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Vending Machines - So Many Choices...

I was in a meeting the other day that went much longer than planned. I could feel my stomach rumbling, so during a break I started looking for food. As I came around the corner of the lobby I spotted THEM...the snack food vending machines. They were all lit up displaying rows of sweet and salty delights.

What should I choose? Did they have anything healthy? I discovered some options are definitely better than others. In an effort to help you out the next time you're faced with Vending Machine Roulette, I present the 5 BEST and 5 WORST snack food choices.

BEST

Bottled Water
Gotcha! That's not even in the snack machine, but it may be your best first choice. It's easy to confuse thirst with hunger, so instead of eating a high fat sack you should quench your thirst first. If you're still hungry after you drink the water, then look at the snack options.

WORST

Snickers Candy Bar
Snickers is the top-selling vending food. The ads say, "Packed with roasted peanuts, caramel and milk chocolate, SNICKERS Brand handles your hunger..." What they don't say is that it has almost as many calories as a meal and those calories are mostly from sugar. If you have a craving for chocolate, reach for a plain dark chocolate bar. You'll get less fat and more healthy antioxidants.


BEST

Lays Baked Chips
If you're absolutely set on chips, reach for the baked versions that have less fat than the original.

WORST

Lays Classic Potato Chips
It's amazing how many rows of chips are in snack machines. Unfortunately most bags of chips are loaded with fat and salt. Some even contain trans-fats (the most dangerous kind). Skip these for other options.

BEST

Rold Gold Pretzels
Baked chips aren't in many vending machines, but quite a few have bags of pretzels. They're fat free (which is good), but they're much higher in sodium than the baked chips (which can be bad) so don't eat more than a bag.

WORST

Keebler Cheese & Peanut Butter Crackers
More salt and fat packed into a couple quick bites. Choose something else.

BEST

Mr. Peanut Unsalted Nuts
Almonds and peanuts are good sources of monounsaturated fat and protein. Look for raw or roasted and avoid the salted or honey roasted.

 

WORST

Crunch n' Munch
Air popped popcorn without butter and salt can be a filling snack. Unfortunately it's also boring. So snack food companies decided to cover popcorn in sugar, doubling it's calories and packing 1/3 of your daily allowance of sugar in one small bag. Pass on these and try something else.

BEST

Bare Fruit Apple Slices
Fresh fruit is the healthiest option but, if you're not lucky enough to find a machine that sells any, dried fruit is an adequate alternative. Dried fruit has additional sugar and preservatives, but it also has vitamins and fiber.

WORST

Famous Amos Cookis
These are the best selling cookies in vending machines. That's not surprising because they taste good. Unfortunately they're loaded with sugar, fat and more calories than any other package of food I looked at.

The best choice is to bring healthy food along with you and skip snack machines entirely. Next time you're at the supermarket pickup some pre-packaged meal replacement bars, shakes and fruit. But if that's not an option, use a snack to satisfy your immediate hunger while you look for something more substantial. Plan ahead and you can dramatically cut the sugar, fat and calories.

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7/30/2006