Popcorn is literally my favorite food. So when I find myself in airports or gas stations, I often buy ready-to-eat popcorn like Boom Chicka Pop. After eating probably 25+ bags of this stuff myself, I finally decided to do a deep dive into the nutrition… The results? Not so pretty.
Boom Chicka Pop is not very healthy. Even the healthiest flavors, Sea Salt Popcorn and Avocado Oil Popcorn, get about half their calories from processed oil. The flavors with sugar, cheese, and chocolate are more calorically dense yet. Boom Chicka Pop also has about twice the salt of Skinny Pop.
Below, I’ll answer 9 more specific health questions about Boom Chicka Pop. Does it count as “processed”? Is it good for weight loss? And more! Then I’ll end with a tip on how to make the healthiest popcorn possible at home (it saves money, too).
Table of Contents
- Is Boom Chicka Pop “Processed”?
- Does Boom Chicka Pop Have Sugar?
- Is Boom Chicka Pop Good for Weight Loss?
- Is Boom Chicka Pop Healthier Than Skinny Pop?
- Does Boom Chicka Pop Count as a Whole Grain?
- Is Boom Chicka Pop High in Sodium?
- What’s the Healthiest Flavor of Boom Chicka Pop?
- Is Boom Chicka Pop Vegan?
- Is Boom Chicka Pop Microwave Popcorn Healthy?
- How to Make Healthy Popcorn at Home
1. Is Boom Chicka Pop “Processed”?
Boom Chicka Pop contains processed sunflower oil. In fact, more than half of the calories in Boom Chicka Pop come from oil. This makes it a processed food despite containing a whole grain (popcorn) and only 3 total ingredients.
First, let’s clarify what “processed” really means in practical terms. Because cutting a piece of fruit in half could be called “processing,” but that has no real impact on nutritional value. So that’s not what we really mean by “processed food.”
Also, the number of ingredients should not determine how “processed” a food is. Think about it this way: Cotton candy is often just sugar, artificial flavor, and artificial color—just 3 ingredients! But is cotton candy processed food? Of course it is.
I prefer using a description from Dr. Michael Greger in his book How Not to Die. Dr. Greger describes his ideal “Green Light” foods as “foods of plant origin to which nothing bad has been added and from which nothing good has been taken away.”
So, to me, when you ask whether Boom Chicka Pop is “processed,” you’re really asking whether anything bad has been added to the original plant ingredients, or whether anything good has been taken away from them.
And sunflower oil is an ingredient that is definitely processed by this definition. It comes from sunflower seeds. The seeds are pressed to extract their oil, and then the fiber (a good, healthy part) is removed.
In some cases, hexane is also used to extract more oil from the seeds. The hexane is removed in a later step, but there are small amounts of hexane that often remain in the final product. Some people worry about these residues.
So, I would count Boom Chicka Pop as processed food. And for the same reason, I would also say Boom Chicka Pop doesn’t really count as “clean eating” in the strictest sense.
For a related topic, see below on whether Boom Chicka Pop is a whole grain.
2. Does Boom Chicka Pop Have Sugar?
Three flavors of Boom Chicka Pop do not contain sugar: Sea Salt Popcorn, Avocado Oil Popcorn, and Real Butter Popcorn. All the other flavors contain at least 2 grams of sugar per serving (up to 12 grams), usually from added cane sugar.
Here is a table showing the sugar per serving in each flavor. I’ve marked the sugar-free flavors in green and the highest-sugar flavors in red:
|Boom Chicka Pop Flavor||Sugar (per serving)||Total Carbs (per serving)|
|Sea Salt Popcorn||0g||16g|
|Sweet Salty Kettle Corn||8g||18g|
|Salted Maple Flavored Kettle Corn||8g||19g|
|White Cheddar Popcorn||2g||15g|
|Cheddar Cheese Popcorn||3g||14g|
|Strawberry Greek Yogurt Drizzled Kettle Corn||12g||20g|
|Dark Chocolate Flavored Drizzled Sea Salt Kettle Corn||11g||19g|
|Avocado Oil Popcorn||0g||19g|
|Caramel & Cheddar Popcorn Mix||12g||22g|
|Light Kettle Corn||5g||21g|
|Real Butter Popcorn||0g||15g|
I want to share just a couple more points about sugar in Boom Chicka Pop:
- The White Cheddar Popcorn flavor has 2g of sugar per serving, but the sugar in that flavor comes solely from milk, not from refined cane sugar.
- Keep in mind: All carbs in Boom Chicka Pop are fairly quick-digesting carbs, as popcorn is a puffed grain. This means the carbs may spike blood-sugar levels to some degree, despite not containing sugar. (More info on glycemic index for whole grains in “Whole Grain Hierarchy.”)
3. Is Boom Chicka Pop Good for Weight Loss?
The simplest flavors of Boom Chicka Pop contain only 150 calories for about 4 cups of popcorn. This makes it a good snack for weight loss when eaten in moderation. However, the flavors with added sugar, chocolate, cheese, or milk ingredients are not as good for weight loss.
