4 Ways to Eat Healthy(ish) From Vending Machines


They’re omnipresent. And typically omni-unhealthy.

Vending machines are everywhere, clustered especially in spots where you'll find students, office workers, and other on-the-go types. To be sure, more nutritious-conscious contraptions are starting to appear in workplaces and community spots (our company has an amazing fresh fruit vending option in the main office). But these remain few and far between.

The vending machine business takes in a staggering $110 million per day in the U.S. according to 1.800.VENDING. The vast majority of those purchases aren't waistline friendly. But for healthy-minded folks stuck in a pinch, there are some semi-healthy options.

Check out some of these tips so you know what buttons to push next time you’re face-to-face with a vending machine. (See also: Healthy, Frugal Eating)

Go Nuts...and Seeds

No snack hunter will have problems finding peanuts and sunflower seeds in vending machines. In fact, different flavors of each are common. For those hankering for a sweet snack, honey-roasted peanuts or even peanut M&Ms fare better than sugar-laden candy bars. Mixed nuts are the ideal snack in the late afternoon when you’re running on empty until dinner. Since the human body slowly digests monounsaturated fat, which is found in nuts and seeds, this path provides longer-lasting energy and an extended “full” feeling.

Choose Salty Snacks Wisely

Bagged goodies can hit the spot for those looking for a salty snack. The key is avoiding potato chips packed with simple carbohydrates. Too many simple carbs cause a short-lived energy boost and then a crash. However, Lays’ line of baked potato chips, Sun Chips, and reduced-fat popcorn serve as healthy alternatives. Generally low in calories and fat, these snacks have some fiber. Pretzels are a safe alternative, too, although they have little nutritious value. Whole-wheat cracker sandwiches with either cheese or peanut butter come with complex carbohydrates, the good kind. Not only do good carbs keep us full and more energized, but they also keep us alert for a longer period of time.

Use Fruits to Satisfy a Sweet Tooth

Candy bars, breakfast bars, and baked goods get us salivating. But like fatty potato chips, these overly sweetened indulgences contain tons of simple carbohydrates. Again, we get an abbreviated energy boost and then crash. Instead, look for fruit or fruit-based nibbles to satiate a dessert craving. Fig Newtons are exemplary in this role as they’re low in fat and calories.


It’s important to drink plenty of water even if you’re not doing anything that’s physically tasking. Dehydration may be masked as hunger, so try satisfying that hungry feeling with water. Avoid sodas, as they’re overloaded with sugar, empty calories, and simple carbohydrates. Energy drinks are seldom nutritiously different than soda. Water is the best choice, followed by sweet tea or flavored water.


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Meg Favreau's picture

When I was still working in an office, they started adding "healthy choice" stickers next to some of the vending machine options. Since I work at home now, I don't run into vending machines as much these days, heh.

What are your go-to vending machine eats?

Guest's picture

Excellent tips! Same goes for fast food places - you CAN make better choices even if you find yourself in one.

Guest's picture

A bit off topic, but I've always wanted to go to Japan solely to see all the bizarre vending machine choices :)

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