Vending Machines: What to Buy and What to Skip

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
vending machines

Snacks might just be the key to your success when you’re trying to lose weight. They’re built into your Nutrisystem plan to curb between-meal hunger, fuel your energy level and keep your metabolism working. The Nutrisystem menu offers you so many tempting options to satisfy just about any craving, from salty and crunchy to sweet and chocolatey. Nutrisystem snacks come in convenient single-serving packs and they keep fresh until hunger strikes. Stock up on a wide variety and stash them at work, in your car, briefcase, purse and pantry so you always have plenty of healthy choices on hand. So what happens if you forgot your on-the-go Nutrisystem snack and are forced to use vending machines to suffice your cravings? We’ve got it all mapped out for you.

“The ideal snack should provide adequate protein and fiber to help keep you feeling full between your meals,” says Courtney McCormick, MPH, RDN, LDN, Corporate Dietitian for Nutrisystem. “Look for snacks in vending machines that are packed with vitamins and minerals. And, try to be mindful of calories. Aim for snacks that provide no more than 200 calories per serving.”

Here are our recommendations for each snack category you’ll find in vending machines:

1. Drinks


Pick: Being a little dehydrated can feel like hunger. That’s one reason drinking 64 ounces of water a day is an important part of your weight loss plan. Try a bottle of water, unsweetened ice tea or club soda to see if that will hold off your appetite until you can get a healthy snack.

Pass: According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a standard can of Cola (about 12 ounces) has 49 grams of sugar. A 16-ounce bottle of sweetened tea has 20 grams of sugar, while an eight-ounce serving of cranberry juice “cocktail” comes with 30 grams. That much sugar is not only full of empty calories, it tends to spike your metabolism briefly and then leave you feeling hungry again a short while later.

2. Nuts


Pick: “My go-to choice for vending machines is often nut mix or plain nuts like almonds,” McCormick says. “I like nut packs because they provide a good source of healthy fats and also have protein—both of which help keep me feeling full longer than snacks with lots of refined carbs or sugars. I look for nuts without added flavorings because they add salt or sugar.” If the serving size of a pack of nuts is more than one ounce, eat only a portion of the package and save the rest for another time since nuts can provide a lot of calories if you eat too much. A serving size should be equivalent to two tablespoons or about half the size of the palm of your hand.

Pass: If you’re tempted to get a peanut-based candy bar instead of just the nuts, bear in mind that it will come with 280 calories, around 17 grams of fat and 29 grams of sugar, according to the USDA—that’s so much more than the 82 calories, seven grams of fat and less than a gram of sugar in a serving of almonds.

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3. Crunchies


Pick: When you’re craving a salty, crunchy snack, choose whole-grain pretzels. Better yet, look for pretzels that are unsalted or low-sodium. A one-ounce serving of whole grain pretzels has 108 calories and only one gram of fat, well within Nutrisystem dietitians’ recommendations.

Pass: Potato chips not only come with lots of sodium—140 milligrams in a one-ounce serving—they also load you up with 151 calories and 10 grams of fat. If you do opt for chips, choose baked options, which are better than the standard type because they have significantly less fat.

4. Corn-Based


Pick: Plain popcorn is categorized as an Extra for those on a Nutrisystem weight loss plan, so go ahead, enjoy it! (Just remember that you get a total of three Extras per day on Nutrisystem.) Try for unflavored popcorn, but even a one-ounce serving of cheese-dusted popcorn gives you two grams of filling fiber, along with 160 calories (plain popcorn clocks in at just 110 calories!). Just keep in mind that if you’re opting for a higher calorie flavored variety, you’ll want to be mindful of the serving size.

Pass: A one-ounce serving of a popular brand of corn chips has a similar amount of calories, but almost no fiber to slow your digestion and ward off hunger.

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5. Sweet and Gooey


Pick: When you’re hankering for sweets, sugar-free chewing gum can hit the spot. Each piece has only about five calories, no fat and, obviously, no sugar.

Pass: Resist the urge to press the vending machine’s button for snack cakes such as the famous sugar-filled sponge cake. Each one has eight grams of fat and a whopping 18 grams of sugar, according to the USDA. Instead, save your sweet treat until you can enjoy a Nutrisystem snack like the Chocolate Cupcake, which has only six grams of fat and 11 grams of sugar, plus 20 healthy grams of fiber.