Popcorn is one of those snacks that is easy to munch on between meals, and can also be a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It’s also a good source of healthy carbs.
If you’re doing keto, you know that carbs (even healthy ones) aren’t exactly what you’re aiming for, so…
Popcorn isn’t usually recommended for a keto diet because corn is a starchy vegetable and therefore high in carbs. But, there are many other alternatives to popcorn that can fit into your snacking plans!
Is Popcorn Keto?
The short answer to this question is “no,” however, this depends on your daily carb goals, and what else you eat in a day. While it’s easy to follow a prepared keto meal plan that helps you stay on track, calculating your carb intake when you snack on things like popcorn can get tricky.
Popcorn tends to be higher in carbohydrates than we’d prefer for ketosis. But, if you’re in the mood for a fast, crunchy snack, popcorn is not altogether off the table…if you can manage to stick to less than a typical serving (yikes).
According to the USDA, 1 cup of air-popped, unsalted popcorn (8g) has about 5.02 net carbs. While 1 cup of popped popcorn doesn’t seem unreasonable considering keto caps daily carbs around 50g a day, realistically, it’s hard to only eat 1 cup of plain popcorn.
One serving is typically about 4-5 cups of popped popcorn (or about 2 tablespoons of un-popped kernels), which adds up to these macros:
Calories: 122.4 – 153kcal
Protein: 3.8 – 4.8g
Fat: 1.3 – 1.7g
Carbs: 24.9 – 31.1g
Fiber: 4.8 – 6.1g
Net Carbs: 20.1 – 25.1g
This means eating only one serving of popcorn will land at about 20-25g of net carbs which is almost a half of your daily limit!
You might be able to fit popcorn into your diet depending on your carb, calorie, and protein goals. However, considering popcorn likely won’t keep you full throughout the day, it’s not an ideal keto snack choice. Not to mention, there are far more other keto-friendly snacks that allow you to eat larger portions with less carbs per serving!
Popcorn is not easy to work as a fulfilling snack on a keto diet considering there are other snacks with lower carb content that will be more satisfying.
What Can I Eat Instead of Popcorn?
In general, corn products can be tricky to throw into a keto diet, but luckily there are plenty of other salty, crunchy, and filling snacks that are lower in carbs! Here are a few alternatives to popcorn you can try:
- Nuts/nut butters and seeds
- Pork rinds
- Fruit sprinkled with tajin
- Sliced cucumbers with hummus
- Fat bombs
- Beef jerky (or turkey jerky)
- Pickle spears
- Kale chips
- Dried seaweed
- Cheese taquitos
- Parm goldfish crackers
- Hard boiled eggs
Popcorn vs Regular Corn
Like many dietary choices, the way you prepare food makes a difference.
1 large ear of corn (143g) has about 23g of net carbs while a typical bowl (about 4-5 cups, or 32-40g) of air-popped popcorn is around 25g of net carbs. Because the corn is air-popped, it’s larger and fills your stomach faster. However, that doesn’t mean that popcorn will KEEP you as full as corn on the cob will!
For instance, corn on the cob has more fiber and protein than popcorn has per cup, which are two nutrients that keep you satiated for longer periods of time.
1 Cup Boiled Corn Kernels, Unsalted
4 Cups Air-Popped, Unsalted Popcorn
LESS sometimes gives you more, as we can see from this comparison!
Additionally, you should also keep in mind that adding things like salt, butter, cream, mayonnaise, sugar, cheese, and any other toppings to your corn will change the nutritional values even more!
Eating corn on the cob provides more nutrition in smaller serving sizes. Eating popcorn may make you feel fuller faster in the short term, but you sacrifice nutritional value and may be hungrier later in the day.
The keto diet recommends reducing your net carb (total carbs minus fiber) intake dramatically to promote weight/fat loss. This means limiting yourself to less than 50g of net carbs a day. Some people prefer to eat much less than 50g depending on the type of keto they are doing.
Carbs are what the body typically uses for energy. When your body runs low on carbs, it enters a state known as ketosis which breaks down fat for energy instead. Ketosis is meant for fast, temporary weight loss, to help manage Type II diabetes, and in some cases, help with epileptic seizures.
To reach ketosis, things high in carbs must be limited or removed entirely from your diet. Things like starchy vegetables, baked goods, sugary foods, and grains like flour.
Corn can be considered a grain as well as a starchy vegetable, which means it’s on the list of foods to avoid on the keto diet.
To reach a state where your body burns fat instead of carbs for energy, you must limit your carb intake, and avoid sugary, starchy, and baked goods. This can help with Diabetes, seizures, and fat/weight loss.
Can I Eat Any Other Corn Products on Keto?
Popcorn can fit into a ketogenic diet if you budget your carbs correctly and limit the amount you eat.
Other corn products like corn tortillas, elote, cornbread, kettle corn, tortilla chips, or anything with corn syrup…. well, that’s a different story. These products have other things added to them that further increase sugar and carbohydrate levels and are more difficult to enjoy on the keto diet.
If you want to enjoy a side of boiled corn, or a piece of cornbread with dinner, try to make the rest of your meals for the day high in fat or protein to balance things out.
Because corn is not a strong candidate for the keto diet, it’s important to limit or eliminate foods made with corn or corn byproducts. That includes popcorn!