Diabetes-Friendly Movie Snacks

There’s no reason to feel left out when everyone else is chowing down at the movie theater! Miami-based Marina Chaparro, MPH, RDN CDE, LD, diabetes educator and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, shares her tips for enjoying a snack at the movies:

1. Don’t go to the movies hungry. Have a well-balanced lunch or dinner before you head for the theater, so you won’t go hungry and will be satisfied with a small snack.

2. Sip unsweetened drinks. Try water, unsweetened iced tea, no-calorie flavored seltzer, or, if you must have a soda, a diet variety with no added sugar. Chaparro points out that some movie theaters serve wine now, so you can even opt for a small glass of an antioxidant-rich red, if that’s your thing. (If you opt for wine, be sure to eat something with it.)

3. Downsize everything. "As a general rule, keep your snacks to maximum of 100 to 150 calories and 15 to 20 grams carb," Chaparro says. But if you are careful about portion control—the amount of food you eat—you can occasionally indulge in regular movie theater fare. For instance, if you are eating movie-theater popcorn, order the smallest size, since large and jumbo sizes can weight in at more than 1,000 calories. But if one of your movie-mates buys a box of candy-coated peanuts, there’s no reason why you can’t have three or four.

4. Choose a higher fiber carb option. If your movie treat includes a carb like pretzels or crackers, always pick the snack with the most fiber (grams of fiber per serving are listed on the nutrition label). Fiber helps slow down carb metabolism. And remember: Even with higher fiber snacks, you still have to watch out for added fat, sugar, and salt.

5. Treat concession snacks like mini-meals. A movie theater snack that includes a combination of protein, carbs, and fats (like a hot dog) is a better bet than an all-carb option, such as a hot pretzel. And if you go for a not-too-healthy concession stand staple like cheese nachos, split it with friends to keep your portion size low. While these are never the healthiest options, they are okay as very occasional treats.

6. BYOS (Bring Your Own Snack). Prepare portable "mini meal" combos at home that you can eat at the movies. As with dinner-size meals, eyeball your snack to be sure half consists of non-starchy fruits or veggies, one-quarter is protein, and the remaining quarter is made up of starchy carbs. That way you know you have a good balance of foods from different food groups. Some suggestions that keep the totals at around 150 calories and 15 to 20 carbs include:

  • 5 grapes, 1 ounce (or 8 ½-inch cubes) of reduced-fat cheese, and ¼ cup whole-grain pretzels.
  • ¼ cup fresh strawberries, 2 tbsp. walnuts, and 1½ cups homemade air-popped popcorn.
  • ½ cup apple slices, 1 (1 ounce) reduced-fat mozzarella cheese stick, and 1 tbsp. peanuts.
  • 3 baby carrot sticks or ¼ cup fresh blueberries, and a brown rice cake, halved and sandwiched together with 1 tbsp. of either nut butter, pesto, hummus, bean dip, or part-skim ricotta cheese.
  • Homemade trail mix: 2 tbsp. dried cranberries or other fruit, 1 tbsp. almonds, and 1 tbsp. of chocolate chips.
  • 1 tbsp. pumpkin seeds, ½ ounce reduced-fat Jack cheese cubes, and 1/3 cup baked tortilla chips.

If you can’t plan a balanced mini-meal, choose individual foods that contain a combination of carbs and protein, such as legume (bean) snacks. Some good choices include:

  • ½ cup wasabi peas or roasted chick peas.
  • ¾ cup dehydrated green bean snacks.

For something a little more fun, Chaparro suggests two small squares of dark chocolate (it has less sugar than milk) or a big dill or half-sour pickle—the latter is a good option if you’re watching your salt intake.

Marina Chaparro, MPH, RDN, CDE, LD reviewed this article.


Chaparro, Marina, MPH, RDN, CDE, LD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Phone interview March 30, 2015.

"Snacks." American Diabetes Association. Accessed March 30, 2015.

"Create Your Plate." American Diabetes Association. Accessed March 30, 2015.