I loved microwave popcorn as a kid. I would literally rip open the bag and lick every inch of the inside. Well, today it’s time for me to face the music. I’ll be analyzing exactly how unhealthy all that popcorn was for me… Let’s look at Orville Redenbacher specifically.
Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn has healthy whole grains, and it’s free of diacetyl, PFAS, and artificial colors. However, it also has palm oil, resulting in ~15g of saturated fat per bag. That is over the recommended daily intake of saturated fat by the American Heart Association for a 2,000 calorie diet.
Below, I’ll discuss whether Orville Redenbacher popcorn counts as “processed food,” whether it’s good for weight loss, and how it compares to Pop Secret and Act II. I’ll end with a tip on how to get the healthiest popcorn possible (it saves money, too).
Is Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Bad for You?
Here are the 11 questions I’ll be answering about Orville Redenbacher popcorn nutrition. Click any of them to skip ahead to that section—or just keep scrolling to read them all:
- What Are the Ingredients in Orville Redenbacher?
- How Many Carbs Are in Orville Redenbacher Popcorn?
- Is Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Good for Weight Loss?
- Does Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Have Diacetyl?
- Does Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Have PFAS?
- Is Orville Redenbacher Popcorn High in Sodium?
- Is Orville Redenbacher Popcorn High in Fiber?
- Is Orville Redenbacher Healthier Than Pop Secret?
- Is Orville Redenbacher Healthier Than Act II?
- What Is a Healthy Alternative to Orville Redenbacher Popcorn?
- Is Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Vegan?
1. What Are the Ingredients in Orville Redenbacher?
Let’s start by looking at some actual Orville Redenbacher ingredients. We’ll look at 5 popular flavors. I’ll share my takeaway points below the table:
|Movie Theater Butter||Whole Grain Popping Corn, Palm Oil, Salt, Natural Flavor (Including Milk), Color Added (Annatto), Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E For Freshness).|
|Tender White||Whole Grain Popping Corn, Palm Oil, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E For Freshness), Natural Flavor (Including Milk).|
|Kettle Corn||Whole Grain Popping Corn, Palm Oil, Salt, Sucralose, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E For Freshness).|
|Naturals: Simply Salted||Whole Grain Popping Corn, Palm Oil, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E For Freshness).|
|SmartPop! Butter||Whole Grain Popping Corn, Palm Oil, Salt, Natural Flavor, Color Added (Annatto, Turmeric, Paprika), Butter, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E for Freshness).|
Here’s what I notice about these ingredients:
- Orville Redenbacher popcorn contains whole grain (popcorn). Most people don’t think of popcorn when they hear “whole grain,” but it actually is. And indeed, Orville Redenbacher popcorn has a few grams of fiber per serving, which is better than most chips and cookies. More on fiber below.
- Orville Redenbacher popcorn is free of artificial colors. Some flavors of Orville Redenbacher have yellow coloring, but the colors are natural: Annato, turmeric, and paprika. This is much better than artificial dyes like Yellow 5 or Red 40, which can cause hyperactivity in children.
- Orville Redenbacher popcorn has palm oil. Palm oil is a processed oil high in saturated fat. Most health orgs recommend limiting saturated fat, as it can elevate LDL cholesterol and heart disease risk. Oil is generally the worst aspect of popcorn nutritionally, and palm oil is likely even worse than canola or other vegetable oils.
- Many Orville Redenbacher flavors have dairy ingredients. This isn’t a negative for everyone—but if you’re lactose intolerant, vegan, or otherwise dairy-free, then beware. (But the Kettle Corn and Simply Salted flavors are dairy-free.)
- Orville Redenbacher Kettle Corn has sucralose. This artificial sweetener is a bit controversial. It may have bad effects on gut bacteria, potentially causing insulin resistance or other issues. (Only the Kettle Corn has sucralose. Most flavors don’t have it.)
As you can see, Orville Redenbacher contains a healthy whole grain (popcorn), but it’s cooked with an unhealthy ingredient (palm oil). So it’s not the worst snack, but not the best either.
- Is there MSG in Orville Redenbacher popcorn? Orville Redenbacher popcorn does not have monosodium glutamate (MSG).
2. How Many Carbs Are in Orville Redenbacher Popcorn?
Orville Redenbacher popcorn has between 16g and 22g of total carbs per serving of most flavors. That’s between 40g and 55g of carbs per bag. Orville Redenbacher popcorn is not low-carb or keto friendly.
