Posts Tagged With: vending machines

Take a look at this 23-page PDF guide to choosing healthy options for lunch when in a hurry– you CAN make healthier choices at fast food restaurants, at the vending machine, and with frozen meals!

Mary Rodavich, MS, RD, LDN

Part of our corporate wellness assignment this week was to create a presentation for the “Lunch and Learn” wellness series for employees at the Davis College of WVU.  Emily and I finally finished our 23-page handout titled, “Eating Healthy While Working On Campus”. The guide includes:

1.) Eat This, Not That – Morgantown Edition

2.) Healthy Vending Machine Choices

3.) Healthy Frozen Meals

To check it out, click the link below!!

Click: Eating Healthy While Working On Campus

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Categories: Community Nutrition, Education in the Community | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Healthiest Vending Machine Options

When choosing a snack from a vending machine, you’re faced with a few options….chips, popcorn, chocolate bars, candy, cookies, trail mix, and more.  The average person may not think twice about the nutritional content of these items.  However for the person who is trying to keep an eye on their health or waistline, deciding what to purchase can be a tougher decision.  Now, if vending machines dispensed fruits and vegetables, every option would be a healthy choice.

Fresh fruits & veggies from Fresh Healthy Vending

However, most vending machines today still look like the one found in the Agricultural Sciences Building at West Virginia University.

Chips, and Snacks, and Candy, Oh My!

It’s really too bad, considering that West Virginia has one of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the country.  But in order for behavior change to occur, people have to have the right tools and skill set in order to make healthier and educated choices.  I wanted to create some kind of sign or educational material that grouped these vending machine choices into “green, yellow, red” for a “yes, sometimes, rarely” type of rating system that will let consumers know how each snack ranks nutrition-wise, when compared with the rest of the available options.  After analyzing the calorie and fat content of each package, I decided the most reasonable criteria to use was 240 calories or less and 20% DV of total fat or less for the “green” rating. A yellow rating meant it only met one of the two previous criteria, and a red rating meant the snack didn’t meet either of the criteria, as it was above 240 calories and above 20% DV of total fat.

Here is a PDF file showing the snacks grouped into each stoplight color, which I hope to have as a poster next to the vending machine:

Guide to Vending Machine Snacks

And here is another flyer highlighting the 3-4 best vending machine choices:

Best Vending Machine Choices

While doing this project, there’s one main lesson I learned and that others should take notice of as well.  Portion size is everything! Many of these snacks are not single serving sizes.  For example, the bags of chips were 1.125-2 ounces, while a serving of chips is 1 ounce.  So naturally, if you eat the whole bag, you have to nearly double the calories, fat grams, carbohydrates, etc. in order to accurately depict what is in the entire bag.  This is especially key to take note of if you choose the Kar’s Roasted Salted Peanuts.  Peanuts are a great snack to have– they contain 8 grams of protein and nearly 3 grams of fiber per serving, not to mention they contain the heart-healthy unsaturated fats. But this bag is two ounces, and an ounce of peanuts is one serving.  If you eat the full two ounces in one afternoon, you’ve just ate 29 grams of fat, or 45% of your DV for the day.  So it’s definitely best to eat half of the package, and save the other half in your desk drawer for later in the week.

Ok, so “what can I eat?”  The answer, is anything! Just eat half of the bag of chips or half of the candy bar, and you’ll be just fine. Everything will be less than 170 calories that way, and less than 17% DV of total fat, or 11 grams.  But if you want to eat an entire package, here’s the best option from each category:

BEST CHIP: Baked Ruffles, Cheddar & Sour Cream
Due to its smaller portion size (1.125oz), this bag contains just 135 calories and 4 grams of fat (only 0.5g of that is saturated). Go for it!

BEST SNACK ITEM: Chex Mix, Cheddar
This 1.75-oz bag contains 210 calories and 6.5g of fat (10% DV). A better choice than Cheez-Its which have more than double the fat.

BEST CANDY: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Due to its smaller portion size, these 2 peanut butter cups are the lowest calorie candy bar you’re going to find in this vending machine. While Reese’s does have 13g of fat (20% DV), 8.5g of these are unsaturated fats, and there’s also 5g of protein, which isn’t too bad!

HONORABLE MENTION: Kar’s Original Trail Mix
While it did receive a “yellow” rating due to its higher fat content (22% DV), trail mix is still a good choice. This 1.5-oz bag is 200 calories, has 3g of fiber, 7.5g of protein, and 12.5g of the 14g of fat are unsaturated (“healthy”) fats.

Remember, the healthiest choice to make would be to bring a snack from home, such as fruit, whole wheat crackers, yogurt, a cheese stick, or fresh veggies.  But if you find yourself in front of a vending machine with a dollar in your pocket, it’s also important to know what vending machine options are the healthiest for you.

