Food on the Run: Best Vending Machine Choices


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  102 comments   :  31,128 Views

The first United States vending machines were installed on New York City elevated platforms in 1888 to sell Tutti-Frutti gum. Shortly thereafter coin-operated gumball machines became popular as well. Sodas began being dispensed into cups via vending machines in the early 1920's with chilled bottled soda machines emerging in the 1930's. Vending machine millionaires were created during the 1960's with the expansion of vending machine meal and beverage service. The focus of their success surrounded the development of coffee vending machines and the canned soft drink vending machine invented in 1965. After that, food, snack and drink vending machines of all types boomed across the country.

Coffee machines have been popular in offices for decades to eliminate the need for someone to be in charge of making coffee. Providing a complete cafeteria is costly for small business employers and so are long break and lunch times to allow employees to go home. Over time, as management sought to tighten their bottom line, placing vending machines in the workplace became an easy and cost effective way to provide a quick break and lunch option onsite to keep workers as productive as possible.

The automated vending industry has come a long way from the days of Tutti-Frutti gum machines. Today vending is a $30 billion-a-year industry with an estimated 13,500 companies that employ nearly 700,000 people across the nation. Estimates suggest 100 million people use 7 million vending machines each day with the majority (30 percent) in manufacturing establishments and slightly over 16 percent located on school and college campuses.

Here are some nutrition basics from Eat This, Not That to help you make wise choices next time you visit a vending machine.

100 Grand - Best Nutty Candy Bar

Calories 190

Fat 8 grams

Sugar 22 grams

Take 5 - Best Crunchy Candy Bar

Calories 210

Fat 11 grams

Sugar 18 grams

Nestle' Crunch Bar - Best Chocolate Candy Bar

Calories 220

Fat 12 grams

Sugar 24 grams

Kit Kat Bar - Best Breakable Candy Bar

Calories 210

Fat 11 grams

Sugar 22 grams

Handi-Snacks Ritz Crackers 'n Cheez - Best Vending Machine Crackers

Calories 100

Fat 6 grams

Sodium 330 mg

Baked! Lays Potato Chips - Best Vending Machine Chips

Calories 110

Fat 1.5 grams

Sodium 150 mg

Planters Honey Roasted Peanuts - Best Vending Machine Nuts

Calories 160

Fat 13 gram

Sodium 110 mg

Rice Krispies Treat - Best Vending Machine Goody

Calories 150

Fat 3.5 grams

Sugar 12 grams

Mini Chips Ahoy! - Best Vending Machine Cookies

Calories 170

Fat 8 grams

Sugars 10 grams

Welch's Fruit Snacks Mixed Fruit - Best Vending Machine Fruity Snack

Calories 195

Fat 0 grams

Sugars 37.5 grams

Are any of these your favorites?