Here’s a table showing the carbs in various Orville Redenbacher flavors. Keep in mind that there are 2.5 servings per bag of popcorn:
|Flavor||Serving Size||Total Carbs|
|Movie Theater Butter||~5.5 cups popped||17g|
|Tender White||~4 cups popped||16g|
|Kettle Corn||~4.5 cups popped||20g|
|Naturals: Simply Salted||~4.5 cups popped||18g|
|SmartPop! Butter||~5.5 cups popped||22g|
What about sugar content? All of these flavors have 0g of sugar per serving. Even the kettle corn has 0g of sugar, as it’s sweetened with sucralose, not sugar.
But keep in mind: All the carbs in Orville Redenbacher popcorn are fairly quick-digesting carbs, as popcorn is a puffed grain. This means it may spike blood-sugar levels to some degree, despite not having sugar.
3. Is Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Good for Weight Loss?
Orville Redenbacher popcorn is not the best food for weight loss, as it contains a lot of palm oil, which is high in calories. The high sodium content of Orville Redenbacher popcorn also makes it tempting to overeat. However, it can be eaten in moderation on a weight loss diet.
One of the most important principles for weight loss is calorie density. Foods with low calorie density fill up your stomach with few calories. This makes it easier to eat fewer calories and be satisfied. In contrast, high calorie density foods can be easier to overeat. (source)
Well, one of the foods with the highest calorie density is vegetable oil. Animal products (like butter) often have a high calorie density, too. Depending on the flavor, Orville Redenbacher popcorn has several such ingredients, so there is a risk of overeating it.
Can Orville Redenbacher popcorn make you fat? Yes, it could potentially contribute to weight gain. But by itself, a few servings of Orville Redenbacher popcorn will not ruin your weight loss diet, either. Weight loss depends on your overall diet and lifestyle.
If you’re burning more calories than you’re eating each day/week, you should lose weight. Eating Orville Redenbacher popcorn or other “processed foods” on occasion will not automatically ruin your diet, as long as your overall calorie deficit is in tact.
For more help with weight loss, check out this post with 18 tips for weight loss without counting calories.
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4. Does Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Have Diacetyl?
Orville Redenbacher popcorn no longer contains diacetyl. This chemical flavoring ingredient was removed from all Orville Redenbacher products in 2007, after it was found to cause lung disease.
Diacetyl was an ingredient used to create the butter flavor in microwave popcorn for years. However, it was later discovered that it caused a lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, nicknamed “popcorn lung.”
Diacetyl mostly harmed workers at popcorn factories, more than consumers. However, there was at least one consumer who was affected:
“To date, there is one known case of a consumer who has been affected by diacteyl — a Colorado man who ate at least two bags every night for several years. He developed severe lung disease after inhaling fumes from extra-buttery microwave popcorn.” (source)
In any case, you don’t need to worry about diacetyl in pretty much any major microwave popcorn brand today.
5. Does Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Contain PFAS?
Orville Redenbacher popcorn no longer has PFAS in its packaging.
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of chemicals that have been used in many products since the 1940s. However, they were later found to be harmful to humans. And even worse, PFAS were found to accumulate in your body over time. (source)
One of the foods containing PFAS was microwave popcorn. It was actually an issue of the packaging. The PFAS would seep into the food from the packaging. But is this still an issue today?
ConAgra has made a statement that they have transitioned away from using PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) in their Orville Redenbacher’s and Act II packaging years ago. So, PFAS should no longer be an issue with Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn.
6. Is Orville Redenbacher Popcorn High in Sodium?
Orville Redenbacher’s Popcorn is high in sodium, with 160mg to 440mg of sodium per serving, depending on the flavor. That comes out to 400mg to 1,100mg per bag. Meanwhile, the American Heart Association recommends a daily sodium limit of 2,300mg per day.
Here is a table showing the amount of sodium in various Orville Redenbacher flavors:
|Movie Theater Butter||~5.5 cups popped||380mg|
|Tender White||~4 cups popped||300mg|
|Kettle Corn||~4.5 cups popped||160mg|
|Naturals: Simply Salted||~4.5 cups popped||440mg|
|SmartPop! Butter||~5.5 cups popped||310mg|
Consuming too much sodium increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. So, be mindful of how your sodium content can add up while eating a whole bag (or multiple bags) of microwave popcorn.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting your sodium intake to 2,300mg per day, which is ~5 to 14 servings of Orville Redenbacher popcorn, depending on the flavor. However, the AHA is “moving toward an ideal limit” of 1,500mg per day, which is ~3 to 9 servings of Orville Redenbacher.