Categories: Community Nutrition, Education in the Community | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How Many Sugar Cubes are in Your Favorite Soda?

A week or two ago, I posted a “how to pack a healthy lunch” blog.  It gave ideas about how to include all the food groups into a balanced, healthy meal for your school-aged child, or for someone to bring to work.  Wouldn’t it be great if everyone would just pack their own lunch from home, full of fruits and vegetables?  Ahh, a dietitian’s dream! Obviously, this is not realistic. Not everyone wants to pack their own lunch, cook their own meals, shop for their own groceries, and even wash their own dishes!  Often times due to time constraints, cost, convenience, or other reasons, employees and students of any establishment will choose to either go through a fast food drive through, nuke a frozen meal in a microwave, or head to the vending machines to find something to eat.  So, next Friday Mary and I will be hosting the first of a six-part “Lunch & Learn” series, where we will be addressing how to make healthier lunch choices at fast food restaurants nearby campus, which frozen entrees are the best choices, and which vending machine snacks are the healthiest at WVU.

This afternoon I ventured down into the lounge area in the Agricultural Science building where the vending machines are located.  WVU is a Coca-Cola campus, and they have 10 different 20-oz beverages for $1.25 in 2 separate vending machines.  There is also a snack vending machine with over 30 snack choices (mainly chips, candy bars, and pretzels/trail mix).

The soda vending machines in WVU’s Agricultural Sciences Building

There are many different rating systems I could use, from “never eat this” and “always eat this” to scales of 1-10, 10 being the healthiest, or even a grading scale like A, B, C, D, & F.  I decided upon a “stoplight” type system. Green means go ahead/yes and is a good vending machine choice, given the options.  Yellow means proceed with caution/maybe, and is an okay choice to make sometimes.  Red means its an item that probably shouldn’t be eaten/drank every day, but is okay to have once in a while.

I started with the beverages rather than the snacks, and I here’s what I came up with:

Vending Machine Beverages

The above link will open a docx where you can see a reader-friendly chart with images included.  The beverages that earned a green light were Dasani (best choice overall, indicated with a green star), Coca-Cola Zero, Diet Coke, and Mello Yello Zero for all having 0 calories and 0 grams of sugar.

The yellow light ratings were given to Coca-Cola, Sprite, and Pibb Xtra, all of which have 65 grams of sugar per bottle, at around 240-250 calories per bottle.

Finally, the red light ratings were given to Coca-Cola Cherry (260 calories, 70g of sugar), Fanta Orange (270 calories, 74g of sugar), and Mello Yello (290 calories and a whopping 78g of sugar).

To see what 65 grams, 70 grams, or 78 grams of sugar looks like, I’d recommend visiting for great visuals on how much sugar is in beverages, desserts, vegetables, fruits, breakfast foods, candy, and more. Here’s an example of our yellow star rated Coca Cola:

65g of sugar in a 20-oz Coca- Cola

Crazy, right? Can you imagine being given nearly 17 sugar cubes and told to eat all of them at once? That’s basically what is happening when someone is drinking a 20-oz Coca-Cola, Sprite, or Pibb Xtra.  Add 3.3 more sugar cubes to that stack, and you’ve now reached the sugar content of a 20-oz Mello Yello.

So next time you’re thirsty and thinking of reaching for an ice-cold soda, you might try an iced tea, lemonade, or juice instead, right?

Minute Maid Lemonade (20 oz), 67 g of sugar, 260 calories
Snapple Lemon Iced Tea (16 oz), 46 g of sugar, 200 calories
Sobe Mango Melon (20 oz), 70 g of sugar, 280 calories
Minute Maid Orange Juice (16 oz), 48 g of sugar, 220 calories

…okay maybe not.  As you can tell, they’re not much different than sodas– still 250-280 calories and 58-70 grams of sugar per 20 oz bottle.

What does all this mean?  Now, I don’t think anyone has to give up sodas or sugary drinks from the vending machine for life. But cutting back on the frequency of getting these drinks can not only spare your wallet, but spare your waistline, too.  Think of it this way: if a person who normally drinks an average of 2-3 Fanta Oranges per week cut back to only getting a Fanta Orange 1-2 times per week, and replaced the rest with water, they’d save 14,040 calories a year, which equates to a 4 pound weight loss.  In sugar terms, that’s 3,848 g of sugar per year, or 976 cubes of sugar! Plus, now this person has saved themselves $65, that they would’ve been spending on $1.25 drinks a few times a week. I personally don’t think I know anyone that is strongly against losing 4 pounds and gaining 65 bucks.

As I continue to work on the stop light system for the snack & food vending machine, it’ll be interesting to see what else I find.  No one has to give up their candy bars, chips, or sodas, but if you make simple switches, cut back on the frequency, or eat smaller portions of these items, these small changes over time will add up to something big!

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