Ah vending machines…depending on our mood, our hunger level, or our personal dietary restrictions (or lack thereof) they can be our best friend or source of frustration. Yesterday morning I was running through the house like a madwoman trying to get ready to help with a wellness event at 7am, right afterwards I had a meeting and conference call which left me sans breakfast and with a very hungry and desperate stomach by 10:30 a.m. After scraping the bottom of my purse and desk drawers for loose change, I found myself standing in front of the vending machine for several minutes deciding what would be the most appropriate choice so far from breakfast but oh so close to lunchtime.
I’m sure many of you can relate to my anecdote on various levels. Working in a college town, I find many of the clients I encounter in counseling and group sessions inquire about how to eat healthy from the vending machine if it’s the only option at the time or if they should even eat at all. One thing that we should definitely take into consideration is understanding that though the vending machine may not be our first choice when it comes to a source of nutritious food, there are certainly some appropriate options available that can help us avoid going long periods of time without eating…especially if you’re in a class, meeting, or work function that rolls into a meal time.
When choosing a snack from the vending machine, it’s helpful to know the nutrients that will address our hunger and keep us full for the longest amount of time. Below I’ve listed some nutrients to keep in consideration when picking the best snack choice:
Fiber: not only does fiber aid in keeping our bowel movements regular, lowering our cholesterol, and controlling blood sugar levels, but fiber can help us feel full for an extended amount of time. Unlike simple sugars, fiber takes longer for the body to digest and provides “bulk” to our meal or snack without tacking on excessive calories.
Protein: Not only is protein used for repair & maintenance of cells in our body, but protein can also address our hunger quickly and provide fullness for an extended period of time. Though carbohydrates are our body’s preferred fuel source (and the only thing our brain can run off of in the form of glucose), protein and fat are more chemically complex and take longer for the body to digest thus leaving us fuller for a longer amount of time.
Fat: When it comes to fat, it depends on the type. Mono and polyunsaturated fats that come from sources such as nuts, seeds, fish, olive oils, etc. are extremely heart healthy. Luckily for us, vending machine options such as trail mixes and nut packs provide these heart healthy fats. When it comes to feeling satisfied and full in a meal, fat can provide that feeling of satiety that we’re looking for, keeping us fuller for a longer amount of time. Keeping that in consideration, you do want to avoid convenience snacks that provide high amounts of saturated and trans fat (not to mention simple sugars), for example, a honey bun, poptart, or regular potato chips.
If you’d like some specific examples of some specific vending machine choices, check out these recommendations from Fitness Magazine:
Planters Sunflower Kernels (1/4 cup)
160 calories, 14g fat, 1.5g sat fat, 4g fiber
The Bottom Line: Full of healthy fats
Baked! Lays Original
210 calories, 3g fat, 0g sat fat, 4g fiber
The Bottom Line: Surprisingly fiber-full
Snyder’s of Hanover Mini Pretzels (20)
110 calories, 0g fat, 0g sat fat
The Bottom Line: Naturally fat-free
Smartfood Reduced-Fat Popcorn
120 calories, 5g fat, 1g sat fat, 2g fiber
The Bottom Line: Low fat, and has fiber!
Nature Valley Granola Bar, Oats & Honey
180 calories, 6g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 2g fiber
The Bottom Line: Beats hunger
Planters Honey Roasted Peanuts (39)
160 calories, 13g fat, 1.5g sat fat, 6g protein
The Bottom Line: High in protein
Quaker Chewy Low-Fat Granola Bar, Chocolate Chunk
110 calories, 2g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 1g fiber
The Bottom Line: Guilt-free chocolate
240 calories, 6 grams fiber
The Bottom Line: High in fiber but don’t resort to Wheat Thins Toasted Chips when they’re out of stock which won’t provide as much fiber and packs a punch of sodium
For some helpful additional guidelines in picking up some healthy vending machine choices, check out recommendations from the Alabama Department of Public Health‘s 10-10-5 guidelines when it comes to healthy vending choices 🙂
Happy Snacking 🙂 🙂