The Cheapest And Healthiest Snack In The Snack Aisle

October 26, 2011   33 Comments

The snack aisle is one of the worst places in the grocery store to find a snack. But, there is an exception.

Parmesan Pepper Popcorn

You can find bags of unadulterated popcorn. A serving of this WHOLE GRAIN is a mere 5 cents. Popcorn is dried corn - and when you pop it you are just heating it up.

THREE cups of air-popped popcorn is:
92 calories, 1.0 g fat, 18.7 g carbohydrates, 2.9 g protein, 3.6 g fiber, 1 mg sodium, 2 Points+

Of course this nutritional assessment is BEFORE you add the salt and butter which will turn a healthy snack into a treat.

We used to pop popcorn on the stove in a couple tablespoons of oil before we learned some new tricks (and you don't need an air popcorn popper).

If you have a microwave oven, you can make popcorn with just a paper bag see: DIY Microwave Popcorn: Healthy, Yummy, and CHEAP. You can also buy the bowl featured below (reuse!) and pop it in there without any oil.

Both the bag and the bowl turn out great tasting popcorn (you won't miss the oil or the flavored packaged stuff). You just have to be very careful not to burn the popcorn. In the bowl, it takes about two minutes and thirty seconds to pop 1/4 cup popcorn.

I happen to love butter and salt on my popcorn, but I had to face a hard cold reality. If I use two tablespoons of butter, I am adding 204 calories and 23 grams of fat.

So, I looked for a lighter alternative. Parmesan cheese is a great choice because it is flavorful and lower in fat than many cheeses. Two tablespoons of grated parmesan is only 43 calories and 2.9 grams of fat.

The combination of parmesan and pepper is flavorful and a bit addictive. There are a bunch of different ways to flavor popcorn that don't include butter. How about:

  • Chili powder and lime juice
  • Old Bay Seasoning (seafood seasoning)
  • Curry powder
  • Nutritional yeast

I posted a maple syrup and peanut butter combo that is a family favorite - see it here: Makeover Kettle Corn Into "Can Do" Corn.

What is your favorite way to flavor popcorn?


Parmesan Pepper Popcorn Recipe

(no reviews yet)

(makes 1 serving)
2 cups air popped popcorn
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
ground pepper to taste

Mix popcorn and cheese in bowl. Grind pepper to taste and enjoy!

One serving = 104 calories, 3.5 g fat, 12.9 g carbohydrates, 5.8 g protein, 2.4 g fiber, 154 mg sodium, 3 Points+

Points values are calculated by Snack Girl and are provided for information only. See all Snack Girl Recipes

Nordic Ware Microwave Popcorn Popper, 12 Cup, White

Nordic Ware Microwave Popcorn Popper, 12 Cup, White

$15.99 ($15.99 / Count)   $14.99 ($14.99 / Count) Buy on

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Other posts you might like:


DIY Microwave Popcorn: Healthy, Yummy, and CHEAP

Popcorn is a whole grain snack that is really low in calories and has that great crunch we crave. But, the packaged stuff in the supermarket is expensive and can be high in sodium....


Makeover Kettle Corn Into "Can Do" Corn

Kettle corn has that perfect combination of crunchy, salty, and sweet that keeps you eating it long after you should stop....

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I always cook in oil but am glad to hear of an alternative. Parmesean and nutritional yeast are the only way my kids eats popcorn (and it is one of their favorite snacks!)

I still think extra virgin olive oil is a good addition in moderation because it has the good fats. If you get a mister (such as the Misto) you can spray it on so you're not just dumping a bunch in. I think even with seasoning it tastes much better with a little evoo.

I took a tip from Good Housekeeping - a glass bowl, a tiny amount of olive oil (or, sometimes, just a spray or two of my olive oil spray mist thing from Trader Joe's), 1/4 cup of popcorn, a plate to cover everything, 4 minutes on high. Voila. No need for any fancy equipment and no worry about anything catching on fire. It's become one of our regular snacks in my house!

I still cook it in a pan on the stove withOUT oil. You just have to be vigilant with the shaking...never stop! haha! Our favorite combination is a pinch of salt, garlic powder and paprika. Mmmmm...

i love it popped in the microwave, drizzled with melted coconut oil, with salt and pepper.

I still have an old school air popper (with Scooby Doo on the outside ;) ). Just last night I made popcorn with nutritional yeast. It's awesome.

I thought that paper bags contained formaldehyde or some other harmful ingredient. Am I wrong? I don't think I would be crazy about microwaving them. I pop popcorn every morning for my 5 kids with a bit of olive oil on the regular stovetop. I think the bit of good fat is fine for them...It is fantastic!

Thanks for featuring popcorn! It is one of my "go to" snacks.

I also had an Amazon gift card I wanted to use so I bought the popcorn popper that you featured for the microwave, thank you!!

I also still pop my popcorn on the stove. To season, I either drizzle olive oil or I use "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" spray...some seasonings I put on are garlic powder, smoked paprika, artificial salt, oregano, parmesan cheese (not all together, depends on what I have a taste for)

I love the woman's idea above of popping in the microwave w/olive oil and covering with a plate. Never knew that would work!

