The biggest challenge for anyone who switches to the keto diet is letting go of their favorite high carb foods. As corn is not a keto friendly food, you may automatically assume that you cannot eat popcorn on the keto diet.
Ideally, popcorn isn’t the best keto snack food. If you can avoid popcorn when on the keto diet, you will be better off for it. Popcorn is not very filling, very easy to overeat, and is generally upwards of 40% carbs.
Having said that, at Shortcut Keto, we believe in everything in moderation.
We’ve all been there, where as soon as you go on a traditional “diet” and you think you can’t have a certain food, your brain tricks you into craving exactly that.
So, if you are really craving popcorn, don’t deny yourself. Instead, know how much popcorn you can eat on the keto diet and how this will affect your net carb count for the day.
Let’s get started…
Can You Eat Popcorn on the Keto Diet?
Since a keto diet restricts you to 20 grams of net carbs a day, you can eat a small serving of popcorn, occasionally, on the keto diet.
Depending on which popcorn you buy, some can be as low as 3 grams of net carbs per one cup serve.
Assuming you can restrict yourself to eating only one cup.
Let’s take a look at the different types of popcorn and how their net carbs differ.
Is Buttered Popcorn Keto?
Butter is one of the recommended food items during a keto diet. While this may be surprising news to some people, butter is free of carbs and has about 80% of fat.
Grass-fed raw butter, in particular, is the best option if you are on a ketogenic diet.
Contrary to what many people believe, adding butter or coconut oil to your popcorn does not hurt your diet. Instead, doing so will help you keep a check on your portion size and make you feel full and satisfied early so that you don’t overeat.
You can either cook the kernels in butter or add it as a seasoning later.
If purchasing pre-packaged butter popcorn, make sure you check the nutrition label for the serving size.
We looked at Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP Real Butter Popcorn which has 11 grams of net carbs per 3 and a half cup serve. If you ate half a serving (one and three quarter cups) this would be 5.5 grams of net carbs and much more manageable on the keto diet.
Can You Eat Cheese Popcorn on a Keto Diet?
Cheese popcorn can be eaten on a keto diet, but you’ll need to do so sparingly. It is slightly higher in net carbs than butter, salted or air popped popcorn, probably because of the cheese flavor that is used.
We looked at Skinny Pop White Cheddar Popcorn. The serving size per 28 gram packet is 3.5 cups of cheese popcorn. The total net carbs is 13 grams.
If you ate half this serving, that is, 1 and 3/4 cups of Skinny Pop White Cheddar Popcorn, the total net carbs would be 6.5 grams.
If you want to get into details and see all the nutritional benefits that you get from popcorn, air-popped popcorn, in particular, they are listed below with their quantity in three cups of the snack:
Movie Popcorn on Keto Diet
Before answering this particular question, let us talk about what kind of movie theatre popcorn you’re eating and how much of it.
If you are consuming one cup of popped popcorn in a movie theatre, the chances are that it has around 55 calories and 6 grams of carbohydrates.
If you eat three cups of movie theatre popcorn, your total consumption would be 150 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates.
How many cups do you think are in a movie theater box or bucket of popcorn?
Usual serving sizes in movie theatres consists of about 6 to 11 cups of popcorn in an individual serving.
Needless to say, if you eat a whole container of popcorn by yourself, you will definitely exceed your carb limits for the day.
Is Microwave Popcorn Keto Friendly?
Did you know there are approximately 3 servings per bag of microwave popcorn? That’s the case for Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter Popcorn we looked at on Amazon.
Microwave popcorn and your regular popcorn have similar ratios and quantities of carbs, calories, and fat. For this reason, their consumption is not all that different from homemade popcorn. You can eat them while staying in your limits.
However, the only downside and negative aspect of eating microwave popcorn are that its packaging consists of chemicals.
There are varying opinions on the damaging effects on the body, linking microwave popcorn to cancer and lung disease in animals when consumed in large quantities.
We recommend doing your own research to determine if microwave popcorn is right for you.
From a keto diet perspective, you can eat microwave popcorn on the keto diet in small quantities without blowing out your daily carb limit.
Is Air Popped Popcorn Low Carb?
According to the USDA, excluding any butter, salt, and oil, 3 cups of air-popped popcorn contains:
- 93 calories
- 1.1 grams fat
- 18.6 grams carbohydrates
- 3.6 grams fiber
Take the fiber away from the carbohydrates to make net carbs and you are looking at 15 grams of net carbs per serve (3 cup serving size).
As you can see, it is not the butter or oil that’s the problem, it’s the corn.
If you divided up the serving size to a 1 cup serving, that would be 5 grams of net carbs.
Can You Have Kettle Corn on Keto?
Ah the delicious sweet and salty mixture of kettle corn. If you are going to eat kettle corn whilst on keto, be aware that there are additional carbs here.
The sweetness comes from cane sugar. Looking again at the popular Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP Kettle Corn, a one cup serving = 8 grams of net carbs.
If you looked at a more gourmet kettle corn, such as Popcornopolis Gourmet Popcorn, the net carbs per serve are approximately 9.5 grams. We do like that this popcorn is cooked in coconut oil. And it comes in a reusable tin.
Having said that, kettle corn isn’t the best choice for keto, due to the added sugar. If you decide to opt for kettle corn popcorn while on a ketogenic diet, just make sure you eat a very small portion and not any more.
Can You Eat Flavored Popcorn on a Keto Diet?
Unless you are one of those people who can eat a couple of pieces of flavored popcorn and not go back for anymore, stay well away from these whilst following a keto diet.
Zebra popcorn has cane sugar, corn syrup, corn oil and extra sugar in the chocolate icing (just to name a few of the nasties from the long ingredients list) for a whopping 20 grams of net carbs (no fiber) per 28 gram serve. Stay away from this one!
Caramel popcorn has less additives that zebra popcorn, but overall more carbs – due to the cane sugar and corn syrup. A 28 gram serving will put you over your daily carb limit, coming in at 21 grams of net carbs. Don’t do it!
How Much Popcorn Can You Have on a Keto Diet?
Not much! As we have discussed throughout the article, popcorn consumption on the keto diet should be limited to 1-2 cups per serving.
The carbs in this can vary from 3 to 9 or so depending on the type of popcorn you choose, and any flavors or seasoning added.
If you can limit yourself to 1-2 cups of popcorn as a snack, you could incorporate popcorn into your keto diet on the odd occasion.
It is certainly not a snack we would recommend every day, but every now and then won’t blow out your net carbs.
We created this handy infographic for you to refer to when needed:
What Can You Substitute For Popcorn When On a Keto Diet?
There are plenty of other keto friendly options than popcorn.
These include roasted nuts such as pecans and walnuts. You can put them in the oven season them lightly with salt until they turn light brown and crispy.
Moon Cheese is a crunchy substitute for popcorn with 2 grams of net carbs per serve.
Beef Jerky is a great keto friendly snack – although be wary of hidden sugars in some types of beef jerky. Some jerky’s have 4 grams of net carbs per serve because of the sugars! We like Tillamook Zero Sugar Beef Jerky – 0 net carbs per serve.
You can also eat Just The Cheese Bars. They are made of all-natural Wisconsin cheese and contain 1 gram of net carbohydrates in a single serving.
Homemade cheese crackers, olives, and salami chips are also great alternatives for popcorn.
What is The Best Popcorn For Keto?
Ideally, if you are going to eat popcorn on the keto diet, we recommend making it yourself at home. You can buy popcorn in most grocery stores or online at Amazon:
Cook the popcorn in coconut oil, grass fed butter or ghee. Alternatively, air pop the popcorn.
Season with salt. You could also add cheddar cheese if you like cheese popcorn to make the snack more filling.
What Exactly is Popcorn Made Of?
Popcorn is usually either yellow corn or white corn kernels. To make the corn “pop” it is generally cooked in oil. This includes butter flavored popcorn.
You can also get air popped popcorn, where hot air heats the corn kernels to a temperature causing them to pop.
A single serving of popcorn is more than just a one time movie snack. While you’re consuming this delicious and seemingly light food item, you’re actually eating around 15 grams of net carbs.
There are some beneficial vitamins and minerals in popcorn. These are:
The most common deficiency found in those who go on a keto diet for the long term is magnesium. This deficiency causes muscle cramps, irritability, and insomnia.
All of these symptoms can be a common experience in ketogenic diets, particularly as your body adjusts to keto foods.
To prevent these symptoms and maintain a healthy body, nutritionists and health experts often advise magnesium supplements along with the keto diet.
Around 200 to 400 mg of magnesium, every day, is considered beneficial when you are on a keto diet. A single serving of popcorn contains about 9% of this reference daily intake.
Similar to magnesium, 3 cups of popcorn also has 9% of the reference daily intake. But, unlike magnesium, a keto diet does not lack phosphorus.
You can find this nutrient in almost all the recommended food items in a ketogenic diet, including meat, seeds, and dairy.
Another essential nutrient that you need to pay attention to avoid a deficiency during the keto diet is manganese.
A single serving of popcorn has about 12% of the daily reference intake of manganese.
Ideally however, a manganese supplement would be a better choice than popcorn.
With only 6% of the daily reference intake of zinc, popcorn does not contribute a lot in maintaining zinc levels in your body.
Zinc is also found in meat, eggs, nuts, and seeds – all better low carb choices for the keto diet than popcorn.
A zinc supplement would also assist with zinc deficiencies.
Now you know that you can eat popcorn on the keto diet, sparingly. If you can’t live without popcorn, find a way to incorporate it into your diet whilst keeping your net carbs in check.
The most important thing to remember is that corn is a carbohydrate. Don’t overindulge, it will do you more harm than good.
Remember, the keto diet is a lifestyle. Try new low carb options instead of popcorn… you might just be surprised at how many low carb foods you can eat on keto that feel like you are treating yourself!