The Most Confusing Nutrition Label in the World

Finally some time to post!

I’ve been working on homework pretty much nonstop since the semester started and I finally reached one of those awkward points where even though the next assignment is due in about a week we haven’t learned enough for me to finish it yet. I’ll probably start it, and probably practice inverting matrices and figuring out if vectors are linearly dependent (I’ll return to English now, apologies), but, for now, I have at least a few hours to relax. Ugh. I feel like this is my first semester of grad school all over again. I mean, technically it is (I am taking the first semester classes for the econ phd program in order to earn an MS in econ), but as a fourth year student, I feel like I shouldn’t have homework and midterms anymore (I totally should, it’s a math class, I just have some sort of mixture between senioritis and an attitude that I am way more superior than I actually am).

I’ve also avoided posting because my workouts have just been…demotivating. I have a feeling I am going to run this half marathon WAY slower than the last one, because all of my long runs have basically just sucked. On Sunday, I ran 7 miles slower than the first time I ever ran 7 miles! Plus my normal runs, at least when I am outside and don’t have a treadmill to force me to go fast, have been like mortifyingly slow. It didn’t help that I almost overheated poor River this morning when the temperature increased by TEN degrees while we were out on our run. Now I simultaneously feel like a big jerk for making her run in the heat and super lazy for not running my whole four mile run (I could have theoretically went back out or something, but we went like 3.5 miles so I decided it was close enough).

Ranting about my failures of workouts and my failures at linear algebra is not very interesting, though, so instead I’ll move on to the point of this post.


I always assumed popcorn was an “unhealthy” food. Then, when I started working at Target, I realized that one of those big bags that they sell in the cafe, which we cooked in straight up coconut oil and topped with tons of some sort of butter flavored salt stuff was only 300 calories. I also realized that Aldi has those like bags of low-fat popcorn that only have like 100 calories in them. So I thought popcorn might not be a bad snack to keep around in lieu of things like chips and pretzels, which I always overeat. After all, even if it does have some butter on it, the popcorn in bags is air rather than oil popped, so there is no way it could be as bad for me as the Target popcorn, right?

I set out to the store to buy some low-fat popcorn. When I looked at the nutrition labels to decide what to purchase, though, I was incredibly confused. The label had the nutrition for one cup of popped popcorn or two tablespoons of unpopped popcorn. It then said a serving is “x” cups (whatever it is for the brand) and how many servings are in a bag. It seemed unreasonable, though, that the bag of popcorn would have like 500 calories in it (the number of cups per serving times the number of servings times the calories per cup). After all, aren’t those bags at Aldi like 100 calories? And aren’t these bags smaller/close in size to the ones we had at Target, which involved oil popping? I decided the most reasonable thing to go with for a whole bag would be to go with how many calories there were in two tablespoons unpopped, as I assumed that was how much they put into each bag and it was usually between 150-200 calories.

I started to notice that I’ve been kind of bloaty and while I’m not really gaining weight, I’m not really losing it, either. I  have been about 5 lbs up from my “normal” weight since getting back to school, but I figured it was from overeating while traveling/stress and would go away as soon as I got back on track. Typically, my weight fluctuates a lot, too. I’ll be “up” 5 lbs after eating a burger and fries, even if it fell in my goals, but after two normal days, even if I don’t have a calorie deficit, my weight will go back down. I just hold water weight really badly, apparently. This is why it has been so weird that my weight has been stuck – I’m not super concerned about a 5 lb “gain” (I’m still at a super healthy weight and all my clothes fit), but I was concerned that whether I ate pizza or cheeseburgers or fish with veggies, I wasn’t fluctuating much anymore. The only change I could think of was the introduction of popcorn. Perhaps the extra salt was making me hold on to water weight?

I then decided to do a bit of googling. 150-200 calories for the “normal” bag of popcorn really did seem too good to be true. Yeah, I didn’t believe it was 500 calories, but 150 seemed a little low for how much of it you get to eat. Some websites seemed to suggest that a whole bag might be in that calorie range, but they were talking about super low fat popcorns that were only 15 calories/cup (mine is 30 calories/cup, because I didn’t bother with low fat thinking it was low in calories anyway). So, last night, I decided to revisit the per cup measurement on my popcorn. I typically eat it in a mixing bowl that conveniently has measurements on it, and discovered that it holds 8 cups of popcorn. Therefore, by putting in the “4 cup” serving, I was really only counting half of the popcorn calories (so like 150 instead of 300). The extra calories weren’t a lot, but I eat popcorn  a few times a week, so it is possible I have been overeating a slight amount every week because of this. Oops. At least I am aware now so that I can count all of the calories somewhat more accurately.

I’m still slightly confused, though. My popcorn definitely says there are 3 servings of 4 cups each per bag, but there were only 8 cups in the bag. And I always eat the popcorn out of this bowl. The bowl only has 8 cups of volume. I cannot be mis-measuring. WHERE ARE THE OTHER 4 CUPS?! By the way, this isn’t just one brand of popcorn. All of the popcorn I’ve had said it had about 12 cups per bag but fit into the 8 cup bowl. WTF?


4 thoughts on “The Most Confusing Nutrition Label in the World

  1. Beverly says:

    I have another popcorn question (this may be obvious and I’m just not getting it…) HOW can popcorn have less calories when it is popped then when it’s not popped? I mean I’m not mad. I’m obviously eating it popped so I’ll take the lower calories, but that one has had me wondering for a while…

    • I wish I knew! That is what I assumed the listing of the unpopped calories was about… I assumed that there were 2 tablespoons of kernels in each bag and when you popped them you would have that many calories. Apparently I was wrong!

  2. I know!!! So confusing. I ate my brown bag popcorn every single night for months as my nightly snack and every single brand had a large difference in calories.Looking at the size of different kernals, I am pretty sure that is where some of the difference was from. Orville Redenbacher has huge kernals to Walmarts off brand.I dunnoh, I finally quit trying to figure it out and just popped 1/3 cup kernals from Orville and ate it with a little sprinkle of salt.
    I finaly ate past that phase and now I think I also don’t feel as bloated.

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