Popcorn for Low-Carb Diets

Popcorn for Low-Carb Diets

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Popcorn is a whole-grain food and can keep you feeling full for hours.

Burke/Triolo Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

When you're following a low-carb diet plan, you know you have to keep close tabs on each gram of carbohydrate you consume. Popcorn is high in carbs -- in fact, the majority of the calories come from carbs -- but it can still fit into your diet regimen. You'll just have to measure out your portion carefully.

Carbohydrate Allowance

Usually, between 45 and 65 percent of your calories should come from carbs, which have 4 calories in each gram. So if you tend to follow a 2,000-calorie diet, for example, you'll need 225 to 325 grams of carbs daily. But your carb-restrictive diet isn't going to allow you to have that much. Instead, you'll have to trim your carbohydrate intake down to 50 to 150 grams a day and sometimes even less, depending on the specifics of your plan, reports.

Popcorn Carb Content

One cup of popcorn, which weighs 8 grams, has roughly 30 total calories. Nearly 25 of those calories come from the 6 grams of carbohydrates. If you're limited to 50 grams of carbs a day, that 1 cup of popcorn takes up around 13 percent of your total carb allowance. But if you can have closer to 150 grams of carbohydrates per day, a single cup of popcorn accounts for less than 5 percent of your allotment.

Fiber Considerations

Just because you're trimming some of the carbohydrates from your diet, doesn't mean you can skimp out on fiber. You need fiber to improve nutrient absorption and to keep your bowels moving. But fiber only comes from plant-based foods, which are high in carbs and are probably lacking in your low-carb diet. You need to make sure you aim to meet your fiber recommendation -- 14 grams for every 1,000 calories, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. One cup of popcorn gives you 1.2 grams, which is less than 5 percent of the 28 grams of fiber you need for a 2,000-calorie diet.

Keeping It Healthy

Because popcorn is already pretty high in carbohydrates, you certainly don't want to add anything to it to further increase the carb content. Dig through your spice cupboard and use dried herbs and spices to season your snack. These seasonings only have a trace amount of carbs, if any at all. You can use a few sprays of nonstick cooking spray on your popcorn, in place of butter or oil, to get the toppings to stick, without adding a lot of carbs, fat or calories. Avoid using salt on popcorn. Even though salt does not have any carbohydrates, it is full of sodium. A few dashes, totaling one-fourth of a teaspoon, pack in 600 milligrams of sodium, the American Heart Association states. Since you can only have a maximum of 2,300 milligrams a day, those few shakes of salt take up one-quarter of your daily allowance.


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