Friday, 23 September 2011 01:21

How to Choose the Healthiest Food From A Vending Machine

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I can't remember the last time I bought something out of a vending machine, so today when I saw one I decided to check out the options inside - grim as I imagined. However, several people I was in a meeting with went up and made purchases because they were hungry and wanted something instant. I remember what that felt like - examining the choices, weighing out the health effects versus what flavors I was craving, and ultimately deciding to splurge and get something sweet or salty. It's sad that these machines prey on our moment of weakness and offer up foods meant to manipulate our eyes and our tongues... Since that is the current reality, then here are some ways to make the healthiest decision, and the top choices from this particular vending machine. 

Most vending machines feature products that are salty, oily and sugary. It's incredibly rare to find organic items, and they often contain notoriously unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and MSG. Since you can't read the nutrition facts before you buy, it's good to have an idea of the common options.
This machine's options (bold = vegan, nutrition facts based on entire package):
  • Hawaiian Original Potato Chips ~ potatoes, oil and salt. 210 calories, 15g of fat, 180mg sodium
  • Hawaiian Sweet Maui Onion Potato Chips ~ potatoes, oil, sugar, salt, flavorings, whey, cheese, gluten, soy. 210 calories, 15g of fat, 180mg sodium, 3g sugar
  • Funyuns ~ corn, oil, salt, sugar, flavorings, MSG, artificial colors. 210 calories, 10g of fat, 400mg sodium
  • Big Texas Cinnamon Roll ~ flour, sugar, oil, egg whites, other ingredients. 460 calories, 22g fat, 470mg sodium, 3g sugar
  • Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies ~ flour, chocolate, sugar, oil, salt, eggs, whey, artificial flavors. 4 cookies = 210 calories, 10g fat, 140mg sodium, 13g sugar
  • Lil Dutch maid Lemon Sandwich Creme ~ (couldn't find the ingredients). 940 calories, 40g fat, 640g sodium, 80g sugar
  • Maruchan Ramen Noodle Soup (beef and chicken flavor) ~ wheat, salt, oil, MSG, flavors. 380 calories, 14g fat, 1540mg salt
  • Rice Krispie Treat ~ rice, sugar, salt, corn, gelatin, soy, artificial flavors. 90 calories, 2g fat, 105mg sodium, 8g sugar
  • Nestlé Crunch bar ~ sugar, chocolate, milk, soy, rice. 220 calories, 11g fat, 60g sodium, 24g sugar
  • Baby Ruth bar ~ sugar, peanuts, salt, oil, milk, chocolate, whey, artificial flavors. 275 calories, 13g fat, 138mg sodium, 32g sugar
  • Butterfinger ~ sugar, peanuts, oil, chocolate, milk, corn, salt, soy, corn, artificial flavor. 270 calories, 11g fat, 135mg sodium, 29g sugar
  • Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Bars ~ oats, corn syrup, honey, fruit, nuts, rice, oil, soy. 140 calories, 4g fat, 65mg sodium, 13g sugar
  • Nature Valley Oat's 'N Honey granola bar ~ oats, sugar, oil, corn, honey, soy, salt. 190 calories, 6g fat, 160 mg sodium, 12g sugar
  • Quaker Oats Maple Sugar Instant Oatmeal ~ oats, sugar, salt. 160 calories, 2.5g fat, 260mg sodium,  9g sugar
  • Doritos Nacho Cheese flavor ~ corn, oil, wheat flour, salt, cheese, whey, MSG, flavors, soy, milk. 150 calories, 8g fat, 210mg sodium, 1g sugar
Yep, only 2 of the 15 options were vegan (unless you count honey as vegan), and they happen to be the healthiest choices as well. What would I chose? The potato chips, because they're sugar free and have the least amount of ingredients. Sure, oatmeal is generally healthy, but not when sugar and high amounts of salt are involved. The trail mix and granola bars might be acceptable if you eat honey, but the amount of sugar, salt and oil in them cancels out the nutrition value of oats, fruit and nuts. Unfortunately, none of these options are healthy.
If you're in a bind and need to choose something from the vending machine that has these limited options, I say go with potato chips. This is a good reason why I carry around things like nuts and healthy protein drink powder with me a lot of times - I don't want to be caught in a bad situation where I make a poor choice out of desperation and/or weakness. However, were that to happen, I wouldn't allow myself to feel guilty - I would take it for what it was and think of it as a reminder to be prepared.
What would you choose? Or would you rather go hungry?
Read 10691 times Last modified on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 05:15