RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Movie-industry executives are expending a lot of energy luring people back to movie theaters, with 3-D films, posh seats, and gourmet coffee bars. But, says one studio head, they aren't paying nearly enough attention to the trans fats and high calorie counts on movie theater menus.
At a recent trade show for movie theater owners, Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, told the theater owners that adding healthier menu items like yogurt, fruits, vegetables, and unbuttered, air-popped popcorn was "the right thing to do for your industry, for our audiences…and for America."
Movie theater food has never been the height of healthy eating. An average medium popcorn, covered in trans fat–laden "butter" (which is actually a mix of partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, butter, citric acid, beta-carotene, and milk) contains 1,170 calories and 90 grams of fat. Wash that down with a medium soda, and you're adding 385 more calories and 100 grams of sugar. But it's not just the popcorn and soda: Nachos contain 1,101 calories and 54 grams of fat, hotdogs pack 300 calories and 18 fat grams, and soft pretzels have 483 calories with 4 grams of mostly trans fats, along with a whopping 2,008 milligrams sodium, nearly all your recommended daily allotment. Grab a box of candy, and you're looking at anywhere from 400 to 1,200 calories, depending on which kind you get.
"Where do you look to find a healthy snack at a movie theater?" says Jane Hurley, RD, senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "They just don't exist." She adds that it's not just the food being served, either. It's the massive portions and the enticing combo deals that pile every unhealthy food behind the counter into one 2,000-calorie "snack." A moviegoer's perception of value plays something of a role, she says, because no one wants to pay $10 for a bucket of popcorn to get only a few cups, "but these value meals are one of the worst inventions for people's waistlines that the food industry ever come out with," she says. "The message should be that you can sit for two hours and enjoy the movie without moving your hand from a bucket of popcorn to your mouth."
If that doesn't seem doable, here are a few ways to look more like a svelte alien from "Avatar" than one of the futuristic blobby humans from "Wall-E":
Published on: March 29, 2010