The Vending Machine: A Reliable Source of Fuel?

STACK Expert Jim Carpentier looks at standard vending machine options and helps you make healthy choices.

Vending Machine

Campus vending machines may seem like a convenient way to satisfy your hungry en route to class or practice. But buyer beware! The urge to eat something in a hurry tends cause us to overlook other options.

Vending machines carry both nourishing and unhealthy products. Items that look healthy might actually be high-calorie evil treats containing heart-harmful trans fats (e.g., partially-hydrogenated oils), excess sugar, salt and other additives.

Here's what you need to watch out for:

Crackers and Cheese

Cheese-filled crackers sound like a healthy snack, but they're actually a high-sodium, high-fat and high-calorie refined carbohydrate concoction.

Better alternative: natural protein-rich sunflower seeds or peanuts.

Chocolate Bars

Although a ton of media has told us chocolate is good for us, only bitter or semi-sweet dark chocolate has nutritional value, because it contains heart-friendly antioxidants. Chocolate candy bars are usually milk chocolate and sugary, overly processed foods.

Better alternative: An energizing vitamin- and mineral-rich dried fruit packet (e.g., raisins or apricots) to supply fuel for your workout or practice.

Potato Chips and Corn Chips

Unless the bag reads "all natural," chips are generally high in sodium and have trans fats. (See Pick And Pass: Potato Chips.)

Better alternative: Nutrient-dense nuts, seeds, popcorn, whole-grain crackers or trail mix, containing more fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Juice and Soda

Most juices and sodas are high in calories and sugar and not good for your teeth. (See Pick & Pass: Vending Machine Juices.)

Better alternative: Dried fruit packets. Dried fruit is more natural and has important dietary fiber. Choose bottled water instead of soda. Water has zero calories and aids fat-burning metabolism.

Your best defense against the vending machine

Make Your Own Trail Mix

Prepare your own nutritious snack in advance. Make a trail mix, store it in a sandwich bag, carry it in your backpack and snack on it whenever you please throughout the day. (You won't have to worry about having enough change for the vending machine.) Try one that mixes nuts, seeds, raisins and dark chocolate chips. (See Healthy Recipes to Help Build Muscle.)


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock