How to select healthier choices at the vending machine.

Written by: Terrina Thomas, Director of Health & Preventive Services, Optima Health

Terrina Thomas, Director of Health & Preventive Services, Optima Health.

I don’t know about you but right about 2:30 p.m. each day, I start to hear the faintest chant of my name coming from the downstairs of my building! No wait, maybe it is coming from my stomach and echoing from the vending machine downstairs. At any rate, if I haven’t remembered to bring a bag of grapes or granola bar from home, I find myself standing in the glow of the vending machine trying to make a good choice while my stomach calls out for something to eat. It isn’t always easy to make a good choice but I really try hard. Fortunately for me and others who find themselves in the same position, Optima Health and the rest of the Sentara office buildings have created a “Healthy Edge Choice” program that labels all of the healthier items in our machines. So even though I am snacking from the vending machine, I can make better choices.

How to make healthy choices?

But what happens when you are at a vending machine that isn’t conveniently labeled to help with your decision making? What are some items that you should consider over others that won’t undo your good choices from the rest of the day? I suggest that you “PACT” by choosing pretzels, animal crackers, chewing gum and trail mix over the potato chips, corn chips, donuts, and cakes. Your PACT choices will satisfy your craving for salt or sweets but do it in a way that won’t leave you with snacker remorse in an hour!

If you work in a building that has vending machines, you may consider working with your management to have your vending machine vendor offer a minimum of 25 percent healthy items that are priced lower than the non-healthy alternatives. As I mentioned before, Sentara Healthcare has successfully made changes to their machines and contrary to what others may say, folks still use the vending machines and are happy that those healthier items are identified for them.

Pack your own snacks.

One other solution to the vending machine is to bring healthy snacks from home. I find that if I take the time to bring a snack from home a couple of things happen. First, I don’t eat something that I don’t really want to eat but I do it anyway because my stomach overrules my brain. Second, I don’t spent $0.95 on a bag of chips that probably only cost $0.25 to produce. Finally, I don’t waste time going to the machine and standing there trying to decide what to buy. So the solution of snacks from home saves me time, money and regret.

Bringing snacks from home may take some planning, if you work in an area that you can keep items at your desk, then pick up an extra box of snacks during your weekend grocery store trip and you will have it all week. If you cannot keep snacks at your workplace, then consider buying something then bringing it with you daily. I personally will buy grapes and individually package them in 5 snack bags so I just grab one from the refrigerator each morning when I head out the door. Bananas are good for this too. If your afternoon craving is for salty foods, you can do the same thing with pretzels or nuts.

Next time you find yourself basking in the glow of the vending machines at work, remember to take a step back, choose wisely then make a plan for the rest of the week. You are definitely worth it!

What do you do to make healthy snack choices? Submit a comment and share your thoughts.