It’s the ultimate modern day temptation. You’re about to embark on the lengthy commute home from work. You’ve successfully pushed through your mid-afternoon sugar cravings and pushed 3.30itis to one side, but your stomach is starting to rumble as you wait for the train and you realise that, by the time you make it home and prepare dinner, you’re looking at at least 90 minutes before you can tuck into a meal.
A vending machine promises a sweet or savory treat to settle your stomach in the interim. Do you give in to the vending machine temptation? While a few of the snacks on offer may seem a healthier alternative to a packet of chips or a chocolate bar, even the healthier options aren’t as nutritious as they may seem.
Mixed, salted nuts
A traditional bar snack and a vending machine staple, mixed nuts often seem like a healthier alternative to a salty packet of chips. We know almonds are a healthy snacking option, so surely a bag of mixed nuts can’t be too bad- can it?
While nuts are generally quite good for you, the prepackaged variety found housed within vending machines are coated in salts and artificial flavours. Peanuts, a key ingredient in most salted mixed nut bags, are particularly high in saturated fats while a bag of salted nuts can tip your daily sodium intake over the scale before you’re even home for dinner.
Granola and muesli bars
Often positioned as a healthy alternative to chocolate bars, granola and muesli bars will undoubtedly help you feed those sugar cravings- because they often contain just as much sugar as their chocolate counterparts. In order to physically hold the muesli together in a bar form, manufacturers need to coat the grains in sugar to make them stick.
While some of the sugar content in muesli bars may be natural sugar from fruit, the options found in vending machines are rarely of the organic, natural-sugar-only variety. While a muesli bar is still generally a healthier option than milk chocolate, the mainstream brands are still nowhere near as healthy as you might assume.
Wholegrain and vegetable chips
A huge part of the appeal of wholegrain or vegetable chips as healthy vending machine options is that words like “natural” and “wholegrains” are emblazoned across the packaging, despite containing 20.8% fat in any serving. This serves as a serious snacking reminder- don’t be sucked in by the pull of vending machine packaging.
Where a supermarket allows you to pick up a product and turn it over to check its nutritional value, a vending machine doesn’t provide you with that luxury. Whilst they are certainly a healthier option than standard potato chips, they are still dense in kilojoules and they’re heavily processed making them nowhere near as healthy as most people think. Serving size is also an issue here- the recommended serving size equates to around 12 chips, and if you’ve ever been hungry during a long commute before you’ll know that this is almost impossible to stick to.
Fruit juices and flavoured mineral waters
If you prefer your afternoon sugar hit in liquid form, you might think you’re making a healthy choice by choosing a fruit juice rather than a flavoured, fizzy soft drink. The thought process is simple- juice comes from fruit, and the sweeteners in fruit are natural, unlike the high fructose corn syrup used to flavour and sweeten soft drinks.
This may be true, however studies have shown fruit juices contain a fructose concentration of about 45.5 g per litre on average, which is only slightly less than the average of 50g found in soft drinks. Sugar, natural or otherwise, will still contribute to weight gain and health problems if it isn’t burnt off as energy, so if weight loss is your goal then all sugars need to be treated with caution.
The bottom line? Cravings can hit us anywhere, any time, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about them. To solution is to plan ahead in order to avoid vending machine temptation. Keep some healthy snacks, like our range of Chibbs, on hand if you’re anticipating a long, hungry commute and take comfort in knowing that you’re snacking on a healthier alternative to even the seemingly “healthy” vending machine options.