If you want a lower-sodium popcorn that is still salty, check out Skinny Pop. It only has 75mg of sodium per serving. That’s much, much lower than any Orville Redenbacher flavor I checked.
7. Is Orville Redenbacher Popcorn High in Fiber?
Orville Redenbacher popcorn has 2g to 4g of fiber per serving, or about 5g to 10g of fiber per bag. This is more fiber than you would find in a similar amount of potato chips or pretzels, as popcorn is a whole grain.
Here is a table showing the fiber content of various Orville Redenbacher flavors:
|Movie Theater Butter||~5.5 cups popped||2g|
|Tender White||~4 cups popped||2g|
|Kettle Corn||~4.5 cups popped||3g|
|Naturals: Simply Salted||~4.5 cups popped||3g|
|SmartPop! Butter||~5.5 cups popped||4g|
With 1g to 3g of fiber per serving, Orville Redenbacher popcorn does have fiber. That said, it’s not nearly as “high in fiber” as beans, for example, with around 7g of fiber per serving—or Fiber One cereal with 14g of fiber per serving.
So, Orville Redenbacher popcorn is a moderate source of fiber.
8. Is Orville Redenbacher Healthier Than Pop Secret?
The Movie Theater Butter flavor of Orville Redenbacher and Pop Secret have nearly identical ingredients and nutrition facts. Neither one is significantly healthier than the other.
I chose the Movie Theater Butter flavor to analyze, as it’s quite a popular offering from both Orville Redenbacher and Pop Secret. Immediately, you can see that the ingredients are pretty much the same.
What about the calories, carbs, sodium, fat, protein, and fiber? When you look at the “per bag” numbers, they are pretty much the same between the two brands.
Depending what specific flavors you compare, you may find one brand to be healthier than the other… But at least from the Movie Theater Butter flavors, it seems like they are both equally unhealthy.
9. Is Orville Redenbacher Healthier Than Act II?
What if you compare the Movie Theater Butter flavors of Orville Redenbacher vs Act II popcorn? Well, again, the ingredients are almost exactly the same. But what about the nutrition facts?
Act II has 20 fewer calories, 3g less total fat, and 2g less saturated fat per serving than Orville Redenbacher popcorn (Movie Theater Butter flavors). Act II also has 1g more fiber per serving. This makes it seem that Act II popcorn may be slightly healthier than Orville Redenbacher.
However, I would caution you not to overgeneralize this answer. It may be the case that other flavors of Act II are worse than other flavors of Orville Redenbacher.
Likely, which brand you choose makes less of a difference than just choosing one of the healthier flavors from either brand. And in the next section, I’ll share something that would make an even bigger difference.
10. What Is a Healthy Alternative to Orville Redenbacher?
As discussed above, popcorn itself is a whole grain. It has fiber, and the popcorn itself has a pretty low calorie density. But it’s the oil, butter, excess salt, or other such ingredients that can make popcorn like Orville Redenbacher 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.
The healthiest popcorn is air-popped—using an air popper like this one, or a microwave bowl like this.
When you air-pop your popcorn without oil, the caloric density goes 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 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 don’t like oil-free popcorn, then at least pick your oil consciously. Avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil are the ones I’d recommend. I explain why in my big post about oil.
You can also consider adding nutritional yeast to your popcorn. It provides some extra protein and vitamins, along with a cheesy, nutty taste.
11. Is Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Vegan?
Six flavors of Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn are vegan: Kettle Corn, SmartPop! Kettle Corn, Naturals: Simply Salted, Naturals Light: Simply Salted, Avocado Oil Popcorn, and Skinnygirl Lime & Salt. The rest contain milk ingredients.
Here is a full list of Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn flavors and whether they’re vegan:
|Flavor||Is It Vegan?||Animal Ingredients|
|Movie Theater Butter||No||Natural Flavor (Including Milk)|
|Pour Over Movie Theater Butter||No||Butter|
|Cheddar Cheese||No||Natural Flavor (Including Milk), Butter Oil|
|SmartPop! Kettle Corn||Vegan||–|
|Naturals: Simply Salted||Vegan||–|
|Naturals Light: Simply Salted||Vegan||–|
|Naturals Light: Butter & Sea Salt||No||Butter|
|Avocado Oil Popcorn||Vegan||–|
|Skinnygirl Butter & Sea Salt||No||Butter|
|Skinnygirl Lime & Salt||Vegan||–|
If you want more information on this topic, I actually have a much larger blog post looking at vegan microwave popcorn brands.
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