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4 Ingredients to Upgrade Your Popcorn Instantly

Top air-popped popcorn with these low-cal or no-cal add-ins for a late-night snack that won't derail your diet.

Unless you're munching on broccoli and bell peppers, you’ve got to stick to small portions when snacking. However, there’s one loophole here—popcorn. We’re not talking that junky microwave stuff or calorie-laden movie theater popcorn. Air popped or fresh from the stove, popcorn has a host of health benefits. It’s full of fiber, packed with many of the same types of cancer-fighting antioxidants you'll find in fruits and vegetables and contains only 30 calories per cup.

That being said, don’t ruin this healthy, whole-grain snack by dousing it in melted butter. Instead, open up the spice cabinet. Whether you're in the mood for something sweet, salty, or savory, the possibilities are endless. Start here, then experiment with your own flavor combos.

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Parmesan Cheese and Parsley

Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of freshly grated parmesan cheese over your popcorn and you’ve got a healthier alternative to the bagged white cheddar stuff you'll find in the supermarket. While parmesan may not be calorie-free, season in moderation and you’ll also get some added protein and calcium. If you're feeling fancy, toss in some dried parsley (or oregano) to give your snack a gourmet flavor.        

Chili Powder and Paprika

Chili powder and paprika are an easy, no-cal way to spice things up if you prefer your snacks come with a kick. But the spices will do more than just wake up your taste buds. Research suggests that chili powder may rev up your metabolism and also ease indigestion. Start with a teaspoon or two—this stuff is hot.

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Cinnamon and Sea Salt

For a sweeter-tasting snack without added sugar or calories, sprinkle cinnamon over your popcorn. Cinnamon is also known to fire up your metabolism and is a great way to satisfy your sweet cravings without wrecking your diet. Add a little sea salt for a sweet-and-salty mix.

Nutritional Yeast

Due to its cheesy, nutty flavor, vegans often use nutritional yeast as a substitute for cheese. However, this seasoning is a great choice for anyone. It’s an excellent source of vitamin B-12, and two tablespoons contain about 9g of protein (that's more than a large egg) and 3g of fiber. Don’t let the out-there-sounding name dissuade you—this stuff’s good.

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