As we all know, once we get started on popcorn, it can be pretty hard to stop. But stop if you want to stay true to your keto diet.

The keto diet is a low carb diet. However, keto is also high in fat, which means that butter on your snacks is okay.

When you follow the keto diet, your goal is to keep the carb count to around 20 grams of carbs per day. However, your serving of popcorn can exceed your daily carb limit.

Popcorn is permitted on the ketogenic diet but only in moderation. There are simply too many carbs in popcorn. So, limit yourself to half a cup or less now and again, and you’ll be able to enjoy this yummy keto snack without throwing yourselves out of keto.

Remember: You can use as much butter as you wish. So, now you don’t have to forego your favorite snack at the movie theater – just cut the size in half!

Final Thoughts

Popcorn is a nutritious whole-grain snack packed with fiber.

A regular helping of 3 cups of popcorn gives 15g of net carbs. That quantity will get you incredibly close to your standard carb limit while not offering much in vitamins and minerals.

But if you need to have popcorn terribly, then keep your consumption to one cup a time. That should help you visit within your daily carb limit while also not endangering your overall nutrients intake.

Popcorn is a healthy snack that is low in calories and rich in antioxidants. It can have also linked it to some health benefits like appetite control and protection. When cooked in butter and another flavor, popcorn matches even added nutritiously.

It’s filling but low in calories and holds more nutrients and fewer net carbs than other popular snacks like chips and crackers. Overall, popcorn can be a healthy addition to a keto diet — especially if you restrict other high-carb foods.

If you are on a keto diet and watching for delicious snack options, then go for popcorn or even beef jerky, order cheese, and keto nuts. The options are unlimited, and you won’t also have to miss popcorn for a diet.