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Pop-ular for Watching Weight

Despite our best intentions, we gobbled down too much turkey over the holidays. The plum pudding turned into plump padding, the crescent roll into a belly roll, and those rounds of corks popping made a button or two pop. Like millions of Americans, we ate too much over the holidays and it's time to get back in shape.

Falling into an unhealthy eating pattern is an annual tradition we'd rather do without. We know the consequences of holiday sweets and second helpings, but we can't seem to push away from the table quick enough. And each January, as clothing grows snug and scales tip unfavorably, we resolve to do better.

Now is the time to take stock of the cupboard and load up on good-for-you foods--like whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean meats--and reacquaint ourselves with the local gym. It’s tempting to skip meals, but studies have shown that eating smaller, healthful portions throughout the day can help boost metabolism and aid weight loss efforts. So, if you’re hungry mid-morning or mid-afternoon, grab a smart snack that can help fuel your metabolism while satisfying hunger pangs, like popcorn.

Compared to many snack foods, popcorn is low in calories. Air-popped popcorn provides only 30 calories per cup. When oil-popped, it contains only 55 calories. Even drizzled lightly with butter, it's only 90 to 120 calories per cup. Popcorn is a whole grain food which makes it a high-quality carbohydrate source that is not only low in calories, but high in fiber. This means it takes longer to chew and makes you feel full longer.

Try popping popcorn on the stovetop. It's an economical and versatile treat the whole family will enjoy which makes it easy on your wallet and your waistline!

Perfect Popcorn Poppin' Tips

The first step to popcorn snacking is popping perfection. And here's how to pop it right:

Warm the heavy pan or heavy skillet. Be sure the lid of the pan is loose enough to allow steam to escape.

Add 1/4 cup of cooking oil to the pan. Vegetable oils are low in saturated fat. Allow the oil to heat. The best popping temperature is between 400-460 degrees Fahrenheit. Note: Oil burns at 500 degrees Fahrenheit, so if your oil starts to smoke, it's too hot.

Test the heat of the oil by dropping in one or two kernels. When the kernel spins in the oil, you're ready to add the remaining popcorn. Pour just enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pan.

Cover and shake the pan to be certain the oil coats each kernel. When you hear the last few pops, remove the pan from the heat and empty the popped popcorn into a large bowl.

For added flavor, sprinkle warm popcorn with herbs (such as marjoram, thyme, summer savory, basil, rosemary or sage) or spices (such as garlic, dry mustard, curry or chili powder). For great popcorn recipes, visit