Are vending machines becoming healthier?

A quick guide to healthy vending in the workplace.

Next time you pass by a vending machine, you may want to check to see what types of snacks are offered. You might be surprised to see that some of the products offered have become healthier. The $42 billion dollar vending machine industry is reshaping its market focus to include healthier snacks. Many companies are trying to capture a market demand for healthy snack or drink choices, and the trend is working. According to a 2010 study by the Snack Food Association, 74 percent of consumers are trying to eat healthier and 65 percent of consumers are eating specific foods to lose weight. Currently, sales of healthier snacks are outpacing traditional snack foods by four to one.

Instead of selling conventional, high calorie junk foods, companies are switching to products that are a better, healthier choice. A review of some nutritional fact labels with the new products offered showed that they are actually lower in calories, sodium, carbohydrates and fat compared to well known traditional snacks. Even surprising, some of the products they provide are organic, vegan, kosher, gluten/nut/dairy/soy-free, fresh fruits or vegetables. The shift in product emphasis not only helps customers in making lifestyle changes, but also to people who are encouraging them, such as registered dietitian nutritionists.

Many of these vending machines are placed in schools, corporate office buildings, hospitals, hotels, shopping malls or any retail market. Many of the vending companies provide training, market education, support, guides and updates in product supply for consumers. Some companies provide machines for free or are commission, but most are franchised.

Convenience is the primary reason why vending machines exist. Lately, vending machine companies are being shunned because of a stigma that they are unhealthy and cause many of the common metabolic diseases that Americans are being diagnosed with. As a result, these companies are refocusing their products to better meet the demands of the consumers and ultimately end the negative stigma.

Examples of healthy vending options that you may see and be able to choose from can include dried fruit, fresh fruit and vegetables, whole-grain crackers, trail mix, fat-free or low fat yogurt, pretzels, rice cakes, whole grain cereal bars, water and even vegetable soups! The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity provides model standards to follow.

For more information on healthy workplaces please contact Michigan State University Extension worksite wellness coordinator, Dawn Earnesty at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or visit http://msue.anr.msu.edu/program/info/worksite_wellness and http://mihealthmatters.msu.edu/ for programs and educational opportunities.

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