Skip to content

Healthier Snack Options Are Coming Soon to a Vending Machine Near You

Learn which vending-machine snacks will help you power through your afternoon and which will leave you with the 3 p.m. slump.

It's 4 p.m. and your stomach is grumbling. It's been a few hours since lunch, but it's not quite time for dinner, so you dash to the vending machine for some much-needed sustenance. Before you is an array of salty and sweet options that would quiet your hunger pangs, but some of them will wreak more havoc on your waistline and overall health than others.

Out of panic and hunger, you choose the first sickeningly sweet but familiar thing you see (we're looking at you, Butterfinger), only to realize it's packed with empty calories and nearly an entire day's worth of sugar. Talk about a diet fail.

However, that's soon to change, and your ability to make healthier choices at the push of a button is coming. The National Automatic Merchandising Association announced that starting Jan. 1, 2020, a third of vending machine options will be "better for you." Currently, the percentage of healthy options available at vending machines hovers at 24 percent. With this change, it'll go up to 33 percent, making it even easier for you to eat healthier when your midday snack craving hits. It's no surprise that vending machines have traditionally been seen as meccas of unhealthy food options, giving that they usually contain very processed foods, salty eats, and sugar-filled snacks and sodas.

Josh Rosenberg, the former chief executive of Accent Foods, shared some of the new items that will hit the machines with the Washington Post. Healthier choices will include replacing sugary drinks with water and non-sugary beverages, baked chips, string cheese, nuts, dried fruit, sealed sandwiches, fresh fruit like apples and bananas, and fresh food prepared in USDA-certified kitchens.

Still want to satisfy your sweet or salty craving? You can make healthier choices at the vending machine when nothing else will do. Here, we've rounded up five snacks you should avoid at all costs, along with five suggestions of what to indulge in instead. These simple swaps are totally doable, and will save you hundreds of calories and dozens of grams of sugar, fat, and more in the long run. Whether you're craving something sweet, salty, or crunchy, we promise there's a healthier option to be had.



Eat This: Pretzel M&M's

150 calories, 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 105 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (1 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 2 g protein

Not That!: Butterfinger

250 calories, 10 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 140 mg sodium, 36 g carbs (2 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 5 g protein

Yes, Pretzel M&M's still pack 150 empty calories, but that's 100 calories less than a Butterfinger. What's more? While one Butterfinger is loaded with nearly an entire day's worth of sugar, the salty-sweet flavors of the Pretzel M&M's will prevent a sugar rush. And while it's easy to wolf down an entire Butterfinger without so much as blinking your eyes, M&M's can be eaten at a slower pace because they're smaller candies. To stop yourself from overeating and gaining weight, pop in one or two M&M's at a time and your hunger pangs will vanish before you know it, and hopefully before you've eaten the entire bag.



Eat This: Oven Baked Original Lay's Potato Chips

120 calories, 3.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 160 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 2 g protein

Not That!: Sun Chips Original

140 calories, 6 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 110 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 2 g protein

Baked Lays are by far the best chips in the vending machine because the sodium is low and the saturated fat is non-existent. Sun Chips, on the other hand, have nearly double the amount of total fat (including half a gram of saturated fat) and more calories than their oven-baked counterparts.


Honey roasted peanuts

Eat This: Planters Honey Roasted Peanuts

160 calories, 13 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 100 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 7 g protein

Not That!: Corn Nuts Original

180 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 230 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

Planters Honey Roasted Peanuts are the safest snack in the vending machine because they're loaded with protein, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Though they look and taste somewhat similar, Corn Nuts are nothing more than a blend of salted corn and partially hydrogenated oil, with a negligible amount of protein and fiber to boot.

Sugary Snack

Rice Krispie treat

Eat This: Rice Krispies Treat

260 calories, 6 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 48 g carbs (0 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 2 g protein

Not That!: Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts

400 calories, 13 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 340 mg sodium, 68 g carbs (1 g fiber, 30 g sugar), 4 g protein

The bulk of a Rice Krispies Treat is a fairly innocuous cereal, which keeps the damage to a minimum, but the same can't be said for a package of Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts. At over 400 calories, this treat packed with high-fructose corn syrup (amounting to more than an entire day's worth of sugar) is about as unhealthy as it gets.


chocolate chip cookies

Eat This: Mini Chips Ahoy

140 calories, 7 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 100 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (1 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 1 g protein

Not That!: Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies

140 calories, 7 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 105 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (1 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 1 g protein

Chips Ahoy and Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies look very similar from the outside, and though the nutritional info isn't all that different, there are a few key facts to keep in mind for when your inner Cookie Monster rears its ugly head and just can't live without a sweet snack. Famous Amos has more saturated fat, sodium, carbs, and sugar than Chips Ahoy, and though it may not seem like much, all of that can add up quickly if this cookie indulgence is a weekly habit.

Eat This, Not That!
Inspired by The New York Times best-selling book series, Eat This, Not That! is a brand that's comprised of an award-winning team of journalists and board-certified experts, doctors, nutritionists, chefs, personal trainers, and dietitians who work together to bring you accurate, timely, informative, and actionable content on food, nutrition, dieting, weight loss, health, wellness, and more. Read more about Eat This