Ayoob agrees. "You're adding insult to injury when you get a big sugary soda." He suggests that customers consider bottled water or a sugar-free drink to help tide them over during the film. But he said that if you want to treat yourself to a regular soda, keep it to a small and remember to budget 150-300 calories.
"If you go once a month, it's not a big deal, but you still have to cut back in other areas," Ayoob said. "And just because you're going there doesn't mean you have to throw caution to the wind."
The rationale behind oversized packages of candies at movie theaters is simple; after all, who wants to run out of snacks mid movie?
But while the side of the box will at least tell you what you're getting yourself into, the report notes that buyers should beware: the nutrition facts on king size containers are typically for a 1.5-ounce serving size, and each package may contain 3 to 4 servings.
Dr. David Katz, the director of Medical Studies in Public Health at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., says that he and his family will sometimes sneak dark chocolate into the theater, as this antioxidant-rich indulgence is a good treat for his kids. But according to Katz, the kind of chocolaty goodness proffered by the cinema snack shack is usually coated with highly processed milk chocolate, which accounts for the sky-high levels of saturated fat and sugar contained in movie candy favorites.
The report notes that a 3.5-ounce serving of Raisinets, one of the most popular choices, packs 420 calories, 60 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of saturated fat. Just 3 ounces of Milk Duds, another cinema snack classic, have 370 calories and 8 grams of saturated fat.
But among the popular candies analyzed by the report, Reese's Pieces stole the show. The report warned that indulging in the 8-ounce size commonly found in theaters will have you consuming 35 grams of saturated fat and 1,160 calories -- the equivalent of a T-bone steak plus buttered baked potato.
This doesn't mean that you have to give up your chocolate fix, Katz says.
"Shifting from highly processed... milk chocolate to dark chocolate candy would be a good thing... [but] after all, it is candy, it's not like we're trying to turn this into broccoli."
Just be aware of the portion size, Ayoob says; if the box says three servings, then plan on sharing the box three ways or taking most of it home.
Though most gummy candies have little to no fat, CSPI researchers say that they often contain more than half a cup of sugar per bag. So, they say, moderation is key when it comes to sweet treats like Twizzlers, SweeTarts, and Skittles.
The 4-ounce bag of Skittles sold at theaters is almost twice the size of what you find in supermarkets. Twizzlers contain 460 calories and about 14 teaspoons of sugar per 5-ounce bag. The report cites Sour Patch Kids Watermelon flavor, with 370 calories per pack, as the most reasonable candy, mostly because they are sold in the smaller portions. Nerds, on the other hand, are usually offered in a 7-ounce carton -- a portion that puts the matchbox-size ones given out at Halloween to shame. Throwing back the whole box during a film would add up to 790 calories and 185 grams of sugar -- just a teaspoon shy of an entire cup.