When you just eat popcorn with oil and salt, it’s usually not that bad in terms of calories. In fact, I always eat popcorn when I’m cutting. (I wrote more about that in my post on popcorn and bodybuilding.)
But when you start reaching for the more sugary flavors of Boom Chicka Pop, that’s when it can be fattening. It really makes a difference what flavors you choose. Let’s take a look.
With these simple, low-calorie flavors, you can eat around four whole cups for only 150 calories:
- Avocado Oil Popcorn: 150 calories in 4 1/3 cups (30g)
- Sea Salt Popcorn: 150 calories in 3 3/4 cups (28g)
But with the highest-calorie flavors, you can only eat a little over 1 cup, and you’ve already eaten around the same amount of calories:
- Strawberry Greek Yogurt Drizzled Kettle Corn: 170 calories in 1 1/4 cups (31g)
- Dark Chocolate Flavored Drizzled Sea Salt Kettle Corn: 170 calories in 1 1/4 cups (31g)
- Caramel & Cheddar Popcorn Mix: 130 calories in 1 1/3 cups (29 g)
If you choose the other kettle corn flavors, cheese flavors, or the Real Butter Popcorn flavor, it will be somewhere in between these two extremes.
If your goal is weight loss, I recommend choosing the more simple flavors without added sugar or milk ingredients: Sea Salt Popcorn or Avocado Oil Popcorn.
4. Is Boom Chicka Pop Healthier Than Skinny Pop?
Boom Chicka Pop is not healthier than Skinny Pop. If anything, Skinny Pop is healthier, as it contains much less sodium per serving. (And when it comes to other factors, the two products appear equal.)
In fact, the Original flavor of Skinny Pop has the same exact 3 ingredients as Boom Chicka Pop: Popcorn, Sunflower Oil, and Salt. So they’re equal in terms of the ingredients used.
But what about the amounts of each ingredient? Let’s take a look at the nutrition facts for Skinny Pop vs Boom Chicka Pop. I’ve marked the biggest difference in bold red and green:
|Nutrition Facts||Boom Chicka Pop (Sea Salt Popcorn)||Skinny Pop (Original Popcorn)|
|Serving Size||3 3/4 cups (28g)||3 3/4 cups (28g)|
As you can see, the only area where Boom Chicka Pop and Skinny Pop significantly differ nutritionally is salt. Boom Chicka Pop contains twice as much (at least in the Sea Salt Popcorn flavor).
Reducing your salt intake is particularly important if you have high blood pressure—but everyone should be mindful of their sodium intake. Americans especially tend to eat far too much.
5. Does Boom Chicka Pop Count as a Whole Grain?
Popcorn is a whole grain, so Boom Chicka Pop does contain whole grains. However, Boom Chicka Pop itself is not a “whole food,” as it also contains processed sunflower oil along with the popcorn.
I hope that explanation isn’t too confusing. Basically, popcorn itself is a whole grain…. But because the popcorn is covered in oil, Boom Chicka Pop is not compliant with a strictly whole-food diet.
In fact, more than half of the calories in Boom Chicka Pop (Sea Salt Popcorn flavor) come from the processed oil. So in that sense, it’s quite processed—despite containing a whole grain and only having 3 ingredients!
Also, keep in mind: Popcorn is a puffed grain. This is one of the less-healthy kinds of whole grains, relatively speaking. That’s because puffed grains are digested much more quickly than in-tact grains. They spike our blood-sugar levels more.
Many people will do just fine with puffed whole grains, but they shouldn’t be considered equally as healthy as in-tact whole grains. (Learn more in this video: “Whole Grain Hierarchy.”)
6. Is Boom Chicka Pop High in Sodium?
Boom Chicka Pop has between 90mg and 310mg of sodium per serving depending on the flavor. I would consider this moderate in sodium. The two flavors with the most sodium are White Cheddar Popcorn and Cheddar Cheese Popcorn.
Here is a table showing the amount of sodium per serving. Keep in mind that the serving size varies by flavor, but it’s always around 30g of popcorn:
|Boom Chicka Pop Flavor||Sodium (per serving)|
|Sea Salt Popcorn||150mg|
|Sweet Salty Kettle Corn||110mg|
|Salted Maple Flavored Kettle Corn||110mg|
|White Cheddar Popcorn||270mg|
|Cheddar Cheese Popcorn||310mg|
|Strawberry Greek Yogurt Drizzled Kettle Corn||90mg|
|Dark Chocolate Flavored Drizzled Sea Salt Kettle Corn||90mg|
|Avocado Oil Popcorn||140mg|
|Caramel & Cheddar Popcorn Mix||180mg|
|Light Kettle Corn||115mg|
|Real Butter Popcorn||190mg|
In the case of sodium, I don’t think it’s worth celebrating the two flavors with the lowest amount. In those flavors, the taste is just coming more from sugar, milk ingredients, and other processed ingredients. So, from what I can tell, they’re not healthier overall.
Again, when comparing the basic simple flavors, Boom Chicka Pop has double the sodium of Skinny Pop (see above).
7. What’s the Healthiest Flavor of Boom Chicka Pop?
I would argue that Avocado Oil Popcorn is the healthiest flavor of Boom Chicka Pop. The only processed ingredient is avocado oil, which is one of the healthiest cooking oils, containing mostly monounsaturated fat.
If you can’t find the Avocado Oil Popcorn flavor, then I’d say the second best option is the classic flavor Sea Salt Popcorn. Both are very “minimal” in their simple ingredients. The difference is the oil.
The Sea Salt Popcorn flavor uses sunflower oil. Now, sunflower oil isn’t the worst oil—but it contains quite a bit of omega-6 fat. Omega-6 fats can be pro-inflammatory if eaten in excess of the omega-3s you’re getting. (source)
Meanwhile, avocado oil is very similar in its fat profile to olive oil, which is widely praised as one of the healthiest oils. The only downside of avocado oil is that it’s often expensive. But it’s a great oil for health!
8. Is Boom Chicka Pop Vegan?
Boom Chicka Pop has five vegan flavors: Sea Salt Popcorn, Avocado Oil Popcorn, Sweet Salty Kettle Corn, Light Kettle Corn, and Salted Maple Flavored Kettle Corn. The six other flavors are not vegan, as they all contain milk ingredients.
Here is a table showing each specific flavor I was able to check. If you find new or limited edition flavors not on this table, then I wasn’t able to check them:
|Boom Chicka Pop Flavor||Is It Vegan?|
|Sea Salt Popcorn||Vegan|
|Sweet Salty Kettle Corn||Vegan|
|Salted Maple Flavored Kettle Corn||Vegan|
|White Cheddar Popcorn||No (Contains Milk)|
|Cheddar Cheese Popcorn||No (Contains Milk)|
|Strawberry Greek Yogurt Drizzled Kettle Corn||No (Contains Milk)|
|Dark Chocolate Flavored Drizzled Sea Salt Kettle Corn||No (Contains Milk)|
|Avocado Oil Popcorn||Vegan|
|Caramel & Cheddar Popcorn Mix||No (Contains Milk)|
|Light Kettle Corn||Vegan|
|Real Butter Popcorn||No (Contains Milk)|
9. Is Boom Chicka Pop Microwave Popcorn Healthy?
Boom Chicka Pop microwave popcorn is less healthy than their Ready-to-Eat popcorn for two reasons. First, the microwave popcorn uses palm oil, which is high in saturated fat. Second, the microwave popcorn contains much more sodium.
Most of this article has focused on Boom Chicka Pop’s Ready-to-Eat popcorn. But now let’s dig into their microwave popcorn. It mainly differs in two areas—the oil and the salt.
Let’s talk about the oil first. Boom Chicka Pop microwave popcorn has palm oil, while their Ready-to-Eat popcorn has sunflower oil. Which is healthier—palm oil or sunflower oil?
It seems that the scientific consensus is that sunflower oil is healthier. Why? Because palm oil contains a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol, which is a heart disease risk factor. Even when it’s plant-based saturated fat like palm oil! (source)
Granted, sunflower oil isn’t the perfect oil, either. It’s high in omega-6 fat, which may cause inflammation when eaten in excess, as it often is in today’s Standard American Diet.
But the data seems to show that switching from saturated fat (like palm oil) to polyunsaturated fat (like sunflower oil) results in less heart disease risk and better health. So that settles the oil question.
The other major difference I see between Boom Chicka Pop’s microwave vs ready-to-eat popcorn: The sodium! One serving of the microwave popcorn contains 250mg of sodium, compared to 150mg with the ready-to-eat version (“Sea Salt Popcorn” flavors).
The serving sizes are not exactly the same—but it’s close enough to tell that the sodium level is just much higher in the microwave version. As I covered above, we should all be watching our sodium intake.
So, my conclusion: Boom Chicka Pop’s Ready-to-Eat popcorn is healthier than their microwave popcorn.
How to Make Healthy Popcorn at Home
As discussed above, popcorn itself is a whole grain. It has fiber, and it’s pretty filling for the calories in popcorn itself. It’s just the oil, butter, excess salt, cheese, chocolate, or other such ingredients that often make popcorn unhealthy.
Even when most people make popcorn at home, they use cooking oil that dramatically raises the caloric density. This home-popped popcorn is not the worst food for you—it’s moderately healthy—but it’s not the best you can do, either.
When you air-pop your popcorn without oil, the caloric density goes way, way down. You can eat a huge bowl of air-popped popcorn, and it still won’t be many calories.
Granted, oil-free air-popped popcorn doesn’t taste quite as rich as oily or buttery popcorn. It can also take some extra effort to get the salt to stick on the popcorn kernels properly. But there are guides online to help with all of this.
If you can’t get down with oil-free popcorn, then at least pick your oil consciously. Avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil are the ones I would recommend. I explain why in my big post about oil.
More Popcorn Content for You
I’ve written a few other helpful guides to popcorn-related topics that you may want to read:
- Vegan Microwave Popcorn: The Ultimate Guide
- Popcorn and Bodybuilding: All Your Questions Answered
- Can You Pop Microwave Popcorn on the Stove?
Two More Recommendations for Your Vegan Journey
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