Eat a balanced diet of healthy foods. It seems simple, right? After all, we have full control over what we eat and what we don’t.
In real life, it isn’t that easy. Your diet needs to fit in between your career, managing your household, perhaps raising kids, paying bills, and much more. Most of us don’t have time to spend each night cutting up veggies for the next day’s snacks.
That leaves us with the snack machine: great for convenience, usually not so great for healthy snacks. There are ways to make good choices at the vending machine, though.
1. Scout Your Locations
When it comes to healthy choices, not all vending machines are created equal. There are even vending machine providers like HealthyYou Vending that specialize in healthier snacks.
Whether it’s your home environment or your work environment, take time to survey the area and know where all the vending machines are. Take a look to see which ones tend to have the healthiest options.
When you’re in need of a nutritious snack, you’ll know which vending machines to try first.
2. Bake It Home
Sometimes the healthy choices in a vending machine are obvious. It’s not hard to see whether apple slices or potato chips are the better choice. Other times, it’s not so clear.
If you’re having a hard time, look for a magical word on the packaging: “baked.” Baked snacks tend to be healthier than snacks that could be fried.
Of course, this doesn’t always give you the whole picture. There are plenty of unhealthy baked snacks and healthy foods that don’t advertise that they’re baked. It’s an easy guideline that can steer you in the right direction, though.
3. Don’t Take Labels at Their Word
Snack manufacturers know that people are trying to make better food choices. Sometimes they try to make their items look healthier than they are.
For example, the “reduced-fat” label can be deceptive. A snack could be low in fat but they may have made up for it with tons of sugar, which is worse for your body than the fat that the snack used to have.
It’s best to take labels like these with a grain of salt. Look up the snack to find out its full nutritional facts, not just the ones the manufacturer wants you to see.
4. Aim for a Whole in One
Another helpful word to look for as you check out your snack options is “whole grain.”
If an item has whole grains, it means it offers more nutritional value. Whole grains are also great for energizing you during your mid-afternoon slump.
As with the word “baked,” “whole grain” doesn’t automatically mean something is healthy. There are plenty of foods with whole grains that are loaded with other problematic ingredients. Still, it’s an easy way to narrow your choices.
5. If You Splurge, Find a Balance
Let’s face it: we all have times when we’re craving something that’s terrible for our bodies. Sometimes you have an incurable chocolate craving and nothing else will do.
In these cases, you can still choose wisely.
Strike a balance by finding a snack that has what you’re craving but also has healthier ingredients. For example, choose peanut M&Ms instead of regular M&Ms. They have around the same number of calories but with peanut M&Ms, you’re getting some protein in the mix.
6. Choose Brands with Healthy Reputations
As you look through a vending machine, you’ll notice snacks from a wide range of brands. If you want items that are actually as healthy as they seem, aim for brands that specialize in health foods.
For instance, opt for KIND, Clif, or Pop-Chips. These brands have a reputation for delivering high-quality snacks with healthy profiles.
These snacks’ nutritional value will be more predictable than when a brand that specializes in unhealthy snacks tries to make a healthier version
7. Try Making a Request
If you’re using vending machines that are in public areas, you may not have much control over what goes in them. For vending machines in your office building or your apartment building, though, you probably have more pull than you realize.
In most cases, either the vending machine company or the person in your building who coordinates with that company is taking a complete guess about what snacks to include.
If you find out who that person is and give them some suggestions, they’ll probably appreciate the input. It makes their lives easier if they don’t have to try to take a shot in the dark.
8. When in Doubt, Google It
When you’re trying to eat healthy, technology is your friend.
As you look at a vending machine and review your options, don’t be afraid to look up the nutritional information for each item you’re considering. This makes it easy to compare and get all the information you need.
It’s especially helpful if you know what your daily goals are for your macros: carbs, fat, and protein.
If you look up a snack and see that it has 20 grams of carbs, that doesn’t sound like a lot. If you’re aiming for 160 grams of carbs per day, though, that one snack takes up almost 13% of your goal for the day. That may be more than you’re willing to shell out.
Appeasing Your Snack Machine Cravings in a Healthier Way
In the course of a busy day, sometimes you need a nibble or two to keep you energized throughout the day. If you choose the wrong snacks, though, they could have the opposite effect.
Whether you’re at work or at home, these tips can help you make the right choices every time you visit the snack machine.
For more tips you can use to make the most of your workdays, check out more articles on our small business blog.