Cinema is an integral part of modern life. Whether it’s the excitement of a blockbuster action flick, the chill of an indie horror, a tearjerker or a laugh riot you’re after, streaming services, rental kiosks and on-demand cable ordering have made it cheaper and easier than ever to skip the crowded and expensive theater and enjoy the experience at home instead. Make your next movie night special with healthy, tasty treats while enjoying some of the unique health benefits that come with viewing movies.
A 2012 report from British news outlet The Telegraph reveals that the adrenaline rush that accompanies watching scary movies caused participants in a study from the University of Westminster to actually burn calories. Unsurprisingly, nerve-wracking classic The Shining was the top calorie burner, at an average of 184 calories throughout the course of the film.
Horror movies aren’t necessarily for everyone. According to a 2011 article from the Chicago Tribune, that same calorie burning adrenaline rush can also cause a viewer to rehash traumatic events in their lives, and those with heart disease could be adversely affected by watching super scary films. The Tribune also reports that viewing comedies could potentially lower anxiety and blood pressure, so if you’re feeling anxious or have heart issues, maybe chilling out with a funny flick like The Heat, starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock, is your best bet.
Perhaps romantic movies and relationship dramas are more your thing. Your relationship could benefit from all that on-screen drama. According to The University of Rochester, a study led by the university’s Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Ronald Rogge shows that having productive discussions about relationships from movies with your partner, particularly in the first three years of marriage, could cut a couple’s chance of divorce in half, as evidenced by the results of couples partaking in the three-year study when compared to a control group. To learn more, check out the full list of movies used in the study, which also contains information about the study’s guided questions and additional film inspiration. My personal favorite romantic dramas are the films of the “Before” Trilogy: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, all starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Apparently, I’m on to something: study materials list both Before Sunset and Before Midnight as movies for couples to watch together.
Food is an essential component any good movie night, and there is no other food as synonymous with cinema as popcorn. Popping it at home is easy. Simply Recipes has a great recipe for making popcorn on the stove. A sprinkle of salt and, occasionally, garlic powder is enough for me, but if you’re really missing the taste of movie theater butter popcorn, the Food Network shares the secret to emulating the classic treat at home. Sometimes, I like to toss some Junior Mints into plain popcorn. A serving size of 16 pieces has 170 calories and three grams of fat, and the creamy, minty sweetness perfectly complements popcorn’s salty crunch.
My other favorite movie treat is a tray of soft pretzel nuggets. Averie Cooks has a quick and easy recipe that will get you little bites of goodness in just one hour. If the amount of butter called for in the recipe seems like a lot, you can use half the amount to brush the nuggets and still get a wonderful, buttery taste. Make them sweet or salty, but make them as soon as possible!
I rarely drink soda, but there’s really nothing better to drink while munching on salty snacks like popcorn and pretzels. I’m a fan of lemon lime soda and ginger ale, so I love this all-natural Homemade Ginger Ale recipe from Free People’s blog, Bldg 25. I experimented with using agave nectar in place of cane sugar, and the soda was still light and refreshing with the perfect touch of sweetness.
Sometimes, it’s fun to build your snacks around a movie’s theme. The promotional team behind Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon and based on writer Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, posted a recipe for Wild Granola on Pinterest, which is appropriate since Wild is all about Strayed’s solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. This recipe is a great base for any add-ins you would like for your granola; I added coconut and dried fruit to mine and it was mighty tasty.
Next time you choose a film, remember these fun facts and tasty treats for a happy, healthy movie night.