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Vending Machine Choices - Which Are Healthiest?
Broward County > Parks > Extension Education > Nutrition > Vending Machine Choices - Which Are Healthiest?

Imagine that you are at a meeting that is running late and you haven't eaten all day. You are trying hard to eat a nutritious diet. The only available food choices are found in a vending machine. What are you going to eat? What are you going to do?

Vending machines seem to be popping up everywhere. They give us another quick way to get something un-planned to eat. With the pace of society getting faster and having less time available for meal planning, people are looking for healthier options when choosing foods away from home.

Vending machines can be large square boxes of temptation, especially when you are hungry. Vending machines have come a long way from traditionally offering mainly soda or chips to now offering bottled water and prepared sandwiches and fresh fruit cups. Some vending machines are refrigerated and some are un-refrigerated to allow more selections. Having healthy choices stocked in machines definitely makes it easier to promote health. The reality is that there are all sorts of choices for us to make. Some less healthy choices can be packed with sugar, fat, salt and extra calories that we did not have planned into our day. It is a good idea to spend a few extra minutes gazing through that clear glass vending window before making a hasty purchase. Evaluate before inserting your money to insure you are making a nutritious choice.

Schools have been investigating vending machines and are researching what goes into them. Many schools are now changing to healthier items being stocked in these machines. The reason being, that most vending machines typically do contain unhealthy food and students are bombarded only with unhealthy vending machine choices.

Some schools are prohibiting the sale or serving of the following foods in school: chewing gum, flavored ice bars, candy bars, food or drinks containing 40 percent or more, by weight, of sugar or other sweeteners, juice products containing less than 20 percent real fruit or vegetable juice, or foods with more than 8 grams of fat per one ounce serving. In addition, soft drinks are prohibited at some elementary and middle schools.

Parents of preschool children, beware of the attractive packaging meant to capture your child's attention and desire for products contained within. Remember, the way children eat while they are young can play a large part in how they eat when they become adults and it also affects their health status as adults. Purchasing unhealthy snack choices to pacify or calm a demanding child, gives children a poor nutrition and health message.

You can always plan ahead and pack your own lunch and healthy snacks when you know you are going to be away from home and out of your normal routine.

If vending machines are in your path at work or somewhere else, tempting you to purchase an item, after you have eaten appropriately, plan an alternate route. Walk a different direction so you won't be tempted. Avoid carrying loose change or extra vending machine money with you. If you aren't carrying the cash, you won't be able to make that purchase.

So, how can you make a healthy choice when all you have to choose from is a vending machine? Before you insert your coins or bills-- make your selection wisely and consider your options carefully! Try and select vending machine foods that are nutrient dense, low in saturated fat and high in fiber, whenever able. Here are some suggestions:

Choose

  • Baked tortilla chips
  • Popcorn
  • Whole grain bagels
  • Sandwiches prepared with whole grain breads, vegetables, lean
  • meats, tuna or salmon, lowerfat cheese with little or no butter,
  • margarine or mayonnaise
  • Low fat muffins
  • Ready to eat, low sugar cereals
  • Whole grain Granola type bars made with unsaturated fat
  • Snack mixes of cereal and dried fruit with a small amount of
  • nuts and seeds
  • Raisins or other dried fruit
  • Canned unsweetened fruit
  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Fresh fruit (apples and oranges)
  • Vegetable sticks
  • Salads with low fat dressing on the side
  • Fig bars
  • Graham crackers
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Plain Animal cookies
  • Gingersnaps
  • Baked crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Water
  • 100% pure unsweetened fruit juice
  • Vegetable juice
  • Low fat or skim milk, white or chocolate
  • Low fat or nonfat yogurt
  • Low fat cheese (string cheese)
  • Low fat or fat free pudding
  • Frozen 100% fruit juice bars
Avoid
  • Candy bars
  • Candy
  • Potato Chips
  • Other Fried Chips
  • Artificially flavored or sweetened popcorn
  • High fat cheese snacks
  • Sweetened, fruit-flavored roll-ups
  • Cream filled cookies
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Snack cakes and rolls
  • Chocolate mini donuts
  • Sausage meats
  • High fat cheeses and cheese snacks
  • Fruit flavored drinks
  • Regular soda
  • Whole milk
  • Ice cream

Certainly -- at times a better choice could have been made. Moderation is the key. Try to make sure that the majority of your vending choices are healthy choices. Make sure all packages are sealed. Also remember to check the expiration date!

In a perfect world, only healthy nutrient dense snacks would be offered in vending machines. Since this isn't the case, we need to use good judgment when making choices for ourselves and for our children. Incorporating a balanced diet together with regular exercise and healthy snacking is a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle.