9 sweet and savory ways to dress up popcorn

There are a number of ways to make popcorn fun. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Did you know that popcorn is a whole grain? And, for a mere 30 calories of air-popped popcorn, you’ll get 12 percent of your daily recommended amount of fiber. But who wants to eat it entirely plain? Here are some of the delicious (and nutritious enough) ways nutritionists enjoy this snack:

1. Popped in a Brown Bag

“My kid’s favorite snack is popcorn fresh out of the microwave. Place 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels in a brown paper lunch bag and fold the top to close. Place it in the microwave and cook it on high for approximately two minutes. Pour the warm popcorn into a large bowl and top it with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt.”

Dana Angelo White, registered dietitian, author of “Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook” and owner of Dana White Nutrition

2. Popped on the Stove

“I love to pop my popcorn the old-fashioned way: on the stovetop. I pour about 1/4 cup of vegetable oil into a large pot and add a few shakes of garlic powder and creole seasoning. Then, I add about 2/3 cup of popcorn kernels and stir to make sure the kernels are coated with the oil mixture. I place the pot on my stovetop (on medium-high heat), cover it and let it pop. About halfway through the popping, I remove the pot from the heat and shake it a little bit. Then, I return it back to the heat and let it finish popping. This helps to prevent burning.”

Andrea Mathis, registered dietitian and creator of Beautiful Eats & Things

[See: These Healthy Seasonings Are Tasty Substitutes for Sugar and Salt.]

3. Air-Popped

“I used to have a traditional 70s-style air-popper, but found it created more of a mess, since popcorn would shoot out like missiles all over my kitchen. A few years ago, I found a microwave popper that looks like the Kool-Aid Man, so we call it ‘Mr. Kool Popper.’ I have no problem enjoying my air-popped popcorn plain, but my hubby needs more flavor. After I pop the popcorn, I use my olive oil sprayer to spray the popcorn to help make it sticky. To make it sweet, I sprinkle on cinnamon or chocolate powder. If we want savory, I’ll do a seasoning blend of either garlic pepper or herbs. And, if I’m craving cheesy, I’ll top it with a dried cheddar cheese blend or Parmesan cheese, which I pair with a dried herb topping.”

Mandy Enright, registered dietitian nutritionist, creator of the couples nutrition blog and podcast “Nutrition Nuptials”

4. Popped 100 Calories at a Time

“I pop up a 100-calorie pack in the microwave, which keeps me from over-munching. (If I popped up a larger bag of popcorn, I would eat the entire bag.) I then sprinkle it with a dusting of Parmesan cheese, which adds flavor and a tad of calcium.”

Joan Salge Blake, registered dietitian nutritionist, clinical associate professor at Boston University and author of “Nutrition & You”

5. Topped With Olive Oil, Salt and Thyme

“My favorite way to flavor my popcorn is with olive oil, salt and thyme. To get the salt and seasoning to stick, I use a spray bottle filled with olive oil and squirt a few pumps onto the popcorn before sprinkling on the seasoning.”

Heather Mangieri, Pittsburgh-based registered dietitian nutritionist, nutrition consultant and author of “Fueling Young Athletes”

[See: The Best Spices for Your Health.]

6. Pumpkin Spiced

“I love all things pumpkin, regardless of the time of year, so my favorite popcorn creation is a pumpkin-spiced popcorn recipe. In a small brown paper bag, I add popcorn kernels, a small amount of oil, a pinch of sugar and pumpkin spice. In two to three minutes, my homemade microwaveable popcorn is ready.”

Kristen Smith, registered dietitian, founder of 360 Family Nutrition and spokesperson for Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

7. Punched Up With Parmesan

“For quick prep during the workday, I use ready-made popcorn that’s 35 calories per cup and 16 grams carbohydrate per 4 cups. Carb content is important to me since I monitor my carbohydrate content to help me manage my diabetes. I love sprinkling Parmesan cheese on my popcorn and typically warm it in the microwave for about 35 seconds. The cheese adds tons of flavor without adding to the carbohydrate content.”

Toby Smithson, registered dietitian nutritionist, diabetes lifestyle expert and author of “Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies”

8. Sweetened With Cinnamon and Chocolate

“Popcorn doesn’t have to be boring, nor does it have to be loaded with butter to taste good! For a sweeter vibe, we suggest adding 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, 1/4 teaspoon of Saigon cinnamon and a drizzle of melted dark chocolate. Stick it in the fridge for a few minutes to let the chocolate harden. This version is less sugary than caramel corn, but is still the sweet snack you want!”

Melissa Bailey and Liz Smith, registered dietitians at “Two Hungry Work Wives” online and on Instagram

[See: The Best Diets for Dessert Lovers.]

9. Nutrient-Packed With Avocado Oil and Nutritional Yeast

“When I was growing up, my dad used to make home-popped popcorn, so I don’t stray far from his methods. I typically pop it in avocado oil, given the higher smoke point. At the end of popping, I sprinkle on salt, pepper and nutritional yeast. The nutritional yeast gives the popcorn a cheesy flavor and an extra vitamin and mineral boost without the cheese.”

Basheerah Enahora, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of BE Nutrition LLC

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9 Sweet and Savory Ways to Dress Up Popcorn originally appeared on usnews.com