10 Unhealthiest Store-Bought, Bagged Popcorn Brands

If you and your family are trying to make healthier decisions, it's no secret that coming up with delicious, satisfying snacks can be tough. There's a ton of processed treats out there, the snack aisle at the grocery store is lined with an almost overwhelming number of options, and there's only so much time you have to check labels, right? Snacking would be straightforward in a perfect world, but our world is anything but perfect.

Fortunately, there's popcorn — which is widely hailed as a great choice for healthy snacking. And it is! Although popping your own popcorn is definitely something you can and should do, it's not always easy to do, particularly if you're in the office or on the road. Even when you're home, there are times you just want to get the movie started, and in that case, bagged popcorn can be perfectly legit.

Like other snacks, there's a ton of options out there for bagged popcorn. White cheddar and caramel corn have both been a staple of bagged popcorn for a long time, but these days, there are almost as many choices to be made for popcorn as for chips! Not all are created equal, though, and it turns out that just because it's popcorn, that doesn't mean that it's a healthy snack. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the most unhealthy brands and which brands come with not only popcorn, but a surprising amount of salt, sugar, and even fat.

1. G.H. Cretors

There's no denying that G.H. Cretors has some delicious-sounding popcorn flavors. Ranch & Bacon? Farmhouse Butter? Caramel & Cheddar Cheese? That all sounds pretty great, but take a look at the labels and it turns out that no, popcorn flavors with words like "butter" and "caramel" in the name don't make for a healthy snacking option.

Let's start with the serving size because that's important. G.H. Cretors considers 2 cups of the Farmhouse Butter popcorn to be a single serving, and each bag has 4.5 servings. Pour out one serving, and that's going to include 170 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 220 milligrams of sodium. Let's compare that to air-popped popcorn: Three cups of that has just 93 calories, 1.1 grams of fat, and 1.9 milligrams of sodium. That really puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

The Caramel & Cheddar Cheese isn't too much better than the Farmhouse Butter, which might be expected when you see that sugars are pretty high on the ingredient list. At a glance, it looks like there are fewer calories (130), fat (7 grams), and sodium (180 milligrams), but it's also important to note the smaller serving size of 1.25 cups. And that brings up an important point: It's crucial to read labels in their entirety, and not just compare things like calories and fat. Serving sizes are crucial because they help tell the whole picture.

2. Lance

Lance is a snacking staple, and between the crackers, nuts, seeds, and popcorn, it's all covered. Should these snacks be considered a healthy option? Not exactly, and let's start with the Movie Theater Butter flavor. A 2.5-cup serving has 160 calories, 11 grams of fat, and a whopping 250 milligrams of sodium. Considering that the American Heart Association suggests we should all be aiming for an ideal 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, that serving of popcorn is going to take a huge chunk out of that, without giving the vital nutrients that go along with other kinds of foods.

The Hot Cheese Popcorn is worse when it comes to sodium. The same size serving has 150 calories and 9 grams of fat, and 320 milligrams of sodium, making this one salty snack. While the White Cheddar might seem like a better option, it's really not. A smaller serving size — 21 grams, as opposed to 28 grams of the other two — has 120 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 220 milligrams of sodium. 

And that's another great example of how product labels can be tricky: It wouldn't be unreasonable to assume Lance would list the nutritional values by using the same serving size. If you're eating two cups of Movie Theater Butter popcorn, it's not unreasonable to think you'd be eating two cups of White Cheddar, too — but that's not how the labels read. (And there are more words that show up on food labels that are red flags.)

3. Popcornopolis

The Double Drizzle from Popcornopolis includes both caramel corn and kettle corn, which is then topped with chocolate. Delicious, sure, but let's take a look at the labels. Let's also change the listed 1-cup serving size to a 2-cup serving size that will make it more comparable to the other popcorn on our list. In that case, we're talking about 280 calories, 14 grams of fat, 190 milligrams of sodium, and 24 grams of added sugars — which is about the recommended daily intake. 

The Takis Fuego popcorn is already described with a serving size of two cups, which has 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, and a shocking 670 milligrams of sodium. That's almost half of the American Heart Association's ideal daily sodium intake, for those playing along at home. In just a few cups of popcorn!

Right, so what about the more standard varieties? The Caramel & Kettle Popcorn bag doesn't come with chocolate, but a glance at the label reveals that it has 130 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 150 milligrams of sodium ... but that's for a 1.25-cup serving size. Even the Nearly Naked variety — which sounds like it's going to be just popcorn and a bit of flavor for deliciousness — isn't a heck of a lot better. One 4-cup serving comes with 130 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 180 milligrams of sodium. That's better, but it's still a far cry from the goodness you get if you pop it yourself.

