Answer these questions:
1. Do you plan your movie menu even before you reach the multiplex?
2. Do you hold on to your half-full food tray even when the national anthem is playing?
Junk it: Half a tub of popcorn and a large cola have 800 calories.
3. Do you spend as much or more on your junk food fix than you do on the movie ticket?
If you answered yes to even one question, you need help.
Multiplexes have opened up new and compelling opportunities for junk-food feasting. Mouth-watering aromas of caramel, cheese and butter popcorn, brownies, nachos drizzled with cheese, hot-off-the-pan crepes, “healthy” corn made unhealthy with heaps of butter beckon you to hog even before you settle down to watch the movie. And there is nothing regular about serving sizes at multiplexes. Even a medium-sized cola tumbler is as good as a large portion and popcorn comes in enormous tubs.
It appears that the growing spread of junk food at multiplexes has successfully generated a new emotional trigger, one which says that if you are at the movies, then you should be eating.
Emotional triggers to eating are the toughest to break. They compel you to eat, and when you don’t, you have a nagging feeling that the experience is not complete. To nibble at popcorn or nachos and savour crepes on occasion is fine but munching mindlessly through a movie could well put you on the track to becoming the fourth idiot.
What does a multiplex hog’s regular order look like?
A serving of nachos with salsa and cheese dip, and a cola tumbler, before the interval; popcorn and coffee right after the interval, with perhaps a samosa or a vegetable burger.
Even if you had just half a tub of butter popcorn (a large tub of butter popcorn gives you as many as 1,000 calories, 78g of fat, out of which 45g is saturated, cholesterol- generating type of fat) and a medium cola tumbler (450ml approx.) throughout, your calorie intake would be about 800 of the ugliest calories. At 450ml, a medium cola tumbler has around 180 calories, i.e., 12 teaspoons of sugar. Ideally an adult should not have more than 3 teaspoons of sugar throughout the day.
Junk foods such as samosas and burgers are compact, pack in a lot of calories per bite and are devoid of natural fibre. A typical dal-roti-subzi-and-salad meal is fibre rich, fills up a 12-inch plate and, at 500 calories, it takes up much more chewing time than compact junk food. A fibre-free samosa is just half the size of your palm but has as many as 400 calories and 25g of cholesterol-generating saturated fat. It requires far fewer mouthfuls. Also, since it takes less time to chew it, you do not feel satiated and want to eat more. From the moment you start eating anything, the brain takes 20 minutes to signal satiety, to tell you that you are full and to stop eating. You do the math: At 5 minutes a piece, you could easily gorge on four samosas, take in 1,600 calories and 100g of fat in the 20 minutes it takes for the brain to tell you that you are full.
So if you want to avoid eating junk food at the movies, you must exercise meal control. Here are a few tips:
• Eat a healthy meal before you arrive at the multiplex. Three hours is a long time to stay away from food, and this can lead to a binge attack.
• Develop the habit of not eating at all for one movie every month
• Avoid the same junk-food fix each time. This will prevent emotional triggers from setting in.
• Choose to eat only during or after the interval to reduce your overall intake.
• If you decide to eat a deep-fried snack, then have less than half the serving—waste the other half
• Choose the smallest serving size. Share all tumblers and tub servings.
• Adopt a lesser-of-the-evils approach: Choose healthy snacks such as corn with no butter, or multigrain sandwiches
• Decide to spend up to 30% of the ticket value of the cheapest class on food.
Madhuri Ruia is a nutrition specialist, functional health and Pilates expert, and founder, HALF, Mumbai’s first functional health studio.Write to Madhuri at firstname.lastname@example.org