The Best Vending Machine Picks

Sarah-Jane Bedwell, SELF magazine

When 3 p.m. rolls around, it's not uncommon to get a case of the munchies. An afternoon snack can help keep your energy levels up and prevent you from getting overly hungry before dinner, which can lead to overeating, but what if your only option is something from a vending machine? Since you can't always check the nutrition labels before you buy, I've sorted through some of the most common vending machine fare to find the best choices.

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Chocolate Treat:
When that craving hits, my pick of the bunch is peanut M&Ms. The peanuts are a source of healthy fats and M&Ms are lower in overall calories and lower in sodium than most candy bars. Plus, peanuts contain fiber, which helps make this chocolate treat more satisfying.

Salty Snack: With options ranging from pretzels to baked chips to pork rinds to popcorn, choosing the healthiest pick can be difficult. I would chose popcorn, especially if you can get your hands on a light or low-fat version. You can have a larger portion for fewer calories (three cups of light popcorn comes in at around 100 calories versus 1 oz of potato chips for about 140 calories). Plus, popcorn is a great source of filling fiber and counts toward your daily whole grains.

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Baked Goods: If you just can't resist one of these comfort-food treats, I would recommend going with a crispy rice treat. It has a reasonable amount of calories for a treat (between 90-200 depending on the size). Plus, it is low in fat, especially the bad, saturated fats and hydrogenated oils that are often found in high amounts in snack cakes and cookies.

Snack Bars: When choosing between a cereal bar and a granola bar, look past the calorie count. A cereal bar may have fewer overall calories, but we want to make sure that those calories count. Check the label, but most of the time granola bars provide more protein, more fiber and less sugar than cereal bars, making them the better choice.

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Crackers: Peanut butter and cheese crackers are commonplace in almost every vending machine, but which is the better pick? Even though they contain about the same number of calories, the peanut butter crackers always win, since they are significantly lower in bad fats and sodium compared to crackers made with the processed cheese filling. And last but definitely not least, if you are lucky enough to have a vending machine that sells fresh fruit or veggies, these are by far your best options!

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