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Top of The Pops

Find out which popcorn is the real crowd pleaser and which one deserves to be booed

Between Super Bowl parties, snowy weekends in front of the TV, and late nights at the office, microwave popcorn is bound to make its way onto your menu this winter. But don't nuke just any box. We tried all the major "healthy" brands to find which bag delivers the biggest pop. Our rankings are below, from best to worst.

1. Pop Secret Light Butter

CALORIES: 20
CARBS: 4 g
TOTAL FAT: 1 g

MF Pick: Pop Secret Light re-creates the taste and smell of movie-theater popcorn without the grease. Kernels are consistently buttery, bite after bite, and the slight hint of salt will keep you eating down to the bottom of the bag (where we found surprisingly few unpopped kernels).

2. Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop 94% Fat Free Butter

CALORIES: 15
CARBS: 3 g
TOTAL FAT: 0 g

A close second in our face-off, Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop is a slightly leaner option than Pop Secret. Orville's corn is a bit lighter and fluffier-almost as if it were made in an air popper-but also a bit more natural tasting (read: blander), with less of a buttery, salty taste.

3. Act II 94% Fat Free Butter

CALORIES: 20
CARBS: 4 g
TOTAL FAT: 0 g

Act II is the plain Jane of the popcorn world. If you want just the taste of popped corn without a hint of butter or salt, then this flavor-free corn won't disappoint you. Just make sure you eat it right away. Once the popcorn cools, it seems stale and a lot like a rice cake.

4. Smart Balance

CALORIES: 20
CARBS: 4 g
TOTAL FAT: 0 g

Smart Balance's popcorn is a virtual disaster. Every bag we microwaved was filled with numerous unpopped kernels, leaving us feeling cheated. The ones that do pop burn easily and are so mushy they seem to almost dissolve on contact with your tongue.

5. Newman's Own 94% Fat Free Butter

CALORIES: 31
CARBS: 6 g
TOTAL FAT: 0 g

Disappointing: The bags we popped yielded tough, ultrarubbery kernels. Eating them was like trying to chew Styrofoam packing peanuts. And as if getting the kernels down didn't require enough work, they also seemed much more likely to get lodged in our tasters' teeth.

6. Jolly Time Healthy Pop 94% Fat Free butter

CALORIES: 20
CARBS: 4 g
TOTAL FAT: 0 g

The bottom of the barrel, as far as we were concerned, Jolly Time Healthy Pop barely tastes like corn. Instead, we got an overwhelming flavor of chemicals and plastic. On top of that, the corn is so dry you need to chug water just to keep it from getting stuck in your throat.

* Nutritional information per 1 cup popcorn, popped.

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