Vending machines. The answer to America’s insatiable desire for immediate satisfaction, as evident in the slogan of the top-selling vending machine snack, the Snickers bar, “Hungry, why wait?”
After a bit of research, I was surprised to find that vending machine fare has been around since the 1930s. At first it was only bottled soda, refrigerated with ice. In the 40s, machines started vending freshly brewed coffee. But coffee couldn’t satisfy hunger pangs, so in 1950 the first refrigerated sandwich vending machine appeared. It wasn’t until 1972 that the glass-front snack vending machine was introduced, a catalyst for our ever-expanding waistlines.
When hunger hits in the wee hours of the morning and you can’t seem to drag yourself out of the library for fear of losing focus, you’re faced with a glass wall of high fructose corn syrup, saturated fat and carbs in colorful, shiny packaging.
There are a couple ways to avoid this encounter. First, you can plan ahead. If you know you’ll be spending the night at the computer lab, or won’t be able to return home for lunch, pack your own healthy snack. Trail mix and fresh fruit keeps well all day. If you want something crunchy, opt for pretzels or baked chips.
If you forgot, ask yourself if you’re really hungry, or if you’re bored. If you need a study break, instead of snacking, sign onto Facebook, call up a friend, or take a walk around the building (just be sure to set a time limit). It will keep your mind off of it. I also always carry a water bottle with me. Often times your brain can confuse dehydration with hunger.
If that doesn’t work and the quarters in your pocket are jingling like Pavlov’s bell, then look for these healthy snack options available in most vending machines.
If you’re craving something salty…
Nuts aren’t just satisfyingly crunchy, they also have loads of protein. Don’t overdo it though, nuts can be high in fat as well. Opt for almonds over peanuts for better heart-healthy fats and calcium, and if possible choose unsalted.
Pretzels are the fat-free alternative to potato chips. One ounce of Rold Gold pretzel twists is only 110 calories.
Sunflower seeds in the hull are fun to eat (if you like to work for your food or pretend that you’re a baseball player.) They’re high in magnesium and healthy fats.
Baked Chips save you around 50 calories and 9 grams of fat from the original and still does the job. Frito-lay also offers baked Cheetos, Doritos and Tostitos.
Reduced-fat popcorn might not satisfy hunger as well as some foods, but for something to munch on while studying, at 120 calories, it won’t make you feel guilty. Opt for plain, avoiding extra flavorings which add calories and salt.
If you’re craving something sweet…
Dried fruit is super sweet and healthy. Also look for trail mix with dried fruit to get the benefits of the nuts and seeds, too.
Fig Newtons might be your grandma’s favorite cookie (can they even be called a cookie?) but grandma knows best. Satisfy your sweet tooth with 0 grams of fat and real fruit.
Dark chocolate bar with no add-ins will at least give you the antioxidants of cocoa. You can’t satisfy a chocolate craving with anything but chocolate, so if you’re craving it, go for it.
Granola bars can be packed with sugar or high fructose corn syrup so look for low-fat or all natural brands. Chocolate shouldn’t be the main ingredient in granola bars.
Honey-roasted peanuts satisfy that sweet/salty craving with added protein.
Alexia is a recent grad living in Lancaster, PA. She loves to travel, experiment in the kitchen, and shop locally. The best breakfast she’s ever had is Swedish Oatmeal Pancakes.