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  • 102
    Good to see this info now before vacation season. Even though you have listed better choices, I still don't see much in that list that I would touch. Maybe the Baked Lays would work. - 3/31/2012   10:22:04 AM
  • 101
    like HHI0901, I like the Welch's Fruit snacks and buy them by the box at Target and carry a single pouch in my purse.
    If I am volunteering for an event that does not have healthy snack choices, I will choose the Planters "Sweet and Salty" package and ration half a package to limit the salt hit. That mix of raisins, nuts, and chocolate quiets the hunger by offering a relatively good mix of protein, carbs, and fat while still being tasty. - 3/3/2012   4:45:11 PM
  • 100
    I always forget about 100 grand bars. I don't ever eat out of vending machines, but this did give me an idea for a relatively low cal candy snack...once in a while that is. - 8/17/2011   2:28:42 PM
  • 99
    Use to love the candy bars. However, I couldn't tell you the last time I have used a vending machine. I think it has been over a year! - 1/10/2011   12:38:28 PM
  • 98
    Rice Krispy Treats...yummy! - 7/26/2010   5:58:59 AM
  • 97
    I always try to pack snacks when I'm on the road or stop by a convenience store, the vending machines are overpriced and normally don't have anything appealing in them... - 7/8/2010   11:56:27 AM
  • 96
    I would not eat out of a vending machine unless doing so would save my life. I can't see that happening. - 6/24/2010   1:58:32 AM
  • 95
    I consider most vending machine stuff pure junk. It's nice to see there are some choices that are better than others; however, none of them were good choices because of the number of empty calories in them. If I buy anything out of a vending machine it's a bottle of water or some dry roasted nuts. For the rest of the stuff -- tempting as it may be at times -- I avoid it by thinking about how much treadmill or cycling time and effort it takes to work off all those empty calories. - 5/15/2010   9:23:00 PM
  • 94
    Pretzels for me. - 5/15/2010   4:00:20 PM
    I inhaled my share of 100 Grands back when 100 grand was worth a whole lot more than it is now...only I ate three at a time. They helped me pull many an all-nighter in college. In college and at work, I derived far too much of my sustenance from these infernal machines! - 5/14/2010   7:23:54 AM
  • 92
    This was a great article. There was a day in my life I'd have chosen any and all of what was listed, and my weight showed that! ha! Nowwwwww after nearing a 200 lb weightloss with a mere 40-45 lbs left to reach my 120 pound goal, I willl hit a vending maching for bottled water only!!! My snacks are carried with me always. Veggies veggies veggies as well as a protien bar or protien drink for when I need more than a veggie/water pick me up. This is the life ....4 the rest of my life! Live and Learn~ :o). The ideas will help where my daughter is concerned though being 13 years old~and carefree~I may be able to suggest ideas that are more healthy without her even realizing. Perfect!!! :o) Thanks so much!!!! - 5/12/2010   10:50:52 AM
    Thanks for the info. Trying to take what I need from home when I leave, but with three kids it is likely I will not always be fully prepared. - 5/12/2010   10:02:17 AM
  • RE2BAH
    So nice to have this right now--will stock up on some of the snacks mentioned so won't have to spend $$ buying them from the hotel vending machine! - 5/12/2010   9:20:12 AM
  • 89
    Vending machine food falls into my "not worth the calories" category. - 5/12/2010   8:36:01 AM
  • 88
    Very handy, even better is that I believe that I already have the book that these ideas came from. I also learned that eating at McDonalds is a smarter choice than Burger King. Both are obviously fatening choices but if your stuck in a rut and are really hungry, then go to Mickey D's and grab a grilled chicken wrap or one of their yummy salads. Burger King has much higher calories in each of their items compared to a similar item from Mc Donalds. - 5/12/2010   1:07:37 AM
  • 87
    I'm so happy to see Take 5 made the cut. It's an occasional splurge although never from a vending machine. Planning ahead means never tempting temptation. - 5/12/2010   12:31:27 AM
  • 86
    I could just feel the calories creeping on me as I read how many were in those candy bars & fruit snacks! Best choices??? There really were none in the sweet department. The best choice would be to have packed something from home - fresh fruit, wheat thins & hummus..... any number of other choices. - 5/11/2010   9:49:08 PM
  • 85
    We don't have vending machines where I work but someone is ALWAYS bringing food in and leaving it on the breakroom tables. Last week it was a couple dozen muffins and doughnuts. I keep "acceptable" treats at my desk as well. I like the fiber one products they have a chocolate bar 90 calories that's pretty good instead of a candy bar. - 5/11/2010   7:55:59 PM
    We do not have vending machines in our small office and I do not go near them anywhere else for that matter. What I do is keep snacks on hand and in my desk drawer - Protein Bars, Trail Mix, Peanut Butter crackers. This way when I do need a snack, I have my "healthier" choices on hand. - 5/11/2010   7:38:08 PM
  • 83
    rice krispie treats, take 5. didn't know they were better choices, so that's good. thanks for the insight. - 5/11/2010   7:01:22 PM
  • 82
    I have to disagree on the best chocolate from vending machine. Hershey's Special Dark is 180 calories, 12 grams of fat and only 15 mg sodium. Clearly, dark chocolate has extra benefits - 5/11/2010   5:17:27 PM
  • 81
    My vending machine at work has trail mix so if I'm absolutely desperate I will get that, but I usually don't carry cash on me, so I probably get something out of a vending machine about 3 times a year. - 5/11/2010   4:21:44 PM
    Heads up on those Rice Krispies Treat: Check the serving size before you munch the whole thing. Our vending machines sell ones in which 150 calories is the nutritional info for only HALF a bar, which is considered one serving! - 5/11/2010   3:01:53 PM
  • 79
    I rarely use vending machines. most as twice as expensive as buying at a grocery store. when I bowled in a league there were people paying .75 for a can of soda and another .75 for a candy bar. I bought my own on sale and took them with me. Neither was a good choice for nutrition but at least I didn't spend as much money for my bad choices.
