The attack on the cinema snack

There may be something strange about sitting in dark room with a bunch of strangers while eating a selection of sweet or salty snacks. But that’s what millions of us do whenever we head to a London Cinema, or any cinema, anywhere in the country.

Whether it’s an IMAX or other cinema, London cinema-goers see cinema snacks as an integral part of watching a film. And it’s been that way for years, for trusty old staples like butter popcorn to relative newcomers like nachos with cheese, people may not actually need to eat while watching a movie but they choose to do it as part of the occasion.

However, health campaigners have noted that as actresses from Calista Flockhart and Jennifer Aniston to Courtney Cox Arquette and Lara Flynn Boyle get skinnier audiences waistlines are expanding. Some campaigners are putting this down to   what we eat and how much we eat when we head out to the movies.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is concerned about the portion sizes of cinema snacks which are often high in fat, sugar or salt. They cite the example of a large sweet popcorn from a central London cinema weighed 375g (13oz) and was likely to contain around 1,800 calories.

Add to that hotdogs, nachos, a family sized packet of M&Ms and all washed down with a small bucket of high sugar fizzy drink and you could see that they might have a point.

Indeed, many cinemas have started selling healthier options for those that like to crunch their way through the latest releases. And some of these options are pretty good too.

Switching from nachos to tortillas isn’t such a challenge, exchanging popcorn for mixed nuts may be perfectly acceptable, opting for frozen yogurt rather than ice cream is just as tasty and asking for diet rather than regular when ordering a drink is no big deal.

But then, even the health experts admit that overloading on calories at the movies is an occasional treat, rather than a core part of anyone’s diet. It’s the food people eat everyday that may cause health issues, not what they treat themselves to on the occasions they go to the cinema.

Renowned horror writer and director Stephen King even joined in on the debate, saying “that there are places for healthy options and they’re called health clubs.”

As with any food and health issue, it’s all about balance.