Vending machines seem to be popping up everywhere. Although vending machines are a popular channel for convenient snack foods and beverages, they are often a source of less-than-healthy products. Whether hunger hits unexpectedly wherever we are – road, college, office, movie theaters- vending machines can be perplexing to those who are trying to eat healthy. In a healthier world, we would have fruits vendors or fresh veggies and hummus in refrigerated machines, but there are times when vending machines packed with soda, candy, and chips are the only option. A great majority of options are high in calories, fat, and added sugars, and low in nutrients. Popular items include candy, soft drinks, chips, cookies and cakes. The majority of vending machine food sold in the nation’s middle and high schools has little or no nutritional value, a factor that advocates believe is contributing to skyrocketing child obesity rates.
A survey conducted in Washington DC revealed that concerning snacks, 80 percent of those available were candy, chips or sweet baked goods, and of the 9,723 total snack slots surveyed, only 26 slots offered a fruit or vegetable.
Claims that junk food at school does not hurt kids are junk themselves. Schools have been investigating vending machines and are researching what goes into them. Many schools are now changing to healthier items being stocked in these machines. The reason being, that most vending machines typically do contain unhealthy food and students are bombarded only with unhealthy vending machine choices. Parents of preschool children, should not encourage their children to eat from the vending machines. Children are attracted to colorful packages. However what they eat at young age influences their adulthood. Purchasing unhealthy snack choices to pacify or calm a demanding child, gives children a poor nutrition and health message.
An Indian vending machine vendor offers products that Fruits Vending Machine, Cool Drink’s Vending Machine, Hot snack Vending Machine, Milk Pouch Vending Machine. The products included here are: pizza, burger, hot bread, packed pasts, packed noodles, salad packets, hot dogs, sandwich, samosa and fresh meat of chicken, fish and crab! Even though, the claim is these foods are good and safe to eat we need to take precautions before consuming any of these foods that are cooked and baked. Many times foods may be expired or about to expire. Or if the food is not processed properly they may be contaminated with bacteria or fungi.
It is a good idea to spend a few extra minutes gazing through glass vending window before making a hasty purchase. Evaluate before inserting your money to insure you are making a nutritious choice.
What precautions one should take when tap into foods from vending machines?
1) Read nutrition label – understand every words that are displayed on food label (see here: https://healthylife.werindia.com/topic-of-the-day/food-label-requirements-india )
2) Check expiry dates and manufacturing date – do not eat something that is already expired.
3) See whether the food is properly sealed.
4) If there is stuffing in the food (like sandwich or samosa or even cutlets), make sure there is no growth or slimy things inside the food.
5) Check for sugar content
6) Odour should be fresh
7) Look into hygienic condition of the vending machine. Law required cleaning the vending machine often
8) Do not encourage children to eat from colorful packages.
9) Beware of the list of things that are prohibited from school vending machines. Apply same rule to your children outside their school. For example – Some schools are prohibiting the sale or serving of the following foods in school: chewing gum, flavored ice bars, candy bars, food or drinks containing 40 percent or more, by weight, of sugar. And other sweeteners, juice products containing less than 20 percent real fruit or vegetable juice, or foods with more than 8 grams of fat per one ounce serving. In addition, soft drinks are prohibited at some elementary and middle schools.
10) Try to make sure that the majority of your vending choices are healthy choices.
- What to choose? Choose – Baked tortilla chips, popcorn, whole grain bagels, low fat muffins, low sugar cereals, oats, granola type bars, snack mix with with cereals and dry fruits, nuts and seeds, fresh fruits, vegetable sticks, fig bars, crackers, cookies (plain), baked crackers, pretzels, unsweetened juice and 100% water. From well refrigerated vending machine – fruit salad (fresh), low fat milk, non fat yogurt, frozen 100% fruit juice bars.
- What to avoid? Samosa, burger, cutlet, veggie rolls, meat sandwich, candy bars, candy, potato chips, fried chips, artificially sweetened popcorn, high fat cheese snacks, fruit flavored sweetened roll-ups, cream filled cookies, snack cakes and rolls, mini chocolate donuts, meats, regular soda, whole milk and ice cream.
11) Beware of transfat foods in the vending machines. Many snack manufacturers are using palm oil instead of proper cooking oil. It is good to make it a habit of reading food label to understand – sugar percent, fat content, calories of the food, artificial flavors and other transfat contents.
If we know our schedule the best option is always packing healthy lunch and keeping healthy snacks wherever we are or to carry with us. In a perfect world, one can expect healthy foods in vending machine. However, world is not there yet. Until then we need to use good judgment when making health choices for ourselves and for our children.