    I worked in a grocery store for 40 years so we didn't need vending machines we could buy a frozen meal and microwave it or get a piece of fruit etc for breaks or lunches. - 5/11/2010   2:32:40 PM
  • 78
    I love those Welch's Fruit snacks. Love! - 5/11/2010   2:11:58 PM
  • BSWEET101
    I rarely buy things from vending machines. My favorite vending machines were provided and subsidized by a former employer: they were refrigerated and included healthy choices such as carrot and/or celery sticks (with dip); fruit choices (apples, oranges, pears); meals made with whole grain noodles, vegetables, and boneless skinless chicken breast. The options were a little pricier than standard vending machine fare, but they were more filling and better for us. - 5/11/2010   2:10:27 PM
  • 76
    Most vending machines I've seen will have some sort of pretzels or nuts, especially more recently--vending machine suppliers are starting to catch on to provide at least one or two relatively healthier options. - 5/11/2010   2:06:17 PM
  • 75
    Couldn't you include the carb counts as well for those Spark Folk who follow Atkins or other similar diets? - 5/11/2010   2:01:29 PM
  • 74
    I seldom buy anything from a vending machine, but I do like Lay's Baked chips. If that is a choice, I would buy tnem. - 5/11/2010   1:24:34 PM
  • 73
    These all seem unhealthy. I recently saw Kashi granola bars in a vending machine, which are much better quality, in that they don't have scary ingredients. - 5/11/2010   1:08:06 PM
    Thanks for the tips - I try to stay away - but once in a GREAT while ya just gotta have something! - 5/11/2010   12:52:04 PM
  • 71
    Fortunately, I do not get ANYTHING out of the vending machine here as people have gotten things & most things in there are expired//have a funny smell//or are moldy !!!!!!!!! YUK!!!!!!!! - 5/11/2010   12:42:51 PM
  • 70
    The 100 grand is a really good chewy chocolate bar, but it has no nuts. And in no way whatsoever would I call Nestle' Crunch a chocolate bar, the ratio of crispies to chocolate isn't quite right to make it good enough to call just a chocolate bar. - 5/11/2010   10:41:37 AM
  • 69
    I would choose the nuts if I were desperate. The rest is still really junk. This article is a reminder to me to always have a healthy snack with me, so I don't have to resort to a vending machine. I usually carry dried (lightly salted) edamame. This small amount of salt is not a problem since I am very careful overall to limit salt. - 5/11/2010   10:27:02 AM
  • 68
    Too many vending machines have stolen my money for me to trust any of 'em! - 5/11/2010   9:29:39 AM
  • 67
    I don't consider any of these vending machine "choices" to be actual food. - 5/11/2010   9:06:35 AM
    i work for a hospital and of course there are vending machines all over the place. What they also put healthier choices in the machines and they are marked. Also it is cheaper to buy the healthier stuff then the totally junk food. Pop is the same way, the sugar laden pop costs more than the sugar free stuff and bottled water. - 5/11/2010   8:32:14 AM
  • 65
    I rarely buy anything out of a vending machine. - 5/11/2010   7:53:48 AM
  • 64
    This was a fun post - I appreciate the history. But the statistics about vending machine use and placement are scary. To me, vending machines are like fast food chains - I ignore them because I don't choose to support the companies that make and/or distribute junk and call it food. Bad for our bodies, our economy, and our environment. If I know I will need a snack, I pack one. My kids have developed a blind spot for them, too - they don't even ask for food from them, knowing that the answer will 99% of the time be "no." - 5/11/2010   6:21:31 AM
    I'm pretty lucky that both my school (when I went to school) and place of work have healthy alternatives, like dried fruit jerky and low-oil and low-salt popcorn. At work, they even have an organic vegan cookie and Larabars. Its still more expensive than bringing your own treat, but in a pinch its great. - 5/11/2010   4:39:21 AM
  • 62
    It has been many, many years since I have bought anything but (over-priced) bottled water from a vending machine, and that was out of desperation. When I leave the house I have my "stash" with me. It's different depending on how long I'll be but can be baby carrots, grapes, cut up apple, and a Larabar. I try to always have plenty of water with me. I hope to never get caught needing to buy something from a vending machine, fast food restaurant or convenience store. - 5/11/2010   4:31:20 AM
  • 61
    I love planters nuts, & Rice krispies treats. And baked Lay's are my favorite chips, though I rarely eat them. - 5/11/2010   12:47:16 AM
  • HHI0901
    Fruit snacks are my go-to for hypoglycemia - yum! (Soooo processed but I really like them. Easy to carry, too - but buy them in bulk at Target or somewhere like that.) - 5/11/2010   12:36:16 AM
  • 59
    Rice Krispy treats! - 5/10/2010   11:55:25 PM
  • 58
    Nuts and gum for me ... :) But then, I'm lucky enough that my company not only stocks both nuts AND gum in the vending machines, but also brings in a nice selection of fresh fruit and bagels (I stay away from the bagels) every week!

    -Maya - 5/10/2010   10:39:46 PM
  • 57
    I never eat from vending machine. Can't imagine that anything remotely nutritious and guilt-free would be in there. - 5/10/2010   10:28:30 PM
  • 56
    Planters Honey Roasted Peanuts! - 5/10/2010   10:01:03 PM
  • 55
    If I am "forced" to use a vending machine (I am imagining myself starving to death on the floor in front of one, unable to get to my packed lunch) I will look for pretzels, gum, v8, and sometimes you can score an apple or an orange in a sandwich machine. - 5/10/2010   8:35:25 PM
    I try to avoid the vending machine at all costs but this is good to know in case of an "snack' emergency!! ;) - 5/10/2010   8:01:11 PM
  • SUNSET09
    I think vending machines are overpriced and carry my own snacks which I purchase frm the grocery store. The item on your list whihc I have as a snack are peanuts as it gives me the energy I need! - 5/10/2010   7:43:05 PM

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