A Guide to Diabetes-Friendly Movie Snacks

Skip the soda and candy for healthier snack options.

Medically reviewed in February 2021

Movies and snacks go hand in hand. Unfortunately, if you have diabetes, you should avoid candy, soda, movie theater popcorn and most of the other snacks on sale at the concession stand. Candy and soda are, unsurprisingly, loaded with sugar. And while small servings of air-popped popcorn are okay, movie theater popcorn is not. Even small sizes with no added butter contain high amounts of carbohydrates, sodium and saturated fats.

But just because you need to avoid these snacks at the movies doesn’t mean you need to avoid snacks altogether. Try these tips for healthier eating the next time you head to the theater. (These also work if you're streaming something at home.)

Don’t go in hungry
Ever heard that you should never shop for groceries when you’re hungry? The same logic applies here. Brightly colored candy wrappers and the smell of freshly popped popcorn can be tough to resist at the best of times, and the urge to make an impulse purchase is only compounded if you’re arriving to the theater with an appetite. Set yourself up for success by eating a well-balanced meal before heading to the show.

Skip the soda
Avoid soda and opt for drinks like water, unsweetened iced tea and unsweetened flavored seltzers.

Bring your own snacks
Policies about outside food and drinks vary from theater to theater. So, use your best judgment if you decide to pack your own snack. You should abide by common courtesies, too: Be discreet, don’t make a mess and steer clear of hot food, food that has a strong smell or food with noisy packaging. Try combinations of these snack suggestions:

Non-starchy veggies

  • Baby carrots
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Pea pods
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Celery

Proteins

  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds

Starchy carbs

  • Whole-grain pretzels
  • Homemade, air-popped popcorn
  • Baked tortilla chips
  • Brown rice cakes

Fruits

  • Strawberries
  • Apple slices
  • Blueberries

You can also look into snacks like roasted chickpeas, dehydrated green beans or diabetes-friendly homemade granola, which packs a mix of protein and carbs. Be sure to check nutritional information, which will vary between different packaged foods and recipes.

Pay attention to portion sizes
Last but not least, it can be hard to keep track of how much you’ve eaten while a movie is playing. So, portion out your snacks before you go. For example, if you’re packing something like almonds or roasted chickpeas, weigh or count out your portion before you hit the theater instead of taking along the entire bag.

Sources:

Kate Ashford. “Shopping Hungry? You'll Spend More (Even If You're Not Buying Food).” Forbes.com. February 25, 2015.
American Diabetes Association. “What Can I Eat?” July 18, 2019. Accessed November 12, 2020.
American Diabetes Association. “Eating Doesn’t Have to Be Boring.” 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.
American Diabetes Association. “Healthy Food Choices.” 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.
American Diabetes Association. “What Can I Eat?” 2015. Accessed November 12, 2020.
American Diabetes Association. “Fruit.” 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.
American Diabetes Association. “Eat good to feel good.” 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.
American Diabetes Association. “Non-starchy vegetables.” 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.

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