4. Candy Pop Popcorn

Admittedly, this one is kind of a no-brainer. Popcorn is healthy, but when you add Snickers, M&Ms, Twix, Oreos, Fruity Pebbles, and Butterfinger pieces to it, things go sideways pretty quickly ... even if it does sound like a brilliant idea. Let's just take some highlights, starting with Snickers. Why? We found it's one of America's favorite candy bars. This popcorn form of the country's favorite has 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, and while there's a completely reasonable 15 milligrams of sodium, there's also 12 grams of added sugars — about a quarter of what you should be getting in a day. And that's all served up in a relatively small 1.25-cup serving. 

Twix is another candy favorite, and the Twix variety is pretty similar as far as nutritional values go. How do the cookie-inspired popcorn stack up? Strangely, they're also pretty similar: The Oreo popcorn is measured in the same serving size, and it has slightly less fat and slightly more sodium.

So, here's a question: How does that stack up against actual Oreos? Three Oreos have 160 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 135 milligrams of sodium. While we know that there's no wrong way to eat an Oreo (although Oreo itself says that yes, there is a "best" way), expecting it to be made healthier by popcorn just isn't going to happen. Sorry! While this is definitely a way to satisfy a sweet tooth, moderation is still key.

5. Cracker Jack

Cracker Jack is one of those great, classic snacks, but here's the thing: The first ingredients listed are sugar and corn syrup — both of those are listed ahead of popcorn even though we now know that corn syrup definitely isn't on anyone's list of healthy foods. Studies have linked it to things like an increased risk of fatty liver disease, obesity, diabetes, and an increase in chronic inflammation, which can lead to all kinds of other health problems up to and including some types of cancers. 

At the heart of the problem is the fact that our bodies struggle to process corn syrup into usable components, and all that extra work and extra steps aren't good for us. And that's one of the biggest problems with Cracker Jack. When it comes to the actual numbers, it's not too far removed from some of the other popcorn brands we've been talking about. One 1.25-ounce serving has 150 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, and a relatively low 90 milligrams of sodium. But again, note the serving size — it's smaller than most bagged popcorn.

Is low sodium enough to forgive Cracker Jack's other problems? That's for everyone to decide for themselves, but it does seem as though the first ingredient in bagged popcorn should be, well popcorn. Still, there's no denying that Cracker Jack has a long and fascinating history full of fun facts.

6. Sweet Chaos

There are several lines of popcorn sold under the Sweet Chaos label, and it definitely lives up to the name. These varieties are pretty great if you're looking for something outside of the norm, healthy isn't really too much of an option.

Let's look at a sampling of the standard sorts of flavors, like Jalapeño Blue Cheese. Sounds incredible, but a 2-cup serving comes with 180 calories, 15 grams of fat, and a whopping 400 milligrams of sodium. That's way more than is included in the Sea Salt, which has 240 milligrams of sodium in a 3.5-cup serving. And that? That's a great example of why reading labels is important: If you thought getting the jalapeño flavor was making a better choice than the one with "salt" literally in the name, you'd be mistaken.

Sweet Chaos also has a line of drizzled popcorn, and if you'd assume that the Cake Batter drizzle isn't a healthy choice, you'd be correct. With a serving size of just over one cup, you're getting 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 65 milligrams of sodium, and 14 grams of added sugar. The other drizzled flavors aren't that much better or different, and strangely, for the peanut butter cup variety those numbers are included in a serving size of 1.25 cups. This might be a pet peeve, but reading labels at the store and comparing nutrition between varieties of the same brand shouldn't require a calculator and head math.

7. Smartfood

When we polled readers to find out what everyone's favorite popcorn brand was, Smartfood came in at a comfortable second. It makes sense, considering there's a ton of different varieties available, some amazing, limited-time flavors (like the Krispy Kreme-Smartfood collaboration that was the popcorn we didn't know we needed), and surely, it has to be healthy ... right? Look at the name!

Take a look at the labels, and it turns out that while Smartfood is a better choice than some of the others we've talked about, it still can't hold a candle to the kind of popcorn you pop yourself. (For a refresher, that popcorn has 93 calories, 1.1 grams of fat, and 1.9 milligrams of sodium for a 3-cup serving.) Different Smartfood varieties have different values, so let's look at the Movie Theater Butter. That same three cups has 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 240 milligrams of sodium, while the Flamin' Hot White Cheddar has 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 200 milligrams of sodium for a smaller, 2.5-cup serving size. 

What about the Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn? At a glance, it doesn't seem as bad: 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 110 milligrams of sodium. Is there a but? Of course there is. This one also has 12 grams of added sugar, and those numbers are actually for a serving size that's only 1.5 cups. (Seriously, what is it with the different serving sizes?)

8. Trader Joe's

Sure, we love Trader Joe's. Who doesn't? They're literally everything that anyone could want in a grocery store, and when it comes to snacks, the fun flavors of popcorn you're likely to find on the shelves are tantalizing, without a doubt. However, Trader Joe's reputation doesn't mean that everything that's on the shelves is a good deal, a great buy, or a healthy choice — and that goes for the Trader Joe's brand Movie Theater Popcorn. 

While "Movie Theatre Popcorn" should arguably be a clue that it's going to come with some unwanted fat, calories, and salt, this goes above and beyond. In this case, a 2-cup serving has 160 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 200 milligrams of sodium. Open Food Facts actually gives this a "D" rating, citing things like high salt, fat, and saturated fats.

Other popcorn varieties from Trader Joe's hover around the same values. Popcorn Pickle has even more sodium — 310 milligrams — while the White Cheddar popcorn is slightly higher in calories. Values for the White Truffle look similar, but a smaller serving size means that this one's a little deceiving at-a-glance. The best bet? Piquant Popcorn, which still doesn't come close to the air-popped popcorn you make in your own kitchen, but isn't as terrible as some of the other options. (Now, take a look at some of the unhealthiest foods that are on offer from Trader Joe's.)

9. Cheetos Popcorn

If we're talking about the perfect snack, Cheetos are going to come into the conversation. And here's the thing: We learned that Cheetos are actually engineered to have the perfect amount of everything, from crunch to buttery goodness. The idea of a Cheetos-flavored popcorn is putting two incredible things together to form one snack that seriously, where has this been all our lives? That said, it might be an amazing idea, but it's not a healthy one.

One serving size is 28 grams, which is about two cups. For both the Cheetos Cheddar and the Cheetos Jalapeño, that comes with 160 calories and 11 grams of fat. The former also has 260 milligrams of sodium, while the latter has 210 milligrams. That's a lot for popcorn, but how does it stack up against actual Cheetos? 

Our inquiring minds wanted to know, and it's actually surprising stuff. The serving size for Cheetos is by weight, and it's the same: 28 grams. And strangely, the nutritional information is almost the same, too, with 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 250 milligrams of sodium. Interesting? We thought so, and there — there's a thing you know now!

10. Pop Daddy

Pop Daddy is another company that puts out some fun varieties of popcorn, and we can totally get behind thinking outside-the-box. Unfortunately, some of those varieties come with more than you might be bargaining for if you'd like to try something different. Take the Dill Pickle: One 2.5-cup serving comes with 120 calories (which isn't bad), 6 grams of fat, and a shocking 430 milligrams of sodium. That's almost a third of what the American Heart Association says should be the ideal sodium intake for an entire day, so that's some food for thought.

The Smoked Gouda isn't much better, and even though the serving size is slightly bigger, that doesn't really make the 350 milligrams of sodium that much healthier. The Buttery Caramel Corn has yet a different serving size of two cups, which includes 120 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, and 210 milligrams of sodium ... as well as 18 grams of sugars, which is about 35% of your daily recommended intake.

And here's the thing. Even the Original variety has 140 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 196 milligrams of sodium in a 2.5-cup serving size. That's with no fun flavors, no unique tastes, just ... popcorn. The bottom line, then, is that it's much, much healthier to pop your own than it is to opt for the shortcut that these brands are offering.


Popcorn is generally a pretty healthy snack, especially when you make it yourself and can control exactly what goes on it. That's why it's so easy to get stuck in the mindset that picking up a bag of popcorn at the store is just as healthy. So, when we set out to figure out what popcorn brands should be considered more akin to chips and Cheetos than air-popped popcorn, we went right to the labels to look at a few things.

We compared stats like calories, fat, and sodium content, but there was a little more to it. Added sugars were also taken into consideration, especially considering many varieties of popcorn are dressed up with things like chocolates and caramel. We also looked at serving sizes, finding that it varied greatly between not just brands, but varieties — and once we took that into account, we were surprised to find that some popcorns that may have seemed reasonable at a glance turned into a wildly unhealthy snack.