I do not like microwave popcorn and have used the paper bag method for a long time. I use a little butter flavor spray and a sprinkle of salt.

Target has some great low or no cal popcorn toppings to sprinkle on!

I just put on a little bit of vinegar. Not too much or it becomes soggy, but just a bit gives it great flavor.

You should never use microwave popcorn . there are so many harmful toxins. Also a really healthy snack should have a protein a fat and a carb. I like the idea of a little parm. or nutritional yeast. coconut oil and flax seeds blend really well to with a little cinnamon.


I really like the Nordicware popper... I don't really HAVE many paper bags the right size and I have asthma so I can't use commercial microwave popcorn.

I like to use Bacon Salt or Molly McButter with parmesan or romano cheese after misting with a little oil for a more salty type, and if you like Reese's peanut butter cups, misting with oil and then sprinkling in some chocolate PB2 is yummy!

Nutritional yeast all the way! I recently discovered this yummy stuff and use it on my popcorn, salad greens, etc. I love my hot air popper for popcorn. I just use a few spritzes of extra virgin olive oil and a generous sprinkling of nutritional yeast. Yum!!

About how much kernels gives you 2 cups of air-popped popcorn? In other words, what's a good ratio to use when determining how many kernels to microwave to get a certain amount of popped popcorn? I know some will remain unpopped, but I'm just looking for a rough estimate.

I think the recommended serving size is about 1/4 cup unpopped kernels. It makes a lot of popcorn!

I too make it stove top, in a pot with a bit of EVOO, just the way my dad used to do back in the 70's when I was a little girl. :)

I keep the leftover popcorn in a ziplock bag for a quick snack throughout the rest of the week.

I love the nutrional yeast on my popcorn but I find that I have to have some butter or oil on the popcorn in order for it to stick to the popcorn to taste it?? Is that the same for the cheese and pepper or the other flavorings?

What the heck is NUTRITIONAL YEAST?? I never heard of it! Also, just heard of PB2 on Dr. Oz last week and ordered it on Amazon last night - it hasn't come yet. Is it good?

@Helene - I didn't know what it was iether. It is dried yeast and is a condiment to help vegetarians with getting B vitamins - it has a cheesy flavor. see:…

I love popcorn as a snack! Thank you so much for your tip of buying the unpopped bags of corn and just doing it yourself! My favorite combo for my popcorn is the target popcorn seasoning and some Trader Joe's Chocolate and coffee bean grinder..sweet and salty!

how do you get the parm.cheese and salt to stick to the popcorn without any oil?

Gurrrl you just made my day! And here I was thinking I couldn't make airpopped popcorn cuz I needed a fancy air popper! *rainbow arms* So happy tears of joy! Evernote CLIPPED.

I love microwave popcorn, its so yummy especially with added butter, Parmesan cheese and few salt...

My mom gave me this popcorn popper as she wow'ed me with it! She now gives it as gifts to college bound students and to other people she knows that loves popcorn! We love it because it doesn't take much to make a bunch of 'corn!

@Jill - if you put the parmesan when the popcorn is still hot - it melts on - otherwise it doesn't stick so well.

Thanks for your question!

I bought the Nordic Ware popper a couple of weeks ago, but it doesn't seem to pop all the kernels, there are a lot of "old maids" after 4 1/2 minutes. The instructions said to use 1/3 cup kernels. If the kernels are old would that be a problem? I will have to try some of these toppings. I just ate some dry & it was hard for me to eat that way. I work at a movie theater and just love the butter stuff we use.

Thanks in advance for tips on the popper.

@Janet - I can't eat it without adding butter, olive oil, or cheese to make it taste good, either. Keep in mind by not using oil to pop it with -you are cutting calories.

I only use 1/4 cup in my popper and don't have many kernels left - maybe try this?

I am a nanny, and a snack my "kids" go nuts for is plain popped popcorn sprinkled with some pudding or jell-o mix... I usually use the fat free/sugar free kind. We've experimented with different flavors and they're all delicious!

Hello there. My visitors have been asking about this, do you mind if I re-print this on my blog? I will of course give full credit to this site, and I will link to you if you like. Thanks.

I tried the olive oil and glass bowl last night. I added 6 slices of pickled jalapenos to the oil and popcorn. Once popped, I sprinkled with parm, pepper and garlic salt. The popcorn comes out wonderfully spicy, and the crispy jalapenos are a great treat when you get one with a handfull of popcorn. I used to do this with the old oil popper, but never thought about doing it in the microwave. Thanks for the ideas!

I bought a micorwave air popper. I spray pam on 1/4 cup of kernals and cook for 2:20. I top it with hot salt or parm cheese. It's my favorite snack. Keeps me from chips, crackers and all the other bad carbs I love.

after I went ahead and bought the microwave popcorn popper (which I DO love), I learned that you get the same results (for free) with a glass bowl with a lid on it :)

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