Did you know that popcorn is actually a whole grain? A diet rich in whole grains is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and gastrointestinal disorders, so why is popcorn considered unhealthy?

The answer is usually found in the toppings. Most popcorn options are full of unhealthy fats, additives, and sugar. They're delicious as an occasional indulgence but not great for everyday snacking. Preparing popcorn at home from scratch gives you total control over what goes into it, so you can make it just as healthful or decadent as you want in the moment. Let these topping suggestions inspire you.

Sea Salt and Black Pepper Popcorn

This simple yet delicious topping requires just two ingredients: sea salt and black pepper (whole peppercorns are best). Make sure to grind the spices as finely as possible and add them to the popcorn while it's still warm. This way, they should stick without any oil. If not, lightly mist the popcorn with water or a little olive oil to help the seasoning stick.

To keep this option even healthier, figure out the least amount of saltiness you enjoy; too much sodium is associated with high blood pressure.

Popcorns on a decorated bowl with salt an pepper and a glass of soda over a wodden table. Odu Mazza/ Getty Images


Lemon and Parmesan Popcorn

This Italian-inspired topping combines the freshness of lemon zest with the nuttiness of parmesan. Mix a little good-quality olive oil with freshly grated parmesan, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt and pepper for a healthy, moreish snack. If possible, opt for the real deal—Parmigiano Reggiano—as it is relatively low in fat and packed full of protein, calcium, and gut-friendly bacteria.

Salty crunchy fresh homemade popcorn flavored with lemon peel and rosemary scent in a wooden bowl on a simple wooden background. AnnaIleysh/ Getty Images


Chili and Lime Popcorn

Try tossing freshly-popped corn with a mixture of lime juice, lime zest, chili powder, and a pinch of salt for a healthy snack with a kick. There's no need for butter or oil, which keeps the fat content down, and the spicy zing will please your tastebuds without needing too much sodium.

Mexican pop corn with hot sauce and chili powder carlosrojas20/ Getty Images


Garlic and Herb Popcorn

Combine garlic powder with dried herbs and a pinch of salt and pepper for a tasty savory snack. Oregano and thyme work particularly well, but each herb will bring something different to the mix.

A little olive oil will enhance the flavor and help the seasoning to stick. Garlic is another flavor option that packs a punch, so you don't need much added salt or butter to really taste it.

Popcorn sprinkled with seasoning IslandLeigh/ Getty Images


Ranch Dressing Popcorn

Enjoy the classic flavor of ranch dressing by combining dried dill, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Nutritional yeast is a great addition to this mixture and offers a little boost of protein and B vitamins. Make this seasoning from scratch instead of using a packet mix to avoid any unnecessary additives.

Homemade popcorn filled with spices and grains. Perfect snack for movie days at home. MmeEmil/ Getty Images


Taco Seasoning Popcorn

Combine chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, chili powder, dried oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper for a delicious spicy popcorn topping. Shop-bought taco seasoning works too, but look for one without too much salt.

If you like it fiery, use a little hot sauce to help the seasoning stick.

Popcorn falling or pouring in to wooden bowl. PrathanChorruangsak/ Getty Images


Coconut Curry Popcorn

For an exotic twist, try tossing fresh popcorn in a little warm coconut oil and some curry powder. Add toasted unsweetened coconut flakes to boost the coconut flavor.

Despite its healthy reputation, coconut oil is high in saturated fat which has been linked to raised cholesterol levels and heart disease, so use it sparingly and not just as a 1:1 butter replacement.

Curry Popcorn LauriPatterson/ Getty Images


Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn

Not just for winter, cinnamon is a delicious seasoning choice all year round. Mix some cinnamon with a little powdered sugar and sprinkle over freshly-popped corn. Alternative sugars, like coconut or maple, work nicely here too; they aren’t necessarily healthier, but they are less processed and have unique flavor profiles.

cinnamon flavored popcorn in the yellow glass and on the brown wood table with cinnamon background 100/ Getty Images


Chocolate Popcorn

In moderation, chocolate can be good for you. Cocoa contains phenolic antioxidants that lower inflammation, prevent oxidative stress, and have a positive effect on mental health.

Mix some good quality cocoa powder with a little powdered sugar and shake over fresh popcorn. Add some cinnamon and a pinch of chili to boost the flavor.

Chocolate pop corn in brown and pink molka/ Getty Images


Gingerbread Cookie Popcorn

For a sweet and spicy treat, try sprinkling a mixture of ground ginger, cinnamon, and powdered sugar over warm popcorn. Ginger has been used in traditional medicine for centuries and adds a wonderful warmth and spicy kick to any snack.



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