Beware the Office Vending Machine

There's a place for vending machines. In hotel lobbies, for example, at airports and railway stations, or in the draughty halls of a college dormitory. But do they belong in the office?

A lot of modern workplaces have installed vending machines that can play havoc with your healthy diet plans. But sometimes they are the only option when you’ve hit the snooze button one time too many and have rushed out the door without breakfast and no packed lunch.

 

Full of Empty Calories?

 

Most of the items sold in vending machines contain heaps of empty calories, saturated fats and/or sugar. If you’re smart and disciplined, however, you might be able to find a couple of things to fill your belly and see you through the afternoon without too many cups of coffee.

 

Ignore the crisps and chocolate bars and go for the few nutritionally sound snacks you can find hiding in most vending machines. Remember that snacks need to be added into your total calories for the day.

 

Peanuts

 

Probably one of your best options on the vending menu. Peanuts are satisfying, delicious, and highly nutritious. Yes, they’re high in fat and are actually grown for their oil in many parts of the world. But the fat content of around 50% is mostly monosaturated and polyunsaturated.

 

Peanuts are a good protein source too, with a protein content of about 30%. This combination of fat and protein make peanuts a very sustaining, satisfying snack. They are also low in carbs, which means they’re highly suitable for diabetics. As if this isn’t enough, peanuts are a great source of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, biotin, niacin and more.

 

Watch out for the salt on most roasted peanuts sold from vending machines. You can cut down on the salt by removing the nuts from the packet and putting them on a piece of paper towel. Rub most of the salt off then enjoy your peanuts out of a small bowl at your desk.

 

Raisins

 

Sometimes sold in combination with peanuts, raisins also make a satisfying snack if you’re craving something sweet. Despite having a lot of sugar and calories, they’re definitely a better choice than a choco bar.

 

Raisins are known to aid digestion because half a cup contains about 20% of your daily fibre quota. This will help keep you full for longer, especially when combined with peanuts. Raisins are a good source of iron too, not to mention calcium and boron.

 

To top it all, a 2009 study found that raisins contain phytochemicals that keep gums and teeth healthy by fighting mouth bacteria. All in all, not bad for a vending machine sweet treat!

 

Wholegrain Crackers

 

This snack provides a better carb boost than high-fat crackers or crisps. The fibre they contain can sustain you for longer too.

 

Popcorn

 

Popcorn is classified as wholegrain, but you have to be careful which variety you choose. Most flavoured popcorn is covered in high quantities of sugar or salt. If this is the only kind your vending machine offers, use the paper towel trick to rub most of it off. Of course, the butter varieties are a no-go because of the saturated fat they contain. If you're lucky you might find the air-popped variety in your vending machine.

 

Baked Crisps

 

While baked potato crisps aren’t exactly embedded in the health food category, they are certainly better for you than the fried variety. A small bag contains about 2g of fat as opposed to a bag of fried crisps which contains 10g. Nacho style chips often contain even more fat- around 13g a bag.

 

Beef Jerky

 

This dried meat treat is a good high protein choice. Be careful though because it is usually very salty.

 

What to Avoid

 

There are some snacks in your office vending machine that should have a skull and crossbones sticker on them. These are just “no-go” areas in terms of nutritional content or lack thereof. These type of snack are loaded with empty calories, sugar and unhealthy fats.

 

Packaged Fruit Pies

 

Probably the worst choice you could make. Don’t for a minute imagine that the jammy inside counts as a fruit serving. They contain very little fruit but have huge amounts of calories (around 440) and fat (up to 30g a serve.)

 

Cheesy Snacks

 

Cheese crackers or corn chips with cheese are extremely high in saturated fats and sodium, and almost totally without fibre or protein.

 

Pretzels

 

For some strange reason, pretzels are almost always thought of as a healthy snack choice. Sure, they don’t contain all the fat that crisps have, so if you absolutely have to choose between the two then always go for the twisty snack.

 

Pretzels are made from refined white flour which contains very few nutrients and hardly any fibre. They’re extremely high in sodium too. A 28g serve contains about 350 mg of sodium. As refined carbs, pretzels can spike your blood sugar rapidly, only to drop it later leaving you feeling sluggish.

 

Candy Bars

 

Candy and chocolate bars are basically pure sugar. They may satisfy your sweet tooth, but they’ll cause your energy levels to plummet soon after. Not good if you have to make an important presentation later in the afternoon. If you must have a candy bar, pick a small slab of dark chocolate. It’s a source of antioxidants and minerals and definitely contains less sugar than milk chocolate.

 

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