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NUTRITION BREAK

Celebrate National Popcorn Day

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Did you know Nebraska ranks first in popcorn production in the United States producing more than 360 million pounds annually? And that National Popcorn Day is observed every year on Jan. 19?

It’s a great day to celebrate with a bowl of this favorite snack. Who doesn’t love the smell of a freshly popped batch? It’s even budget-friendly — a quart of popped popcorn costs as little as 15 cents.

Plain popcorn is an excellent, whole-grain, high-fiber snack (about 1 g fiber for 1 cup). Compared with other snack foods, popcorn is low in calories. It does depend however, on what you may add to your popcorn. Here is a comparison:

  • Air-popped, 30 calories per cup
  • Oil-popped, 55 calories per cup
  • Buttered, 65 to 120 calories per cup (depending on how much butter you add)
  • Caramel-coated, 160 calories per cup

Popcorn needs heat to pop. Most popcorn will pop when the kernel’s internal temperature reaches 400-460 degrees F. Without moisture popcorn can’t pop. Each kernel needs to contain 13.5% to 14% water. That’s why it’s important to store popcorn correctly.

An entire percentage of moisture can be lost if your kernels are left uncovered on a hot day. And though that may not sound like a lot, it adds up. A loss of 3% can make popcorn unpoppable and even a 1% drop in moisture will harm the quality of your kernels.

So what’s the best way to store popcorn? Airtight containers — plastic or glass — are your best bet to avoid moisture loss, especially when stored in a cool place like a cupboard. Avoid the refrigerator. Some say the cold storage makes the popcorn taste better, but many refrigerators contain little moisture and can dry out kernels.

Put popped popcorn on top of soups or salads, season plain popcorn with garlic powder, or season the popping oil with spices to create a lightly flavored savory treat.

Try combining popcorn with dried fruit and nuts to create your own custom snack mix. Here’s an easy recipe to you get you started:

Fish Bait Snack Mix

  • 2 cups popcorn
  • 1 cup pretzel sticks
  • 1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1 cup small fish-shaped crackers
  • 1-3/4 cups non-sweetened oat cereal

Wash hands with soap and water.

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.

Store in a tightly covered container.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per (1 cup) serving: calories 140, total fat 3g, saturated fat 0.5g, cholesterol 0mg, sodium 250mg, total carbohydrates 26g, fiber 0g, total sugars 6g, includes 0g added sugars, protein 3g.

Cami Wells is an Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact her at 308-385-5088 or at cwells2@unl.edu. Visit the Hall County website at www.hall.unl.edu

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