Healthy Choices in Vending Machines

September 17, 2010   8 Comments

Do you confront a vending machine at some point in your day? It would be pretty tough to avoid them.

Healthy Choices in Vending Machines

Schools, cafeterias, workplaces, in front of stores, airports, and movie theaters are venues for the vending machine.

Erin, a Snack Girl reader, recently wrote to me about her workplace vending machines:

The company that runs the cafeteria at my workplace has started trying to help us identify the "healthy choices" in the coin vending machines. They are now putting little green tabs so we can quickly recognize a healthy choice.

Thanks to the great education I have received from your blog and others, I know that nothing that comes from those machines is a healthy choice. I also thought you might be interested in hearing what they describe as a healthy choice, and what snacks fall into that catagory.

This is their description..."NAC For Snack is AVI's exclusive initiative that labels snacks that meet our criteria so you know you are making a good choice. Snack machines contain special labeling to identify healthy choices." For a snack to make the list it must meet all of these criteria:
1. Less than 220 calories per serving
2. Less than 35% of calories from fat (nuts are exempt)
3. Less than 1.5g of saturated fat
4. No trans fat
5. Less than 35% sugar by weight (100% fruit items are exempt from sugar restriction)
The snack must meet 4 of the above criteria AND have 10% of the daily value of one or more of the following: Vitamins A,C,E, Iron, Calcium. Protein or Fiber.

All of this sounds great until you read what passes for healthy.

Here is the list of HEALTHY CHOICES:
1. Austin Zoo Animal Crackers
2. Baked Lay's Southwestern Ranch
3. Generation Max 3 Musketeers Chocolate Brownie
4. Fiber One Oats & Peanut Butter Bar
5. Kar's Unsalted Trail Mix
6. Kar's Wasabi Nut Crunch
7. Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Brown Sugar & Cinnamon
8. Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Strawberry
9. Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Hot Fudge Sundae
10. Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats
11. Krunchers! Mesquite Bar-B-Que Potato Chips
12. Nature Valley Oats 'N Honey Granola Bars
13. Pepperidge Farm Baked Natural Wheat Crisps
14. Planters Salted Peanuts
15. Snyder's of Hanover Sourdough Nibblers
16. SunChips Garden Salsa
17. Wheat Thins Toasted Veggie Chips

Thanks for sending this, Erin. What is going on here? Did some company nutritionist lose their marbles?

I wonder if anyone at Erin's workplace actually believes this list is healthy. Yes, there are some healthy choices here - the trail mix and peanuts stick out. And, there are some okay choices such as the granola bars, and the wheat crisps.

Rice Krispies Treats? Pop-Tarts? Kellogg's must really have this company in their back pocket to suggest that these are healthy snacks.

Just give me a Snickers bar and let me have a REAL treat.

Please comment about what you believe is happening with this list.

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Wow, really? Maybe the list is a joke? (I wish it were).

I can't wait until the day when nutritious choices are identified by the INGREDIENTS rather than soley calories/fat/suagar content.

They are the healthier options compared to the standard array of vending machine treats, but this formula used to produce these results is flawed.

What really gets to me is the Pop-Tarts. A serving of Pop-Tarts is one pastry, but you get two in the package. You then double everything, and you get nearly the calories of a meal in your "healthy" vending machine snack.


I was just skimming and for a split second I thought that the list was from Snack Girl... Then I was thinking "NO WAY" and of course that was right. Hard to beleive that anyone would call those "healthy choices."

I can appreciate this post. I am a teacher and several years ago they removed candy bars from our vending machines for "healthier choices" such as donut sticks, honey buns, all manner of chips and cheese curls, snack packs of cookies, etc. I was flabbergasted when I saw this. They also removed sugared soda and replaced it with diet soda, "vitamin" and "juice blend" drinks. However, there are ok choices to be had, such as nuts, water and real fruit juice. As you said, we have to be diligent.

I confess I had a bag of baked cheetos today - will have to fit those 200 calories into my daily allotment.

I agree with the Snickers comment, I will have that but with darkest chocolate, no milk please.


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The interesting thing about pop tarts is the amount of servings in the package. From a vending machine it will say that 1 package is a serving but from a box that you buy at a store it will say 1 pastry per package. And then the amount of carbs is the same per serving weather it is a package from a box or a vending machine. So am i getting 75 carbs from 1 pastry or 2? This is something i would like to know being a diabetic. Yes they are healthy for me when my blood sugar is low but only then. I really need to know what i am taking.

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