Can I eat popcorn on a low carb diet?

can i eat popcorn on a low carb diet

We all love getting a nice bucket of popcorn at the movies. However, if you have just started out on a low carb diet, you likely are curious to know if it’s still ok to enjoy this guilty pleasure.

Most people that start out on low carb or keto diets go through a phase where they have to reevaluate the types of foods that they consume.

Some foods rich in carbohydrates are obvious choices to avoid such as whole grain bread. However, there are other harmless snacks such as popcorn that most people are unsure about.

Before we determine if it is ok for you to eat popcorn given the specifics of your low carb diet, lets first check out the nutrition facts of popcorn.

Carbs in popcorn


A single serving of air popped popcorn is about 5 cups popped. This is the equivalent of a couple handfuls of popcorn. In a single serving of popcorn, there are about 30 grams of carbohydrates.

What does this mean…

Not all carbs are equal. To put things in perspective, there are simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs tend to be more processed foods that lack nutritional value. Examples of simple carbs would be wonder bread or sugary sweets.

Complex tend to whole foods that contain a much more nutritional value. Typically these are the carbs that you should be eating since they are much better for the body than simple carbs. Examples of these carbs would be oatmeal, whole grain bread, and sweet potato.

Popcorn, being 100 percent whole grain is an excellent course of complex carbs. Ultimately, whether you are on a low carb diet or not, these are the sort of carbohydrates that you should be eating, to begin with. They are simply better for you than simple carbs.

How much popcorn can you eat on a low carb diet?

The answer to this question depends on how many carbs you are planning on eating in your low carb diet. Typically, a low carb diet requires 50 to 150 grams of carbohydrates a day. A person on a regular diet would require anywhere between 200 to 350 grams of carbs a day. The exact number of carbohydrates required per person depends largely on numerous different factors including your body weight, the amount you exercise, and your fitness goals.

Let’s say that you are on a super low carb diet of only 50 carbs a day. In this case, you should really plan out your carb intake wisely.

On this low carb a diet, eating a single serving of popcorn (about 30 grams of carbs) will get you over halfway to your daily carb limit. Eating two servings of popcorn will put you slightly over your daily limit.

Let’s say you are on a low carb diet with a daily carb limit of 150 grams of carbohydrates. In this case, eating one serving of popcorn would amount to about a fifth of your daily carb needs. You would have some room to spare.

If you are on a ketogenic diet that requires that you eat no carbs at all, or very little carbs, you should not consider popcorn as an option.

The bottom line is that you certainly can eat popcorn on a low carb diet. However, you should determine for yourself if popcorn carbs are the carbs that you would like to eat to meet your carbohydrate limit for the day.

If you find that you can certainly fit a few handfuls of popcorn in your diet then, by all means, go ahead!

Why shouldn’t you eat popcorn on a low carb diet?


Popcorn tends to be a rather unfulfilling food. Its like candy in a sense that it may taste good but really doesn’t fill you up at all. In turn, you may find that you have eaten half your daily carb limit and then find that you are still extremely hungry! No one wants to endure that.

In addition, popcorn is considered an “addictive” food. This means that once you start eating it, it can be very difficult to stop yourself from eating too much. For those on low carb diets, this can be dangerous.

Other considerations

One other thing to keep in mind is that butter may also be an issue in your diet.

Although butter is a fat and not a carb, if you are restricting your carb intake you very well may be cautious about eating tons of fats as well.

Keep in mind that there is a big difference between the amount of fat in movie theater popcorn and plain popcorn that you can make yourself.

Low carb snack substitutes for popcorn

If there was such thing as low carb popcorn, it would be recommended as a low carb popcorn substitute. In case you were wondering however, such a thing does not exist.

However, there are keto-friendly, low carb substitute snack for popcorn that you can try out.

Salami bitessalami bites

Salami bites are a great snack for anyone following keto or low carb diets.

A typical serving of salami bites contain about 8 grams of protein, 8 grams of fats, and you guessed it, zero carbs.

Salami bites are great if you are on a ketogenic diet and need a little bit of extra fat intake. However, if you are trying to reduce the amount of fat you eat, then hold back from eating too many salami bites.

Cheese sticksstring cheese

String cheese sticks are another good option for anyone on a low carb diet.

String cheese sticks contain around 6 grams of protein, 6 grams of fats and one or zero grams of carbs.


Some nuts are amazing sources of proteins and healthy fats with very few carbs. Other nuts however actually do contain a fair number of carbohydrates.

Some great low carb nuts include pecans, brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts.


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