Vending machine snacking: The healthier options

You’ve been there before – dreaming of a snack to tide you over until your next meal. But there’s nowhere to turn except a row of vending machines. So what can you do to curb your hunger without overdoing the kilojoules, fat, salt and more? And, can your choice of machine cuisine ever be healthy?

Vending machine snacks don’t have the best reputation – they’re often processed to the max and loaded with additives. This is to make sure that the food lasts and doesn’t spoil. So if the vending machine is often your only option, smarter choices can mean a lot to your health.

Pick peanuts …

Or almonds, or cashews. Although they’re rich in kilojoules thanks to the mono-unsaturated (healthy) fats they contain, all nuts are also rich in protein and fibre, so they can be really satisfying, too. Protein acts like a chemical appetite suppressant, signalling from your stomach to your brain that you’ve eaten. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water, which the fibre absorbs to help you feel physically fuller. Remember, salted snacks can contribute to higher blood pressure so unsalted are your best option.

Baked wholegrain potato chips

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You can now get wholegrain versions of chips marketed as healthier alternatives to potato chips. They use better oil, contain more fibre and less salt. But, they are still dense in kilojoules and easy to overdo. So, enjoy occasionally but always opt for small packs to help prevent mindless overeating.

Wholegrain cereal bars

Although some options can contain more fat and sugar than a doughnut, some varieties are much better. Look at the label to make sure your bar of choice contains whole grains, and that sugar (anything ending in ‘ose’ as well as sugar, malt and honey) comes much lower down in the order of ingredients. Look for packs that are portion-sized and usually under 870 kilojoules (around 200 calories) per bar. Look for bars that contain some form of whole grain, like oats or flax, and nuts, to provide a healthy hit of fibre and protein.

Air popped popcorn

As well as packing a fibre punch, popcorn is a wholegrain that is low in kilojoules and great if you sometimes just want to chew and chew and chew. Go for air-popped varieties and avoid the sweetened, buttered products.

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Pepita perfection

Packed full of protein these little gems are full of minerals such as magnesium, which most people don’t get enough of. Twitches are a sign that you might benefit from more magnesium and this major mineral is lost from your body during times of stress. Popping some pepitas (pumpkin seeds) may even help to boost your feeling of calmness since magnesium helps to relax your muscles. Pepitas also provide zinc, iron and vitamin E plus they contain a plant sterol (phytosterols), which binds to cholesterol helping to lower it.

Trail Mix

When it comes to trail mix, not all are equal. Opt for the kinds that contain unsalted nuts and dried fruit combinations for a sweet/savoury hit. Nuts, again, provide protein and fibre, which will keep you feeling fuller for longer. The dried fruit will provide you with vitamins such as beta carotene which is made by your body into a safe form of vitamin A and is a powerful antioxidant. Steer clear of mixes made up of cereal, chocolate and other sugary treats.

Chocolate covered raisins vs. banana chips?

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Surprised to learn that the choc option is a better one? Despite the sugary chocolate, raisins provide iron compared with the saintly sounding banana chips which are actually deep fried and sugared. Chocolate raisins are an even better option than yoghurt covered raisins – which pack a much heavier fat punch.

Go with the least altered

Try and opt for products that are as much like the original food as possible. So for example, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that after fresh apple, dried apple comes a close second and apples squished with other fruits are healthier than apple puree or apple cake. So, make the best choice out of the options you have.’

Tell us, what do you like to snack on?