Snack attack: What to buy from a vending machine

 Image courtesy of (Gorman & Gorman)

Image courtesy of (Gorman & Gorman)

The afternoon or late night munchies can strike even the most health conscious, and the office vending machine can be as alluring as anything when you’re running low on energy and there are no other viable food options in sight.

While the glow of the chocolate bars and sugary soft drinks has appeal when your stomach is growling, take stock and consider these healthier options instead:

Sunflower kernals 

You may be lucky enough to come across this one in your vending machine. This option is a great portion control (generally around ¼ cup) and is minimally processed. Full of healthy fats to keep you full.

Nuts/trail mix 

Given the mostly abysmal choices in vending machines, any nut option is probably going to be the best. While the nut selection will likely be the oil roasted, salty variety, at least you are getting your dose of healthy fats from the nuts. The salt may work in your favour anyway, quashing any cravings you may have had for other, less healthy savoury options, like chips.

Nuts help keep you full for longer too, so you won’t find yourself reaching for something else half an hour later.


Surprisingly not too bad for you, and satisfy cravings for something crunchy and salty. Most brands are minimally processed and are made with wheat flour.


Popcorn can be a good option, but beware of brands that are high in trans fats and covered in salt. Look out for organic brands and minimally processed versions. When getting the high fat ones, you may as well just get the chips – it is that bad. Buyer beware here.

Rice crackers 

This is a great option, particularly if you have something stashed away in your office kitchen or fridge to put on top (peanut butter / hummus / tomato slices etc.) A high fibre and low calorie option that is also gluten free.


Look out for the little cheddar squares with crackers that you sometimes get served on planes. The cheese is high in protein and the fat will keep you full. This one may also help with your cravings for something worse, again, like chips.

Coconut water 

This can be a great option if you are craving something sweet. Packed with potassium, magnesium, calcium, minerals and electrolytes, coconut water is a fabulous hydrator, something you most likely need after hours spent in that drying office air.

While I am here, some of the worst vending machine offenders are listed below. Steer well clear!

  1. Chocolate bars, for obvious reasons
  2. Protein bars / fruit and nut bars / granola bars (glorified candy bars. Most have more calories than a chocolate bar)
  3. Chips
  4. Candy
  5. Cookies (even the “healthy” ones)
  6. “Honey roasted” nuts
  7. Fruit juice (more sugar that soft drinks)