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Food Fight: Low Sugar Cereal vs Popcorn

Especially for parents, having sensible snacks available is a no-brainer. And if those snacks can provide some legit nutrition, well that’s a big bonus. At our house, cereal reigns supreme--favored over all other crunchy alternatives such as goldfish, whole wheat crackers, chips, anything!

But recently, I’ve investigated popcorn. And while all popcorn is NOT created equal, there are some really good options out there. “Good” meaning, low in saturated fat & sodium but high in fiber and protein. Wow! Some varieties of popcorn are true health foods.

And as any parent knows, all cereals are also not created equal. In fact many cereals are simply sugar AND sodium bombs. Really bad. But both Cheerios and Kix are good representatives of the healthier side of the morning munch.

Okay crunchy snacks, take your corners and get ready for judgment!

  • We focus on HEALTHY (low saturated fat) popcorn options. Many varieties can pack as much as 12 grams of fat in a serving. Read the label.
  • All fats are also not created equal and we note the differences in our analysis. Canola, Palm and Soybean oils are the most common in popcorn.

  Cheerios Kix TJs Reduced Guilt Popcorn Newman's Own Natural Flavor Microwave Orville Redenbacher Naturals Line Simply Salted 50% Less Fat Any Airpopped Popcorn*
Serving Size in grams 28 30 28 30 31 28
Equivalent in Cups 1 1.25 2.5 3.5 5.5     about 3
Calories 100 110 110 130 120 110
Total Fat 2 1 3 5 5 1.3
   Sat Fat 0 0 0 2 2.5 0
Sodium (mg) 160 180 60 200 300 2
Dietary Fiber 3 3 4 3 4 4
Soluble Fiber 1 0 0 0 0 0
Sugars 1 3 0 0 0 0.2
Protein 3 2 3 2 3 3.7

 First Four Ingredients

 Whole Grain Oats

 Whole Grain Corn

 Air popped popcorn



  Modified Corn Starch Corn Meal Canola Oil Palm oil Soybean oil  
  Sugar Sugar Salt salt salt  
  Salt Corn Bran   soybean oil    
Comments Fortified, so get 45-50% Iron requirement Also fortified & provides 45% Iron Iron 4% Iron 4-5%   Iron 4-5%


  • Most cereals are fortified with a load of vitamins & minerals. If getting these nutrients into your child is NOT an objective, we vote for popcorn as the superior snack -- healthy popcorn that is.
  • We give the blue ribbon to popcorn varieties with soybean or canola oil--not palm oil. 
  • Both soybean oil and canola oil have less saturated fatty acids, making it more heart healthy than palm oil. (1 Tablespoon of palm oil yields 7g saturated fatty acids versus soybean’s 2g.) Big difference! 
  • Soybean oil is also a better source of Vitamin K versus palm oil.  
  • Trader Joe’s reduced No Guilt Popcorn uses canola oil, which yields more Omega-3 essentials than soybean and has the least amount of saturated fats of any vegetable oil. 
  • Canola Oil controversy? Maybe.  Some people feel Canola is less natural given its origins and even classify it as genetically modified. We won’t weigh in on that argument here. But, keep in mind that for years farmers' have selectively bred plants to enhance certain desirable characteristics and suppress others. Canola oil didn't exist 50 years ago...nor did Fuji apples or seedless watermelons. 

For those wanting to better understand the controversy about Canola Oil, this site is helpful

Bottom Line: If you are not already enjoying popcorn as a healthy snack, consider it. 

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