A student at Phoenix High School retrieves items from a vending machine that allows students to purchase a school lunch.
We've all been there when afternoon hunger hits and you're standing in front of the nearest vending machine. But selecting a smart option isn't always a slam dunk, so Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine worked with outside registered dieticians to pinpoint some better choices.
It's no mystery that you should stay away from the Pop Tarts. They can pack in 420 calories, 4½ grams of saturated fat, and a whopping 32 grams of sugar. That's around eight sugar cubes! And steer clear of the Hostess Powdered Donettes, which have almost twice the saturated fat. Skip the Austin Cheese Crackers With Cheddar Cheese, too. There's actually just 2 percent or less of cheddar cheese.
If you've just gotta have a chocolate fix, Consumer Reports ShopSmart says Peanut M&M's are a better choice than a Milky Way or a Twix. That's because the peanuts at least offer a bit more protein and fiber.
Another tip—choose something that takes a while to eat so that your brain has a chance to register that it's full. Some good choices are fat-free Snyder's Mini Pretzels, SunChips, or Planters Salted Peanuts, which also offer a good protein boost. But you'll do even better by packing an apple!
Although vending machines are notorious for junk food, newer machines are offering vastly more healthful snacks, including grapes, baby carrots, and bananas. Fresh Del Monte Produce has launched a line of more healthful vending-machine snacks and even created special technology to keep bananas fresh for a longer time.